Not one single mention of the Panama Papers, the largest leak of information of financial data to ever take place, has featured in the annual report of Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit of 2016, reports Malta Today.
In his introductory statement, Attorney General Peter Grech, who chairs the FIAU, opens by describing the financial services industry as a main pillar of the Maltese economy but does not mention the impact of the Panama Papers and whether the FIAU is investigating any suspicious transaction reports related to the leak.
“The FIAU successfully weather 2016 and has emerged as a stronger organisation better prepared to face the challenges of 2017,” Grech says of the year which saw the FIAU refusing to entertain questions of whether it was investigating the Panama Papers, which revealed minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had opened secret offshore companies in Panama and trusts in New Zeland.
It was also the year in which the FIAU director of eight years, Manfred Galdes, left to take up private employment, eventually replaced by Kenneth Farrugia, a former director-general at the OPM’s internal audit and investigations department (IAID).
2016 also saw an unprecedented increase in FIAU disclosures, 284 over the previous year bringing the total to 565, a 101% increase.
The 565 STRs included reports on 971 persons, of which 63% were non-Maltese nationals of foreign persons. “This is representative of the typology the FIAU noted involving Maltese-registered companies that are owned by foreign nationals.”
Fraud featured as the predominant predicated offence (23% of cases), followed by laundering of funds from drug trafficking, bribery and corruption, and human trafficking.
These suspicious transaction reports (STRs) gave rise to 520 new cases, a 137% increase over 2015, and a further 47 cases following the receipts of information from various other sources, possibly international.
The absolute number of STRs, 344, hailed from credit institutions, a 198% increase filed by domestic banks. The use of accounts held with Maltese banks featured in a number of fraud cases, as well as bribery, corruption, illegal gambling, drug trafficking and other illegalities.
But the FIAU also noted a significant increase in STRS received from remote gaming companies, 172% over 2015 related to foreign persons with limited connections to Malta.
The FIAU said that in 2016 it dealt with 710 cases, 20% of which started back in 2015, and of these cases it concluded 364 with a further 346 cases ongoing. But 39 analytical reports were sent to the police following a determination of reasonable suspicion if money laundering – in other cases the FIAU said it sent intelligence reports to foreign FIUs instead of triggering an investigation in Malta.
In 2016, an increase in penalties meted out by the FIAU saw a total of €126,775 levied over 167 cases – just administrative sanctions of €250 on banks, trustees and fiduciaries, lawyers accountants, notaries, and financial services brokers.