By Andrew Borg-Cardona:
Dwardu l-Profs wrote a big letter to the FT, so I thought I’d add some scurrilous comments in the form of his inner thoughts while writing. My bits are in italics.
The Financial Times
You (and many many others) have devoted a significant amount of (really really negative but totally justified) coverage recently to Malta and our financial services industry (April 17). While we welcome (not really) the attention, and your recognition of Valletta’s highly successful (with Jason Micallef and Mario Philip Azzopardi I can say successful with a straight face?) role as the 2018 European Capital of Culture, I do not feel you have depicted our financial services industry either accurately or fairly (well to be entirely accurate I can’t blame you, but I have to say that or my Prime Minister will be angry with me and might put me out to grass).
Malta’s financial services sector is now a major force in our country’s economy and services the needs of a growing range of banks, asset managers and insurance companies, (to say nothing of corrupt foreign dictators and our equally shady bosses). We offer institutions a well-trained and highly motivated workforce (that is rapidly becoming motivated to leave the country as fast as their little legs can carry them), a strong regulatory and governance framework (which is at least as robust as that of St Kitts & Nevis or Azerbaijan), clear and transparent legislation (which is ignored by our regulators and investigators) and rule of law (there’s that straight face problem again), a low cost-environment and, crucially, access to the single market thanks to our proud membership of the EU, (out of which our current Prime Minister had fought tooth and nail to keep us).
In recent years, every financial centre in the world has had to face significant regulatory and legal issues (but we think we’re special and we can sail on regardless closing both eyes and all ears to anything that might interfere with the rapacious avarice of our Lords and Masters). There are lawbreakers and fraudsters everywhere, and it would be wrong to single out any one jurisdiction. The issue is how one deals with them, (as you would be able to know if you do the exact opposite of what we do).
In the cases that your articles cite, the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia was an appalling tragedy and one that should not go unpunished. The Maltese police have already charged three people in connection with her murder and their investigation is continuing. Justice will prevail (unless it means that one or the other or many of our sacred political cows is threatened).
In the case of Pilatus Bank, our authorities have seized control of that institution (as directed by the USA and about a year late). We are co-operating with international crime agencies and regulators to uncover any potential wrongdoing and take effective action (and that straight face problem jumps up again).
Finally (and only because I really had no choice), this month I launched a stringent anti money-laundering and corruption initiative overseen by a permanent National Coordination Committee, designed to strengthen our work in this area, (though of course nothing will be done if those sacred cows are threatened). We are deeply committed to preventing, detecting and prosecuting any criminal activity (as long those sacred cows are OK).
I ask you and your readers to judge the Maltese financial sector by the dedication of thousands of professionals, and by the work we are doing to build it for the future, rather than the activities of a small rogue element, (and to forget the evidence pointing at the rogues we know about and at whom we can point fingers without the slightest problem).
Prof Edward Scicluna (writhing in shame and embarrassment)
Minister for Finance, Valletta, Malta