PN MEP David Casa addresses a protest demanding justice for murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia
Nationalist MEP David Casa has vehemently denied suggestions that his attempts to get the EU to take action on money laundering in Malta stem from a desire to undermine Malta’s institutions.
“Malta’s institutions are there to safeguard the financial services industry and the Maltese citizens, but instead they’re acting weak with the strong and strong with the weak,” Casa told Lovin Malta. “Seeing as the MFSA and the FIAU ignored my emails, as well as all the protests and media criticism, I had no other choice but to use the EU institutions as a weapon to help Maltese citizens. I will keep using these weapons to restore the integrity of our institutions.”
“I don’t have a company in Panama, I don’t own 17 Black and I don’t own Egrant. I’m not the fire, I’m just speaking about the fire.”
Casa said he had started highlighting problems in Malta’s institutions after no action was taken against Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, despite the two having owned offshore Panama companies.
An email from financial advisory firm Nexia BT showed that the companies were supposed to receive money from two Dubai companies and a draft FIAU report showed that €1.3 million was wired to one of these companies, called 17 Black. This report, which recommended police investigations into Konrad Mizzi, somehow ended up in Casa’s hands, and the PN MEP published it earlier this year, despite such disclosure being against the law.
“They used to call us liars and traitors but the FIAU report I published clearly showed it wasn’t a lie,” Casa said. “Yet nothing has happened. Mizzi is still a minister, Schembri is still the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, and the police have not yet called me up about that FIAU report I published.”
After Pilatus Bank chairman Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was charged in the USA with sanction evasion and money laundering, Casa and a group of MEPs requested the European Banking Authority to investigate the way the bank was monitored.
While the EBA found no breaches from the MFSA’s side, it came down strongly on the FIAU, warning it had found “general and systematic shortcomings” in its application of money laundering directives when dealing with Pilatus Bank. This investigation is still pending after the FIAU provided the EBA with a list of its plans to beef up its fight against money laundering.
However, EU Justice Commission Vera Juorova announced today she will usher in a series of binding demands to force the FIAU to tighten its anti-money laundering efforts.
Casa argued the FIAU and MFSA only announced their plans to combat money laundering after he personally brought the issue up with Juorova.
“First they called me a traitor and threatened me with jail,” he said, referring to the FIAU’s warning that his publication of the 17 Black report was against the law. “However, after I met Juurova and reported them to the EBA, they changed their strategy and announced they will improve their procedures when dealing with money laundering. Their proposals are a positive step, but the biggest problem remains the fact that Mizzi and Schembri have not yet been removed.”
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna with EU Justice Commissioner Vera Juorova
He also accused the FIAU of focusing a lot of energy into investigating a Maltese wealth management firm for alleged money laundering to the Venezuelan government so as to divert public attention from the 17 Black report.
Challenged on this point, Casa said: “It’s a good thing the FIAU is investigating [the Venezuela scheme] and that we’re discussing it, but come on, we’ve been talking about the Panama Papers and 17 Black for years, and nothing’s been done yet.”
As for German MEP Sven Giegold’s recent threat to campaign for HSBC to leave Malta unless the FIAU ups its game on combating money laundering, Casa said this was “unacceptable and not on.”
“One should never use the private sector to attack the government, and I will stand against Giegold’s threat with as much strength as I fight for our institutions. My goal is for Europe to give the necessary input to our so that they could be more effective and transparent.”