Criminal lawyer Franco Debono has warned that the authorities are overreaching when prosecuting money laundering cases in an attempt to get off the FATF grey list.
“We have gone from one extreme to the other,” Debono said when interviewed on NET Live yesterday.
“We shouldn’t take drastic action that verges on entrapment simply to please the FATF. Bowing your head is one thing, but when you bend the knee, you make the entire population bend the knee with you.”
Debono was referring to the recent phenomenon of police treating tax evasion as a predicate offence for money laundering, a crime punishable by an imprisonment term of up to 18 years or a fine up to €2.5 million.
Debono has represented a number of these suspects as defence lawyer, including a hairdresser and her partner, a case which has been widely criticised as an example of police overreach.
Without referring to specific cases, he said he believes some tax evasion cases can be dealt with administratively, with evaders allowed to regulate their positions and slapped with a fine.
Indeed, he noted that both PL and PN governments have previously launched schemes to incentivise people to regularise their tax positions.
In his interview, Debono also touched upon a rarely discussed point, the fact that money laundering cases often require a degree of technical know-how but must be decided by juries.
“The number of economic crimes have increased and we must see what the juries will look like. If the jurors aren’t technical, there will be problems.”
Do you think the authorities are overreaching on money laundering cases?