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Malta’s Justice Minister announces amendments in the court proceedings for financial crimes to soften the impact of jurisdictions’ obligations and ensure that government bodies will freeze significant assets.
Malta’s Justice Minister, Jonathan Attard, attorneys applying to freeze accounts in money laundering cases will now be required to specify to the court what assets and how much money can be frozen in 90 days. Moreover, the decisions to uphold the request of such an order will now be subject to appeal before the criminal court. The person who is involved in financial crimes has the possibility offered by the court to continue their business or company until their acquittal. These are two significant amendments in the legal framework of freezing assets ordered by Malta’s Justice Minister.
The new act proposes a simple procedure to ensure the countability of freezing and garnishee orders in money laundering proceedings. The garnishee orders will now be valid for six months and subject to variations, including fund release to ensure a simple living. Attard stated the amendments in the regulations, which will be published in the government gazette, are part of comprehensive changes in improving the AML system and jurisdictions of the country.
The panel’s choice to uphold the petitions for freezing orders will now be appealable to the Criminal Court, and prosecutors seeking such orders must explain what property or how much money is to be frozen. Those covered by freezing orders can only withdraw a maximum of €13,000 a year. Moreover, the defendants can request the court to operate the companies or professions until the proceedings continue and ask for recurring expenses such as school fees, insurance, or loans. The Minister stated, “in the past two or three years, Malta had started fighting financial crime very aggressively and that the amendments were also necessary for the courts to be effective when executing judgments handed down abroad.”
According to legislative revisions, a right of appeal is now available for convictions and court-ordered asset or property seizures. Following a conviction, the Criminal Court must determine the amount and identity of any money, property, or other assets obtained illegally. Currently, the freezing order controls every little amount of the defendants, which creates hardship. The minister claimed, “People have to apply to the court to buy medicines every month.”