Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has suggested that Malta would have been blacklisted, rather than greylisted, by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had the organisation gotten wind of a land deal carried out by the last PN administration.
“I think that if the FATF saw the Fekruna scandal and other scandals, we’d have found ourselves on the black list rather than the grey list,” Farrugia Portelli said on Pjazza last week.
As it stands, only Iran and North Korea are on the FATF black list, countries deemed uncooperative in the global fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.
The Fekruna deal saw the last PN government purchase a stretch of land in Xemxija in return for two properties in Swieqi and San Ġwann, just days before the 2013 general election.
The National Audit Office later flagged the lack of documentation justifying the deal as a “serious shortcoming”, warning it went against the principles of good governance and transparency.
At the time, PN MP Jason Azzopardi was the parliamentary secretary responsible for lands, and indeed Farrugia Portelli used it to cast doubt on the credibility of her political rival as he blamed former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and former Minister Konrad Mizzi for Malta’s greylisting.
On the show, PL MEP Cyrus Engerer also took a dig at Azzopardi by reminding him that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit had only employed 13 people under the last PN government and that its staff count has since increased to 98.
Meanwhile, he said the FIAU’s annual expenditure increased from around €400,000 in 2013 to €8 million now.
“I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if this test took place under a PN administration,” he said.
The FATF has said that Malta’s greylisting was related to the FIAU’s effectiveness in helping the authorities pursue criminal tax and related money laundering cases, as well as issues related to the transparency of companies’ beneficial owners.
Cover photo: Inset: Fekruna Bay (Photo: TVM)