It-tieġ ta’ Venezja u l-ħasil tal-flus

 

Diversi qed jistaqsu għalfejn dan l-għaġeb kollu dwar min attenda għat-tieġ li sar Venezja fejn iżżewweġ dak li sa ftit ġranet ilu kien iċ-Chairman u s-sid tal-bank Pilatus, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.

Kull wieħed minna għandu l-obbligu li joqgħod attent biex dak li jagħmel fil-ħajja privata tiegħu jew tagħha ma jirriflettix ħażin fuq il-ħidma pubblika tiegħu jew tagħha. Biex inkun ċar, meta ngħid il-ħidma pubblika mhux qed nillimita ruħi għall-politiċi.

Sfortunatament għal bosta sar qiesu xejn m’hu xejn.

L-arrest fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika ta’ Ali Sadr Hasheminejad sar il-ġimgħa l-oħra. Kien arrest dwar ksur tal-liġijiet Amerikani fuq is-sanzjonijiet kontra l-Iran.

Imma kien ix-xahar l-ieħor li l-European Banking Authority fetħet inkjesta preliminari dwar is-sorveljanza li l-MFSA għamlet fuq il-bank Pilatus u b’mod partikolari dwar id-due diligence meħtiega biex ikun stabilit is-sors tat-€8 miljuni kapital inizzjali biex fetaħ il-bank.

L-issue tal-ħasil tal-flus ilha tissemma xhur sħaħ fil-konfront tal-bank Pilatus.

Il-mistoqsija allura li teħtieġ tweġiba hi dwar jekk kienx hemm preżenti għal dan it-tieġ f’Venezja persuni li x-xogħol tagħhom ta’ kuljum jikkonċerna s-sorveljanza kontra l-ħasil tal-flus.

Biex inkun l-iktar ċar possibli ħa nikkwota ir-rapport ta’ Lovin Malta li ġie ippubblikat il-bieraħ il-Ħadd 25 ta’ Marzu 2018. Jgħid hekk :
“Also present at Ali Sadr’s wedding was Juanita Bencini, a consultant at KPMG – the auditors of Pilatus Bank. Bencini is President of the Institute of the Financial Services Practitioners and chairs the IFSP’s Prevention of Money Laundering And Funding Of Terrorism committee. She is also board member of the government’s finance promotional arm FinanceMalta and chairs the anti-money laundering committee of the Malta Institute of Accountants.

She was accompanied to the wedding by her husband Austin Bencini, who sits on the board of directors of Allied Newspapers – which owns The Times of Malta.”

Ikun interessanti ħafna jekk inkunu nafu x’taħseb l-MFSA dwar dan. U kif qegħdin fiha l-korpi professjonali tal-accountants u l-awdituri jistgħu jilluminawna ftit ukoll!

L-etika professjonali fejn hi?

 

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Min hu bħal Pilatu?

Li Pilatu jkun fl-aħbarijiet lejliet kull Ġimgħa l-Kbira hu normali.

L-akkużi gravi fi New York kontra ċ-Chairman tal-Bank Pilatus Ali Sadr Hasheminejad kienu ilhom ikunu investigati sa mill-2013. Id-delitti finanzjarji fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika jidher li jeħduhom bis-serjetá. It-tmexmix tal-fenek probabbilment jitħalla għal wara s-sentenza.

Waqt li fl-Istati Uniti kien qed ikun investigat iċ-Chairman tal-Bank Pilatus f’Malta l-MFSA kienet qed tagħmel due diligence dwar l-istess bank. Mid-dehra l-MFSA kienet sodisfatta b’dak li rriżultala tant li fl-2014 ħarġet il-liċenzja tal-Bank.

Ilna nistaqsu dwar kif dan il-Bank ħa l-liċenzja. Għax hu diffiċli biex tifhem kif inhu possibli li fl-Istati Uniti l-Bank ikun taħt il-lenti u qed jiġi investigat u f’pajjiż ieħor fl-istess ħin jinfetħulu l-bibien beraħ u jingħata l-liċenzja.

L-MFSA għandha ħafna x’tispjega.

Hu meħtieġ li l-MFSA stess tkun investigata biex ikun stabilit x’irriżulta waqt il-proċess tad-due diligence u jekk kienx hemm min għalaq għajnejh. Fi ftit kliem: d-due diligence sar bis-serjetá jew le?

