In a recent interview with The Malta Independent, Malta Business Registry CEO Geraldine Spiteri Lucas reviewed the work and goals. The MBR’s work has been particularly intense over the past year, following Malta’s entry on the FATF’s gray list, to monitor potential attempts to conceal information on companies’ beneficial owners and assess existing risks on business partnerships.
The assessment was completed in August 2021, using data available to the MBR, with input from information provided by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), the Office of the Commissioner for Revenue (OCfR), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Office of the Attorney General, as well as the National Coordinating Committee on Combating Money Laundering and the Funding of Terrorism (NCC). Thus, companies considered high-risk were inspected, while a confidential discrepancy reporting tool was made available to the public. Eventually the work was completed last February, and awarded by the FATF list in recent weeks.
All of this work at first put some pressure on companies, which were subjected to inspections and audits, but over time it was understood and led to a cultural change in the business community, which can now really get off to a flying start and be able to rely on a serious and reliable jurisdiction.
CEO Spiteri Lucas then addressed the efforts to reduce bureaucracy: “Our next natural step is to address the problem of bureaucracy. I instructed the communications unit to publish a survey and ask our stakeholders (companies and professionals) for feedback on improvements to the MBR. We got good feedback, analyzed the results and incorporated everything into an internal action plan. On a larger scale, a process has been initiated, led by the Ministry of Economy, to streamline procedures and eliminate unnecessary ones.“
A separate discussion deserves voluntary organizations, which must be registered with the MBR and fulfill certain legal obligations. All of these, whether foundations, registered or unregistered associations, must in particular declare their beneficial owners with the MBR, as required by a European anti-money laundering directive and the FATF recommendations: “We are aware that most organizations in Malta are small, however, some of them still handle large sums of money and therefore we cannot consider them low-risk and eliminate all measures. That being said, we must do everything possible not to kill Maltese voluntary organizations, as they are a vital part of our community and more often than not are of immense benefit to society at large. To this end, we are already in discussions with the Commissioner to ensure that, as an entity, we strike the right balance and rationalize any duplication of work. I am also a firm believer in the importance of educating all volunteers, especially those acting as administrators, about their legal obligations and their importance. Imposing obligations benefits organizations that operate within the law,” Spiteri Lucas concludes, “because we will be able to identify those that abuse the system and take the necessary steps to eliminate them.“