Sent in by someone known to me who went to yesterday’s FIAU anti-money-laundering seminar.

This morning I dutifully took up the FIAU’s invitation (at a cost of €100) to attend their seminar about the Revised Implementing Procedures on Anti-Money Laundering. A boring subject if ever there was one but needs must so I braced myself for the day and arrived early for the seminar.

The room was packed with bankers, financial services operators, insurance people, lawyers, notaries and realtors. All the operatives in financial services, or in industry parlance ‘subject persons’ were there in smart (‘Bortex’) suits and black dresses. A sea of professionals. The salaried glad to get away from the office for a day and the professionals fuming that they will endure a day on their mobile phones answering emails.

And then in the corner of my eye I notice close-cropped hair and the signature bag strap across the chest. We were graced by Nexia BT’s Karl Cini. I wondered – was he there to present a session on offshore jurisdictions and facilitating PEP tax evasion – a case study?

At this point my heart sank. It was bad enough that I had to spend a day listening to public servants wax lyrical about risk assessment, measures, directives and their expectations of an audience of civil society members ill-equipped to act as investigative detectives. But to witness an operative, who established Egrant, Hearnville and Tillgate for the corrupt but who has not divulged, as he is bound at law to do so, who the owners of Egrant were, really made me question my €100 ‘investment’.

I mean, seriously, what is the point of explaining in minute detail what it means to undertake risk assessments when on-boarding new business when one of the elephants was shitting in the room?

The lack of any semblance of enforcement on those who deliberately undertook corruption, money laundering, bribery and graft will not solve Malta’s reputation. Unwittingly perhaps, through their corrupt actions, they have spawned a thriving new industry in compliance (this session alone brought in some €5,000 to the FIAU’s coffers) in an effort to wallpaper over the industry that has been tarnished beyond redemption and regain some form of recognition for ‘Malta’s efforts to fight money-laundering’.

We are now the detectives where the State has failed. Here we are, armed with Compliance Procedures, employing Compliance Officers and Money Laundering Reporting Officers, Google and Passport checking subscriptions for what? We, the industry, are meant to weed out potential money launderers. For what? To then report our clients to the FIAU who then do what? Report it to the police who immediately check the credentials (party ties) of the ‘clients’ and take no action?

We, the honest operators who are only interested in legitimate ‘good’ business, have to work three times as hard. Business is streaming out of Malta because of the reputation hit taken by the industry and because it is impossible to open a bank account any more. Even if you were lucky to have a bank account, it will be closed unilaterally and we are left to pick up the pieces of an industry in disarray with no story to sell.

The real criminals in our midst sit around a cabinet table at Castille but we will continue, as we have always done, to carry out our obligations at law, whilst those who have been caught with their pants down continue to move and operate around our society, screwing it wherever they can, with a wink and a nudge, knowing they enjoy impunity because they chose to service those well connected criminals who run our country. I cannot wait to carry out my next risk assessment thinking about Karl Cini freely working the room with that wry smile on his face.

Happy times for some. Aħdem Gaħan!