Some insisted that the Maltese police must do more to fully investigate all corruption allegations, particularly at the highest political level, to end the perceived impunity in the tiny member state.
Earlier this week, Parliament’s civil liberties committee and the former Panama Papers inquiry committee had debated the conclusions of a fact-finding mission to Valetta last month to assess the situation of the rule of law and several allegations of corruption and money laundering.
Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, the EPP group coordinator on the civil liberties committee, highlighted that while MEPs, in the visit, had received a “clear picture of the situation on the ground, the problems facing Malta should have been apparent without a fact-finding mission.”
She said, “The police have refused to even investigate - let alone prosecute - accusations of corruption and money laundering by politically exposed persons and their dodgy banks.”
Metsola stressed what was outlined in the report “did not represent the characteristics of the majority of the Maltese people.”
She added, “Our Prime Minister’s machine spared no time in going after me, the whistle-blowers, and all the members of the delegation, but by now they should know that we will do our duty, come what may.”
Another Maltese MEP, David Casa, said Malta could “no longer tolerate corruption at the highest levels of government, nor could it allow banks used to launder money to remain operational.”
Casa, an EPP group member, said Maltese authorities had also refused the clamour to introduce legislation to protect whistle-blowers.
Portuguese S&D group deputy Ana Gomes, who led the delegation to Malta, expressed her satisfaction at the committee meeting on Thursday with Maltese justice minister Owen Bonnici.
He attended the committee along with two of the sons of the Maltese journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a bomb attack in October 2017. Several people have since been charged in connection with the atrocity.
Gomes said the committee was “determined to keep an open dialogue with authorities in Malta to resolve pending issues”, adding that the MEPs’ report was “fairly descriptive” of the current situation in the island.
Sven Giegold, economic and financial policy spokesman for the Greens/EFA group and co-initiator of the mission, was particularly critical.
He said, “The shortcomings of the rule of law in Malta are systematic. The European Commission must now seriously examine our findings. It is high time for the Maltese government to draw serious conclusions after the Panama Papers and the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Government members with dubious offshore accounts should be dismissed from office. The EU cannot tolerate the deterioration of the rule of law in any member state. Corruption and financial crime must be effectively prosecuted throughout Europe.
“That is why we want the European Commission and the European Parliament to intensify their work in the framework of Article 7 of the EU treaty.”
The delegation met Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and members of his government, the financial analysis intelligence unit (FIAU), the financial services authority (MFSA), as well as journalists, anti-corruption activists and representatives of NGOs and banks.
In a resolution that was passed in November, Parliament demanded that the rule of law in Malta be closely monitored, to ensure proper law enforcement and compliance with EU rules on money laundering and banking activities.