IMF forecasts strong growth in coming months but calls for prioritization of AML fight / Malta News Briefing – Saturday 18 September 2021

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Updated 1530 – IMF commends Malta’s actions on Covid, calls for more work in fight against AML and in enhancing economic transformation

The International Monetary Fund has commended the authorities for the swift and bold response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, the Fund said that economic growth is expected to gain momentum in the coming months, although uncertainty remains high and downside risks cloud the outlook. It insisted that coordinated policy support should continue until the recovery firmly takes hold, balancing near-term growth with long-term stability while pursuing structural reforms to strengthen the economy’s resilience.

While noting recent progress in strengthening the AML/CFT framework, the IMF called for urgent action to address the remaining deficiencies in the AML/CFT framework and exit the FATF’s grey list. They recommended prioritizing the areas of transparency on beneficial ownership information and financial intelligence related to money laundering and tax evasion. It also advised the authorities to continuously assess high-risk activities and their impact on correspondent banking relationships.

A more in-depth analysis of the assessment by the Fund is available here.

Updated 1253

Covid-19 Update: Health authorities 25 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, while 51 patients have made a recovery. Active cases declined to 617. 21 patients are currently in hospital, three of whom in ITU.

Updated 1100

Two prison warders to be accused of involuntary homicide

The two prison warders involved in the death by suicide of a 29-year-old woman will be facing charges of involuntary homicide.
They are expected to be arraigned in the coming days and charged over their alleged failure to stick to protocols, leading to the prisoner’s death. They will also be charged with committing a crime they were duty-bound to prevent in the line of duty. Earlier this week, The Times spoke to the dead woman’s father, who insisted that the tough regime in place in prison drove his daughter to taking her life despite having just a few days left on her term.
Meanwhile, Maltatoday revealed that the two warders are also woman.

Arrigo says he is recovering well

PN Deputy Leader Robert Arrigo said that he was recovering following a two-week ordeal. The 66-year old wrote on Facebook that he had originally sought medical help because of kidney stones, but an infection in his blood stream turned his condition to the worse. Saying that prayers do help, the MP said that he is now recovering. “You left me speechless,” he said about the hundreds of messages he received during his ordeal.

Malta Chamber, Gozo Business Chamber lament employee drain as Government adds more works to public sector

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Gozo Business Chamber noted that several of their members keep reporting that they are losing their employees to public sector jobs, even when the latter often carry less pay.

Both Chambers believe that whilst it is understandable that the public sector needs staffing at certain levels, it is also evident that there is overstaffing across various strata and in various Government departments and entities. It runs contrary to business competitiveness to have a situation where Government is indirectly soliciting human capital from the private sector.

Full story here.

Updated 0900 – Newspaper Review

The Times reports that businesswoman Josette Schembri Vella has been charged with money laundering offences arising from transactions between 2008 and 2020. The 45-year-old is the wife of former chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The Independent reports on charges brought against Josette Schembri Vella, accused of laundering €1.5 million through her company 3Cities Design Ltd. The prosecution did not say what the predicate offence was.

In-Nazzjon says that the PN will hold a national conference on the environment on September 29. Party leader Bernard Grech said that environmental issues must be at the top of the political agenda.

L-Orizzont covers a business breakfast organised by the Labour Party on Friday on the theme ‘Renewing Malta Together’. Speaking during the event, Prime Minister Robert Abela said the party has the energy to take the country forward.

The Times quotes parliamentary secretary Alex Muscat who said that citizenship is the competence of member states, and the EU cannot prevent Malta from offering a scheme to obtain a national passport.

The Independent quotes Prime Minister Robert Abela that the Labour Party will address mistakes made in the last years. Speaking at a PL event on Friday, Abela said that the party is committed to the country’s reform programme.

L-Orizzont follows a speech by General Workers Union secretary-general Josef Bugeja who urged policymakers to focus on the creation of careers, rather than jobs. Bugeja said that the pandemic has accelerated shifts in the employment market.

In-Nazzjon quotes the secretary-general of the General Workers Union, Josef Bugeja who warned about a rise in precarious jobs. Addressing a PL conference, Bugeja said that low unemployment is important, but people need quality jobs with good conditions.

L-Orizzont follows the case in court about an incident in Gozo in which a Somali man was thrown into the sea. Taking the witness stand, a bar security officer said the man had been thrown out of the establishment in Mġarr for misbehaving.

Morning Briefing

Wife of former OPM Chief of Staff charged with money-laundering

Josette Schembri Vella, the wife of former chief of staff Keith Schembri, was charged with money laundering offences related to her company yesterday. The charges are related to transactions linked to the company 3 City Designs and carried out in the period 2008 to 2020. Inspector Leanne Bonello from the anti money laundering team said the suspicious amount subject to the charges total €1.5 million. However, she did not say what the predicate offence – the crime necessitating the laundering of the money – was. The defence counter-argued that charges were being trumped up in view of Malta’s grey-listing situation, and described the situation as ‘worrying.’ Schembri Vella was granted bail.

Covid-19 Update

An 84-year-old male passed away overnight while Covid-19 positive, becoming the 453rd victim of the coronavirus pandemic in Malta. 27 new cases were reported on Friday, while 79 patients recovering, lowering active cases to 643. 25 patients are currently being treated at Mater Dei Hospital, four of whom are in ITU.

Increase in full-time employment

In March 2021, registered full-time employment increased by 0.9% while part-time employment as a primary job decreased by 0.6% when compared to the corresponding month in 2020. Administrative data provided by Jobsplus shows that, over a period of one year, the labour supply (excluding part-timers) in March 2021 increased by 1.0%, reaching 237,671. This was mainly attributed to a year-on-year increase in the full-time registered employment (2,081) and an increase in registered unemployment (262).

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