April 23, 2018 / 10:15 PM / a year ago

EU to check on money laundering moves in Malta, journalist's murder

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s justice commissioner said on Monday she will visit Malta in the coming weeks to look at its anti-money laundering moves and check on how an investigation is going into the murder of an investigative journalist.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans (not pictured) and European Commissioner Vera Jourova hold a news conference on the European Commission proposal concerning the protection of whistleblowers, in Brussels, Belgium, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Her visit will increase pressure on the EU member after the European Parliament expressed “serious concerns” about police independence and international money-laundering on the island in a resolution adopted last year.

The resolution was adopted after Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption campaigner, was killed in October by a car bomb. (reut.rs/2EYpxlB)

Commissioner Vera Jourova said she planned to go to Malta by June to discuss “several” open issues with the authorities.

The parliamentary body of the Council of Europe, a European human rights watchdog, also said on Monday it would monitor the investigation, adding it was crucial to bring to justice not only the perpetrators but also those who ordered the killing.

These decisions came as a group of local and international media groups, including Reuters, began following up stories covered by Caruana Galizia, in an initiative called the Daphne Project.

Malta, together with other EU states, faces a sanction procedure for its delay in adopting new EU rules against money laundering.

Jourova said she wanted to address this issue in her forthcoming visit and also the strengthening of the Maltese agency to tackle money laundering, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

“I of course want to inquiry about the state of play in the investigation on the murder of Madame Galizia,” Jourova told a news conference in Brussels.

Three people have been charged so far for the murder but police have not yet identified who ordered the killing.

“This investigation is not just about bringing to justice the people who have actually made the bomb, and made the explosion that killed Daphne. This is also about uncovering who gave the order to do that,” commission vice president Frans Timmermans said, speaking at the news conference with Jourova.

“We will keep pushing the Maltese authorities,” he said.

Jourova also said she will discuss Malta’s programme to sell citizenship to wealthy individuals.

Timmermans insisted that EU passports can be sold only to individuals who have a clear “demonstrable” link to an European Union country.

“This is a question that, I think, can be raised with the Maltese authorities when discussing the passport scheme,” he said.

The commission forced Malta in 2014 to amend its scheme so that only people who had effectively resided on the island for at least 12 months could obtain citizenship, but the country has since allowed foreigners to buy passports with laxer requirements, the Daphne Project consortium found.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Cynthia Osterman

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