Fishy Business

As the leader of a political party, I am considered as a politically exposed person (PEP) in line with the provisions of EU 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive as transposed into Maltese law. Even members of my immediate family are so considered. Other politicians and their families are in a similar position.

It is held that politically exposed persons (PEPs), by virtue of the position they hold present a higher risk for involvement in money-laundering. There is no practical distinction between PEPs who exercise executive authority and those who have none of it, as yours truly!

The unnecessary, at times repetitive, queries from banks which I and various members of my family receive, are at times very annoying, even though I understand their scope and need if they were to carried out appropriately.  At times however, bank officials are overzealous with small fry, and then look sideways when facing the big fish.

It is unacceptable that while monitoring of persons who pose a minor and insignificant risk for involvement in money-laundering is done (at times), with exaggerated zeal, yet those who not only pose a risk, but actually do it manage to avoid any sort of detection by having the right friends at the right places assisting them in meticulously piloting the waters.

The latest money laundering cases in court this week take us from the fish restaurant to the bank and back again. Investigating the money-laundering trail took the police investigators to Marsaxlokk and Valletta fish restaurants. This investigation is apparently linked to another major money-laundering case: the laundering of monies allegedly resulting from the Libyan diesel smuggling operation.

One of the persons arraigned is a former bank official. He is now retired, as emphasised, after the arraignment, by his former employer the bank.

The point at issue is the trail between the fish restaurant and the bank. In fact, reporting on the testimony at the first sitting in the criminal courts the media emphasised that the prosecuting officer, in explaining the background to the investigation carried out, stated that the former bank official, when still in employment as an official of the bank’s corporate banking unit, had allegedly been of assistance in the money laundering operation currently under review. It has been suggested that such assistance helped the alleged money launderers to avoid detection for quite some time.

The former bank official is no longer in the bank’s employment. In the meantime, he had taken a promotion and is now on the books of the alleged money launderer, a Director of his various companies.

What is the role of the MFSA (Malta Financial Services Authority) in all this? This operation was in motion at the time when the Chief Executive Officer of the MFSA was in cahoots with Yorgen Fenech, currently under the criminal spotlight himself, accused with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the Maltese Courts and simultaneously wanted in Sicily as part of a match fixing and illegal betting scandal.

What monitoring do the MFSA and the FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) carry out to ensure that the banks perform their money-laundering regulatory functions diligently?

This week’s police charge sheet seems to indicate that any such monitoring, if at all existent, was very weak and for all intents and purposes ineffective.

The bank official changed his job and moved on from his bank regulatory duties to allegedly managing the laundering of monies generated from the Libyan diesel smuggling operation. This is the logical conclusion drawn from the police charge sheet presented this week on the alleged use of the fish restaurants at Valletta and Marsaxlokk as money-laundering tools.

If the MFSA and FIAU had carried out their duties properly this would not have been possible. This is a clear case where the revolving door recruitment from the regulatory authorities to the money-laundering industry operated under the very noses of the regulatory authorities themselves with no one noticing or bothering about it.

Are the institutions really functioning, as the mess gets bigger every day?

Hopefully the MFSA and the FIAU take decisive action, urgently, for a change.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 18 April 2021

Bank officials and the revolving door

The money laundering criminal case instituted this morning relative to the possible use of a number of restaurants in the scam is another milestone for the Malta Police.

It is however very worrying as it shows the “revolving door” recruitment with ease which former bank officials use from their regulatory role in the bank to an operational role in the companies they should have kept a watch over. The question which begs an answer is whether the “revolving door” recruitment is payment for services rendered.

It is another lacuna which needs decisive action the soonest. Regulating “revolving door” recruitment is not just an issue for politicians.

Hopefully the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) takes decisive action urgently.

Snippets from the EGP Manifesto: (10) Taming the Financial Industry

banking union 

Five years after the outset of the financial crisis, our system remains dominated by banks that are too big or too interconnected to fail and therefore too dangerous. Bank bail-outs have cost billions to the European taxpayers; this should never happen again. We want to ensure a properly sized, diverse and resilient financial sector that serves society and helps mobilise sustainable investments in the real economy. We propose stringent rules for the separation of banking activities into those which are essential to society and those which are not. Greens have contributed strongly to ensuring that financial products and activities which produce no benefit for the real economy and have the potential to destabilise the financial system can be banned and taken off the European market. European authorities should make use of this possibility. Only financial products and activities which demonstrate benefits for society must be authorized. Our initiatives have outlawed naked speculation on sovereign debt; curbed bankers’ bonuses; forced banks to disclose activities in tax havens; submitted the European Central Bank´s banking supervision to more democratic accountability.