L-istejjer li ilna nisimgħu dwar il-Bank Pilatus matul dawn l-aħħar xhur misshom ilhom li wasslu għal azzjoni drastika. Meta illum l-MFSA damet ġurnata sħiħa tiddelibera dwar x’ser tagħmel kont nistenna li tkun sospiża l-liċenzja tal-Bank inkella li l-MFSA taħtar amministrazzjoni temporanja u indipendenti għall-bank biex ikunu assigurat li jekk hemm xi provi li jistgħu jixħtu d-dawl fuq dak li għaddej, dawn ikunu ppreservati.

Għax ngħiduha kif inhi, li bank ikollu lill-Gvern tal-Azerbajan bħala klijent ewlieni tiegħu kellha tiftah għajnejn kulħadd li hemm xi ħaġa mhux f’postha. Għax il-Gvern tal-Azerbajan hu magħruf bħala wieħed mill-iktar Gvernijiet korrotti fid-dinja.

Kif ngħidu, ma min rajtek, xebbaħtek.

Xi ħadd qed jaħsel idejh bħal Pilatu.

It-timbru tal-Mafja u l-‘Ndraghetta

diligence

 

L-ebda Awtorità f’Malta m’hi ser tgħidilna x’verifiki għamlet qabel ma ħarġet il-liċenżji. Dan jgħodd ukoll għal dawk il-liċenzji li ġew sospiżi dan l-aħħar wara l-ħruġ ta’ mandat t’arrest Ewropew għal sitt ċittadini taljani . Qed nirreferi għal dawk li kienu involuti fil-logħob tal-azzard elettroniku liċenzjat : iGaming jew remote gaming.

Li kieku l-Awtorità tagħti din l-informazzjoni ma tkunx serja għax tkun qed tikxef idejha!

Jibqa’ peró l-fatt li wara li ilna snin nisimgħu dwar kemm Malta hi l-iktar pajjiż serju f’dan il-qasam, tfaċċaw dawn il-każi. Ir-reazzjoni ġenerali hi li dawn qed jitfgħu dubju fuq is-serjetà li ilna nisimgħu biha.

Biex tgħaxxaqha kien hemm wieħed avukat li qalilna li ankè hu jagħmel il-verifiki (due diligence) dwar il-klijenti tiegħu. Peró dan l-avukat qalilna iktar minn hekk. Għax qalilna x’verifiki jagħmel. Fi stqarrija li huwa stess ħareġ dan l-avukat informa lil kulħadd li l-kumpanija tiegħu tivverifika l-passaport, il-kondotta tal-Pulizija kif ukoll li min japplika jkollu residenza fissa u li din tkun dokumentata.

Issa din l-informazzjoni hi kollha importanti. Li jkollok passaport validu, indirizz fiss u kondotta tal-Pulizija huwa tajjeb bħala punt tat-tluq. Imma ma naħsibx li hu biżżejjed biex tinduna jekk klijent huwiex assoċjat mal Mafja jew mal-‘Ndraghetta. . Imma wisq nibża’ li ftit li xejn qed isir tiftix iktar minn hekk għax kieku hu impossibli li jkun hemm daqstant li qed jiġru warajhom il-Pulizija Taljana u jinstabu fostna.

Wara kollox ħadd ma għandu timbru fuq moħħu jew fuq il-passaport li hu assoċjat mal Mafja jew mal-‘Ndraghetta.

Jiena ma naħsibx li xi ħadd hawn Malta fid-deher fittex li jissieħeb mal-kriminalità organizzata f’dan il-qasam. Probabbilment li kienu huma li bi ħsieb fittxew li jinqdew b’dawk il-professjonisti li isimhom ħasbu li seta jiftħilhom il-bibien mingħajr ħafna mistoqsijiet li huma jqisu żejda.

Hemm bżonn li l-verifiki jsiru ferm aħjar minn dak li jidher li sar s’issa. Fuq kollox hemm bżonn li titneħħa s-segretezza minn dan il-qasam.

Għax għalkemm in-numru ta’ dawk li qed ikunu kawża ta’ problema huma ftit, kull wieħed hu żejjed.

The citizenship bubble of Malta

Malta golden passport 1

Many issues are involved in the citizenship debate.

