“Publish document in which Valletta was nominee on FIAU board” – Repubblika tells Finance Minister

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Rule of law NGO Repubblika called on Finance Minister Edward Scicluna to publish the document by which former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta was nominated to the FIAU board. In a statement, Repubblika referred to a document written by the Police Commissioner presenting a list of at least of three nominees from which the Minister was to select one.

Silvio Valletta came under fire after it was revealed that he went abroad twice on two separate trips to watch a football match with Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech, when the latter had already been identified as a person of interest in the murder case. Valletta was leading the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s assassination before being ordered off by the court when it was found that his presence was in breach of a fundamental right of the family.

The revelations prompted the resignation of Minister Justyne Caruana from the ministry. The former Deputy Police Commissioner is also under formal police investigation following the revelations. Europol also found a video on Fenech’s phone in which Valletta was filmed fooling around.

Valletta was appointed to the FIAU board a few months after the 2013 elections. At that time, Caruana was serving as a Parliamentary Secretary and was later appointed Minister.

Repubblika noted that Scicluna spent 15 months evading questions by activists concerning his decision to appoint Valletta as a member of the Board of Governors of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU).

Citing the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Repubblika said that article 19 provided for the selection of board members, in which the Minister for Finance is to appoint four members to the Board of Governors and he is to select one of these from a list of at least three persons nominated by the Police Commissioner.

Repubblika called on the minister to declare the grounds on which Valletta was selected over the other nominated candidates. The rule of law NGO also called on the Minister to state whether any person or persons apart from the Police Commissioner had communicated with him regarding the appointment of Valletta to the board before he himself was appointed him. The NGO added that if this was the case, then Scicluna has to specify who were the persons and what was communicated between them.

Civil society activists had asked Scicluna to remove Valletta from any role on the FIAU board due to a conflict of interest which arose from his marriage to a government minister. In their letter to Scicluna, the activists had said that the conflict of interest ‘had now been transformed into a veritable one from the moment that serious allegations had been made against members of the government and senior officials in the government administration.’

After 15 months, the NGO noted that Scicluna decided to reply to the questions posed by activists concerning the appointment of Valletta in Parliament, stating that Valletta had been nominated by the Police Corps and not by him on Wednesday. Describing Scicluna’s arguments as weak, the NGO lambasted his remarks saying that the intention was to misinform the public. Scicluna reportedly further said that ‘in 2014 nobody could anticipate the way Silvio Valletta would act in 2017.’

The NGO called on the Finance Minister to shoulder the responsibility for his decision to appoint Valletta to the FIAU board. It also called on the Minister to state why he ignored the request by the activists to remove Valletta from his role.

“It is not acceptable that a Minister who weakened the FIAU by placing and maintaining in one of the country’s highest institutions a person who clearly had a serious conflict of interest, should continue to serve in our country’s government cabinet,” Repubblika said.

“We believe that one of the reasons why Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder was made possible with such ease was due to the fact that the FIAU and other vital institutions in our country were not allowed to function properly.”