Watch: “The media needs a reality check” – Silvio Schembri

Silvio Schembri told this newsroom to do a reality check when asked about the European Banking Authority’s report on the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). Newsbook.com.mt caught up with the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services at a press conference. This newsroom had sent questions on July 15 followed up by a reminder on July 17. Newsbook.com.mt had attempted to get a recorded comment on July 15 from Schembri, however he had asked us to send in questions by email as he was at the feast of St Sebastian and was not in a position to reply.

The following questions were sent in writing: 

1. How in your opinion should Malta respond to the EBA report?

2. Do you think the report may have repercussions on the Maltese financial industry?

a. If yes: How is Malta planning to mediate the negative impact such a report may have on the financial sector?

b. If no: How so?

3. In your opinion, was the FIAU’s reply to the findings an adequate one?

4. In your opinion who should shoulder responsibility for the shortcomings found in the EBA report?

5. Malta is posing itself as the blockchain island, are there plans in order to mitigate money laundering which may happen through blockchain / bitcoin?

However Newsbook.com.mt never received a written reply to the above questions. 

A Newsbook.com.mt journalist asked the Financial Services Parliamentary Secretary what is Malta doing or what it will doing given the report by European Banking Authority (EBA) on the FIAU.

Given that the press conference was 4 days later after the main conclusions of Egrant Inquiry were published, Schembri argued further that the inquiry showed that there were no problems with Malta’s rule of law.

Schembri insisted that the FIAU is independent institution and that it had already replied on the matter. He also said that the FIAU was not part of his remit despite the implications related to EBA’s report could mean for the Maltese Financial Service Industry. He then argued that if there were recommendations to be taken up, they would be, then given that the rule of law is at place in Malta, as it was seen from the main conclusions from the Egrant Inquiry report.

In February the EBA was requested to open a preliminary enquiry on the possible breach of EU law by the Maltese authorities in relation to the Pilatus Bank. In its conclusions the EBA said that the Maltese agency, the FIAU, had breached the requirements of a directive on the prevention of money laundering.

Following the EBA’s conclusions, the FIAU issued a statement that it was disappointed with the authority’s conclusions. The FIAU had also remarked that it had its reservations on the process it adopted to carry out its preliminary inquiry and subsequent investigationThe Attorney General Peter Grech who is also the Chairman on the FIAU board of directors said that he had nothing to add on to the statement issued by the Unit.  After the preliminary inquiry into the Maltese Authorities, Nationalist European Member of Parliament and Head of Delegation David Casa asked the EBA to investigate Nexia BT

He then took aim at the media in general saying that the media tends to take stories which were then turned into facts. It was at this point, that Schembri said “the given that your media house was active in reporting such stories, it also needs a reality check”.

Schembri reiterated that the fact that the authorities would seek to address the shortcomings mentioned by such reports. Schembri remarked that the financial industry would evaluate such reports as well as the action taken by the Government and the relevant authorities.