The government clearly considers Maltese citizenship as just another commodity, which it can milk. Initially it even removed the transparency rule from the statute book, which rule ensured the publication of the names of all those who acquired Maltese citizenship.

Whereas local public opinion was completely ignored, the Labour government reacted to the international media coverage by announcing that it will reverse its ditching of transparency. Yet its reaction may be too late as the damage done to Malta’s reputation is not easily reversed.

The international media queried the unconventional methods used to generate the finance required by the Maltese state.

Within EU circles it is clear that issues concerning citizenship are a competence reserved to member states. Yet the  Schengen dimension of EU citizenship cannot be ignored.

The citizenship scheme is attractive because, through it, the prospective citizen attains freedom of movement within the EU.

It is a very serious concern which can only be adequately addressed if the due diligence process is foolproof.

The problem is that, to date, the Maltese Government has already signalled that it is not that much concerned by the impact of persons who are associated with a fraudulent past, a case in point being government advisor Shiv Nair who is listed permanently on the World’s Bank blacklist.

Another recent example is China Communications Construction Company Limited, also on the World Bank blacklist. This Chinese Company will carry out (gratis) the feasibility study for a Malta-Gozo bridge on the basis of the very friendly relations between the two republics, we were told. (I had the impression that countries had no friends, they just have interests!)

This follows the earlier selection of Lahmeyer International as an advisor to the Gonzi Government. Lahmeyer International too was on the World Bank’s  blacklist.

Past performance indicates that due diligence is not an area in which the Republic of Malta has excelled.

Is it a sale or is it an investment? In fact it is a bit of both. It is surely an unconventional way of raising finance. Its major characteristic is that it focuses on the short term benefits and ignores the long term impacts.  The selling price can give immediate results: it can finance the start-up of specific projects. Whether these will be successful is another matter altogether. The impacts of an investment scheme will take more time, its a long term exercise.

The method of payment selected for the purchase of citizenship is clearly based on the St Kitts and Nevis model in the Caribbean.  In St Kitts and Nevis, payment for citizenship is received by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation and, subsequently, invested. The investment made is not at the discretion of the applicant for citizenship but a decision by the country dishing out the citizenship.

Public opinion considers that citizenship should be acquired through establishing solid roots in the country. Establishing minimum residence criteria and committment to the economic development of Malta through investment and job creation are essential criteria to be linked to the award of economic citizenship.

Government has done well, even though late in the day, to declare that it will reverse its secrecy stance. The declaration by Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech that the regulations being drafted to implement government’s proposal will ensure that the names of those granted citizenship under the new legislation are public is welcome. This new position adopted by the government links with and reinforces the public committments made on the need for more robust due diligence.

It is, however, clear  that regulations alone will not suffice to entrench transparency in the citizenship scheme.  Amendments will also be necessary to the main legislation, in particular to remove reporting restrictions imposed by Parliament on the regulator.

The citizenship debate was also characteristed by the radical position taken by the Nationalist Party that, once back in office, it would not only take steps to scrap the new citizenship scheme but that it would, moreover, withdraw citizenship granted under the provisions of the scheme.

The Attorney General has advised the government that the PN’s proposal would be unconstitutional and would infringe human rights. Such advice was confirmed by the Dean of the Faculty of Law and by constitutional expert Ian Refalo.

The PN has declared that it is in receipt of legal advice reinforcing its position on the withdrawal of citizenship granted.

Whilst the Prime Minister has published the advice received from the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition has failed to follow suit. The Leader of the Opposition needs to be consistent. He cannot chastise the government for being secretive whilst simultaneously withholding important information from the public. It is not just the government which needs to be transparent.

The availability of both government and opposition to meet and discuss possible modifications to the citizenship scheme is welcome. Hopefully the wider national interest will prevail.

published in The Times Saturday, 23 November 2013

Il-logħob biċ-ċittadinanza ekonomika

Chess.01

Il-logħob biċ-ċittadinanza Maltija qed idejjaq lill-kulħadd.

Li jkun possibli li tingħata ċ-ċittadinanza lil min jagħti kontribut għall-iżvilupp ekonomiku tal-pajjiż hi proposta tajba. Jeħtieġ iżda li jkunu indirizzati żewġ diffikultajiet.

