Shadow minister Karol Aquilina released a statement by the PN signalling opposition to changes to the law that gives the state the power to freeze assets belonging to people charged with money laundering

The PN statement said the government is rushing the changes through Parliament “for reasons that are obvious and known” in an apparent reference to the expectation that former prime minister Joseph Muscat might be charged with laundering unlawful payments he received from VGH in connection with the botched privatisation of three public hospitals.

The PN’s statement acknowledges that a few court decisions give good reasons for changes to the existing laws. But those changes should not include shifting to the prosecution the burden of proving that any part of the accused’s wealth is the product of laundered dirty money. That burden should stay with the accused, the opposition said.

Karol Aquilina’s statement also puts down a challenge to the government to exclude corruption crimes from the changes to the law in the same way the changes already exclude drug trafficking. The Opposition is taking the line that persons charged with money laundering together with bribery and corruption should have all their assets frozen as the law currently provides. This would neutralise any effort to protect Joseph Muscat from the application of the law.

The changes to the law are expected to be discussed for the first time in Parliament today. The government has signalled its intention to ensure its adoption before Christmas.

I discussed my views on the changes the law in this speech in Brussels last week.