Opening speech by Minister Evarist Bartolo at The Malta Workshops 2021

Reference Number: 19042021, Press Release Issue Date: Apr 19, 2021
 
Esteemed partners, dear colleagues, distinguished guests,

It is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to welcome you to The Malta Workshops. We aim to explore and discuss together the particularities of small international financial centres and the associated challenges they face in ensuring financial flows are legitimate and  transparent. We would like to discover where increased cooperation between our jurisdictions and our combined efforts would bring about tangible results in creating a layer of defence against money laundering and financing of terrorism. We strongly believe that we are stronger together and together we can go far.

Malta’s achievements over the past decades, from acquiring independence, becoming a republic, the closure of foreign military bases, acquiring neutrality, achieving a sustainable economy, EU accession, social services, education and health services, are at the very core of what Malta is today. In spite of this, Malta does not want to put these achievements in jeopardy through the operations of criminal networks.  

The brutal assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017 was a stark reality-check for us and if it is not be in vain it must continue to serve us to examine our consciences and learn from this terrible experience. We are determined to be proactive and address the threats of economic crime, money laundering and financing of terrorism.

We have implemented a wide-ranging governance reform programme to address our weaknesses and system failures.  These reforms are now delivering tangible and visible results. We are determined and committed not to compromise or row back on these reforms. They are here to be strengthened and built on.  They are here to stay.

But as we look at ourselves and the world around us we know that however much we change and introduce new measures, we can never be complacent when we come to good governance and the fight against national and international economic crime. Good governance is fragile. It must always be defended. We must be ever vigilant.

Malta like many other countries and islands with limited geographic territory, is highly dependent on its tourism and financial industry as national revenue generators. With tourism stagnating due to the COVID pandemic, the significane of the financial industry has further increased. Yet, a balance needs to be maintained between the quest by small international financial centres to grow their financial industry, including through innovative business concepts, and the need to fully and sustainably mitigate the oftentimes elevated risks that arise from such business concepts. We in Malta have experience first-hand what can happen if that balance is lost.

To exchange experiences with other countries that encounter similar challenges as Malta we have decided to host this workshop, which aims to discuss ways in which such risks can be properly mitigated and how we as small IFCs can cooperate better in this regard.

Sound financial governance in relation to anti-money laundering, as well as cooperation between countries in response to transnational criminal activity cannot be a stand-alone effort. We need to nurture a national and international eco-system to fight it.

 At the national level we all need to do our bit: the political parties, the business associations, the professionals, the media, the whole education system, the unions, the churches.

There must be a united front of political parties, business organisations, professional and civil society against criminal networks. Institutions will be as honest as the people in them so from a very young age the values of honesty and integrity need to be nurtured among our people, through example and not just nice words.

We are as strong as the weakest link in our countries. We will lose our sovereignty and democracy if we allow the hidden webs of informal and illegal power to win over the political parties and the country’s institutions. The shell of a sovereign state will be in the hands of elected government and the national institutions, but its soul will be in the hands of criminal networks.

As Italy’s President Sandro Pertini used to say: God forbid that anyone defends corrupt people, out of loyalty or solidarity to their Party. In doing this the friendship within the party becomes complicity and omerta. I repeat that people like these, dishonest and corrupt, should be put aside, because they offend the Italian people. They offend millions and millions of Italians who in order to live an honest life, make huge sacrifices, they themselves and their families.”

A democratic country that wishes to be run in an honest way needs  media that investigate and criticise, as much as it needs a parliament to keep tabs on government, a serious opposition, independent law courts, honest regulators and a police force that operates without fear or favour.

Similarly, the country needs citizens who think independently and organise themselves in civil society to take an active part in the way society is run.

Every country’s initiatives in the fight against economic crime, money laundering and financing of terrorism must necessarily be complemented by a wider framework of cooperation and collaboration with our regional and international partners. Global challenges can only be addressed jointly, through a collective effort.

Which is why we decided to organise this Workshop Series.

The Malta Workshops are the recognition of the need and importance of capacity-building initiatives as key enablers that contribute towards the sustainable development of small international financial centres. Our ambition and objective is to hold these discussions, either virtually as at present or physically as the case may be, on regular basis.

I wish you success in your deliberations, and I trust that today will be the start of a meaningful, effective and lasting forum of international cooperation that will have concrete and important results for our present and future generations in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Sharing problems helps us share solutions.

Thank you.