L-ewwel diffikulta’ hi dwar jekk il-kontribut għandux ikun ammont żgħir (relattivament) mingħand diversi persuni li miġbur flimkien jintuża mill-Gvern biex jiffinanzja inizzjattivi partikolari [x’inhuma għad irridu naraw].  Dan hu li jsir f’St Kitts u Nevis fil-Karibew permezz ta’ donazzjonijiet lill-Fondazzjoni dwar id-diversifikazzjoni tal-Industrija taz-Zokkor [Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation].

Min-naħa l-oħra fl-Awstrija l-impenn hu wieħed ta’ kontribut dirett tal-individwu fl-ekonomija mingħajr ma juża l-istat bħala intermedju.

L-għażla reali jiġifieri hi bejn min ikun diġa ta’ prova ta’ kontribut għall-iżvilupp ekonomiku tal-pajjiż u min jagħti kontribut ta’ €650,000 li wara jitħaddmu mill-Gvern flimkien mal-kontribut ta’ ħaddieħor.  Għalija l-ewwel triq, dik imħaddma mill-Awstrija hi iktar serja u marbuta mar-riżultati miksuba. It-tieni triq, dik ibbażata fuq il-prattika f’St Kitts u Nevis, hi dgħajfa u mhux neċessarjament li tagħti riżultat. Kullma tagħmel tagħti l-flus f’idejn il-Gvern li jista’ jħaddimhom tajjeb u jista’ jħaddimhom ħażin.

Mela d-differenza bejn iż-żewġ sistemi hi li waħda tagħti ċ-ċittadinanza ekonomika li min ikun diġa tak ir-riżultati u l-kontribut għal titjib ekonomiku filwaqt li oħra tippremja biċ-ċittadnaza ekonomika lil min jagħtik il-finanzi biex tipprova tieħu inizzjattivi. M’hemmx bżonn tkun għaref biex tikkonkludi li l-ewwel  sistema hi bil-bosta aħjar mit-tieni.

It-tieni diffikulta hu dik li tissejjaħ due diligence. Jiġifieri li tgħarbel lil min japplika biex tara jekk hux fl-interess tal-pajjiż li jingħata ċ-ċittadinanza. Il-proposta tal-Gvern hi li d-due diligence jagħmluha Henley and Partners (konsulenti tal-Gvern) li ser imexxu huma stess l-implimentazzjoni tal-iskema anke jekk id-deċiżjonijiet finali jeħodhom il-Gvern.  Ikun ferm aħjar li min imexxi l-iskema (u li ukoll ser imexxi l-quddiem applikazzjonijiet ta’ klijenti tiegħu stess) ma jkunx hu stess li jgħarbel l-applikanti.  Anke jekk ikunu persuni differenti fl-istess ditta.

Niftakru li anke l-Montenegro kellhom sistema simili ta’ ċittadinanza ekonomika li ġiet sospiża meta bdew id-diskussjonijiet għas-sħubija tal-Montenegro fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Minkejja li waħda mill-kundizzjonijiet tal-iskema tal-Montenegro kienet li ċ-ċittadinanza ekonomika ma tingħatax li min imiss mal-kriminalita din xorta ingħatat lil Thaksin Shinawatra ex-Prim Ministru tat-Tajlandja li pajjiżu jridu jgħaddi proċeduri kriminali dwar korruzzjoni.

Dawn huma dawk li aħna f’Alternattiva Demokratika naraw bħala id-difetti tal-iskema proposta mill-Gvern. Pass żbaljat wieħed f’din l-iskema jista’ jħarbat ix-xogħol utli li sar fil-qasam tas-servizzi finanzjarji f’Malta tul is-snin. L-istess bħalma qed isir bil-paroli tal-Opposizzjoni li, meta tirritorna fil-Gvern tirtira ċ-ċittadinanza mogħtija taħt din l-iskema.  Id-dubju li hemm fuq il-validita’ kostituzzjonali ta’ dak li qed jgħid il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil mhux ser ikun ta’ ġid għall-pajjiż.

Hemm ħafna sens komun nieqes f’dak li qed jgħidu kemm il-Gvern kif ukoll l-Opposizzjoni. L-atitudni tat-tnejn li huma qed tagħti messaġġ ħażin lil kull min qiegħed widnejh miftuħin biex jisma’.