Nationalist Party MP and lawyer for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family Jason Azzopardi has stated that the Criminal Court is issuing between 15 and 18 freezing orders related to money laundering every day, in a massive ramp up of action on the issue in a bid to get Malta off the grey list.
In June, the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Malta on a list of countries subject to enhanced supervision, following years of scandals and controversies that implicated the country’s leadership in corruption, international money laundering, covering up murder, and sanctions busting.
On Monday, Dr Azzopardi took to Facebook to speak about the “exponential” increase in money laundering asset freezes.
“One tries not to say anything,” he started, “but I cannot remain silent.”
“You know that Malta got greylisted. You know why and because of whom.
“Now I will show you only one aspect of what this means, especially for the employers and businesses among you who employ so many workers through so much sacrifice.”
“Every day,” he continued, “the Criminal Court is issuing between 15 and 18 freezing orders related to money laundering. Every day!”
Dr Azzopardi compared the situation to that of two years ago, when only six such freezing order were issued in an entire year.
He said this means that hundreds of businesses and employers are getting their assets frozen on suspicion of money laundering.
“The effect on business will be crazy,” he said.
He anticipated that some would ask him whether it’s wrong to apply the law.
“No, it’s not wrong,” he said. “What is wrong and what angers me is that this Government has made businesses look like thieves and fraudsters, when Konrad Mizzi is still running free.”
He continued: “Because of him and his money laundering, and that of four others, including that related to 17 Black [owned by Yorgen Fenech and stated in Chief of Staff Keith Schembri’s draft business plans to be the provenance of regular payments to his own secret company], between 15 and 18 persons and businesses every day are getting locked down, their work and future buried.
Dr Azzopardi however said that the USA, which carries a lot of influence over the FATF, will not be satisfied with investigations.
“What counts for the FATF is convictions,” he stresses when BusinessNow.mt reached out to him.
Surely, with 15 to 18 freezing orders issued by court every day, convictions will only be a matter of time?
Mr Azzopardi however points to his speech in Parliament on 23rd June, the day of Malta’s greylisting, where he made it clear that Konrad Mizzi is the number one target for the US, and by extension, the FATF.
“What did they think when they voted for Konrad Mizzi [in a confidence vote] on the Panama Papers?” he asked that evening, referring to Labour Party politicians seated across Parliament. “That the Americans wouldn’t notice?
“What did they think,” he continued, “when Joseph Muscat went to the European Parliament and thought he fooled MEPs? Did they think they would let is pass?
“We all got the blame,” he said. “They lumped us with the repercussions of their actions.”
Asked whether he believes some of these 15 to 18 individuals and companies accused of money laundering every day are falsely accused, Dr Azzopardi says it would be presumptuous of him to say so.
“It surely needs a lot of explaining. Going from six a year to 18 a day is exponential,” he says.
“What is for sure is there is a drive to impress FATF by the number of investigations. But what counts for FATF is convictions.
“Convictions of the right people.”
Jason Azzopardi/ Facebook
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