Greens are proud of achievements in this domain.

Now we need to build on these successes. We want to ensure consumers receive good, independent advice on all financial services. Financial services legislation must not support further concentration of market power to the detriment of small sustainable banks. We advocate a European Banking Union, combining a strong common oversight of our banks, a common authority and fund to restructure failing banks and a common system of insurance for deposits up to €100,000 or equivalent. EU institutions must also contribute to tackling financial short-termism that limits the level of sustainability ambition in strategic investment decisions.


(EGP 2014 Manifesto section entitled  : Bringing Financial Industry under Control)

Learning to use chopsticks


We have been told that it is most worrying that China could acquire a share in our energy corporation. It is worrying, we are told, due to the strategic importance of the sector.

We tend to forget that Malta has plenty of foreign investments in other strategic sectors. Another one wouldn’t change much would it?

Our only airport is run by Austrians.

Gambling has been left to  Greek Intralot.  Banking is heavily influenced by global HSBC ironically originating from Hong Kong, the tip of the Chinese mainland.

The public  transport fiasco has an Anglo-German fingerprint through Arriva.

LPG Gas is controlled by Italians through GASCO.

The Freeport is controlled by a Franco-Turkish alliance for the next 65 years. (CMA-CGM and Yildirim Group)

When its Austria, Greece, Anglo-German interests, Italian investments, Franco -Turkish controls, or global HSBC then its globalisation.

The Chinese interest is part of the same process.

Obviously the details of the memorandum of understanding signed earlier this week are not yet known. Hence a proper discussion would have to wait until such details are known. There will surely be positive and negative impacts. China stands to gain. Whether Malta’s potential gains are adequate is still to be seen as we have only been fed titbits of information.

China obviously stands to gain through establishing a stronger foothold in Malta and within the EU.  Whether it will be similarly positive for Malta is still to be seen.

Some Chinese companies are world class. They provide stiff competition to international firms such as Lahmeyer International the one time consultants to the Malta Resources Authority and to Enemalta Corporation. Some of these Chinese companies have reached the same grade in World Bank blacklists !

We have been there before.

It may turn out not to be so difficult to learn to use chopsticks after all !

Cleaning up the mess


published Tuesday July 8, 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo


Over the years governments could not be bothered with rent reform. The resulting mess is such that the purposes of rent reform at this stage is primarily one of restoring sanity in the use of built-up resources. The White Paper aims at removing the accumulated injustices faced by generations of landlords, without creating new ones, and paves the way to reduce the perceived need to embark on more so-called development.

As aptly pointed out by the White Paper, the decision whether to buy or to rent is an economic choice depending on whether the annual rental value of a property is more attractive than the cost of purchasing property. This is an issue for the market to resolve over a period of time. To date the state has repeatedly intervened, strangling the rental market, encouraging home ownership and thereby putting on high gear the rape of our countryside and village cores. Rent reform is thus not just concerned with the rights of landlords and tenants but with housing policy, sustainable development and social and environmental justice.

A useful point of departure in this discussion is that throughout the years, primarily as a result of the maze of rental legislation, it has been next to impossible to distinguish between the right to accommodation and the right to own a home.

The concept of home ownership as successfully marketed by different governments and skilfully manipulated by the construction industry is considered a right.

The result is that our families are burdened with mortgages spanning a lifetime for properties which rather than providing them with a home are providing them with an investment which most can ill-afford but yet are forced to have.

The net beneficiary is the building industry, which as a result of this artificial demand keeps on churning out residential units at increasing prices and reducing sizes, at the end pleasing no one but themselves and the banks!

The state through the Housing Authority (and its predecessors) is the major culprit in this respect. Throughout the years political parties viewed the concept of home ownership as the means through which to make good the vacuum created by rent legislation, which was patched up in time of emergencies and has thereafter been retained as a permanent relic of these emergencies.

The White Paper entitled The Need For Reform. Sustainability, Justice And Protection, seeks to reverse all this. It attempts a solution through 33 recommendations most of which are valid and should be supported.

