November 10, 2017 / 1:09 PM / a year ago

EU lawmakers urge stricter oversight of Malta after killing of journalist

BRUSSELS, Nov 10 (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers called on Friday for stricter EU supervision of Malta’s application of the bloc’s rules on money laundering and basic rights, stepping up pressure after the assassination of an investigative journalist on the island.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had denounced high-profile corruption and accused the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of wrongdoing, was killed on Oct. 16 by a bomb that tore through her car.

An investigation is under way and Muscat has promised that everything will be done to find the killers.

Next week the EU parliament will vote on a resolution on the rule of law in Malta. The text is currently under discussion among political groupings.

The assembly’s spokeswoman told a news conference on Friday there were “growing concerns about restriction of liberties, civil liberties and corruption” on the Mediterranean island.

At the same news conference, the conservative group, the largest in the EU parliament, called on the EU commission to “urgently” step up its monitoring of Malta.

“We think there are serious questions regarding the freedom of media and the lack of law enforcement in Malta,” said Daniel Koster, a European People Party’s spokesman.

His calls were echoed by the liberal, leftist and green groupings in the assembly.

“There are many issues to be clarified and answers on several serious allegations of corruption and breach of anti-money laundering and banking supervision obligations that have not been investigated by the police in Malta,” Lucian Goleanu, press officer for the liberals, told the news conference.

Reports from the Maltese anti-money laundering agency were leaked in June via Caruana Galizia’s blog. They raised concerns about Pilatus Bank, a Maltese lender accused of having failed to report suspicious dealings as required by law.

The bank and the Maltese police did not reply to Reuters’ questions on the allegations and on whether an investigation was launched after the reports became public.

“There appear to be no grounds to suspect a systematic breach,” of money laundering rules in Malta, an EU Commission official told Reuters in reply to questions over the island’s application of EU rules on money laundering. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Andrew Roche)

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