They are, however, underpinned by three issues which merit some discussion.

Firstly, there are too many perceived exemptions.

The separate consideration of agricultural leases may be valid. But this has to be considered within the context of a detailed examination of the agricultural sector, including measures required to halt the further sub-division of agricultural holdings. The party in government had tackled this issue in an electoral manifesto presented for the 1981 general elections. It needs to be revisited urgently and simultaneously with an examination of agricultural leases.

The White Paper is also not applicable to political parties, band clubs, sports clubs and other organisations of a social nature. Social Policy Minister John Dalli has clarified that this area of the rental market will be liberalised too, although they are not covered by the White Paper recommendations.

As long as the issue of rent reform applicable to agricultural property, political parties and other organisations is also tackled in the same spirit found in the White Paper there should not be any difficulty with its acceptability.

The second issue is an anachronism in that the White Paper selects the traditional family as worthy of social protection and dumps emerging relationships. This ostrich-like social policy ignores cohabiting couples and same sex couples. I have no difficulty in subscribing to a policy of reinforcing and defending the traditional family but I find it reprehensible that those who select an alternative lifestyle are dumped as not being worthy of the same civil rights as the rest of us.

Thirdly, the White Paper creates transitional protective periods which are too long. The 20-year transition period for commercial leases, in particular, could easily be halved. This would reduce the urge of those who could be tempted to lobby for a reversal of the proposed reforms.

Barring the above, the White Paper is positive and presents a reasonable proposal on the basis of which a reform of rent legislation can be carried out. If the government takes serious note of all the alternative proposals that will be announced in the coming weeks, the White Paper recommendations may be substantially improved.

Banks & the Environment ………… in Miami

Article below was published on last Sunday


Bank meeting embroiled in ‘green’ debate

As the Inter-American Development Bank gears up to support biofuel and renewable energy efforts, environmental critics claim the lending agency is backing too many unsustainable energy projects.

Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno touted the lending agency’s efforts to support green fuels and energy conservation on Saturday. But environmental groups accused the bank of pumping billions of dollars into projects that harm the environment.

During a series of seminars on climate change, renewable energy and biofuels during the IDB’s annual meeting at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Moreno outlined the bank’s energy and climate change efforts, including the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative launched a year ago.

”[It is] the focus of the IDB’s efforts to respond to these key challenges of our age and assist our partner countries in dealing effectively with the issues they raise,” Moreno said during the second day of the meeting, which is expected to draw 6,000 Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. finance officials, business executives, bankers and members of nongovernmental organizations.

But Amazon Watch, Friends of the Earth and the Bank Information Center, which also are participating in the annual meeting, questioned the bank’s support for highway and energy projects that they said will contribute to deforestation, harm indigenous communities and increase greenhouse gas emissions.

In Peru, the bank has approved a $400 million loan to the Camisea gas project, which cuts through a biodiverse region of the Peruvian Amazon. In Colombia, the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative has announced its backing of the Cerrejon coal mine, which Friends of the Earth says is highly polluting.

”The policies of the Inter-American Development Bank cannot be double-faced,” said Silvia Molina of the Bank Information Center.

At midday, about 20 demonstrators gathered outside the convention center and launched a balloon holding a banner that read ”Investing in Agrofuels is Dirty Business, ” a play on the organization’s initials IADB.

Jodie Van Horn of Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco said the IDB needs to quit pushing biofuel projects that are draining Latin America to feed U.S. energy consumption.

”We’re concerned about this mad rush into a false solution called agrofuels,” she said. Instead, the IDB should focus its efforts on truly renewable sources of energy and encouraging conservation, she said. “We want to see some real reforms.”

During seminars organized by the bank Saturday, experts pointed out that climate change threatens the region with extreme weather events, has driven farmers from land degraded by drought and could threaten plants and animals with extinction as well as endanger coral reefs in the Caribbean.

”There is no silver bullet, but we do have multiple actions” said Mario Molina, a Mexican who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry. He proposed that the IDB help organize a network in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote best practices in biofuels, renewable energy and energy conservation.

Kenrick Leslie, executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize, said the Caribbean region was particularly vulnerable. ”The Caribbean is just barely coping with the current situation,” Leslie said.

When the main meetings of the IDB get under way on Monday and Tuesday, the focus is expected to shift to the regional economy and finances.