EU commisioner calls for 'thorough' probe into murder of Maltese journalist

People hold portraits as they stand beside lighted candles placed in memory of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on the sixth month anniversary of her death at a makeshift memorial outside the law courts in Valletta, Malta on April 16, 2018

Valletta (AFP) - EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was a "wake up call" Thursday while also raising concerns over the island's compliance with EU money laundering laws.

On a visit to Malta, Jourova said that Caruana Galizia's death in a car bomb in 2017 was an issue that "deeply shocked Europe".

"The commission expects an independent and thorough investigation to uncover who is really responsible for Daphne's murder," she said.

Juorova said she would meet Friday with officials overseeing the investigation into the murder. 

The commissioner also called for more vigilance over the country's so-called "golden passport" scheme.

Under Maltese law citizenship can be purchased providing the buyer has resided on the island for at least one year -- a stipulation put in place by the European Commission.

"Becoming a Maltese citizen also means becoming an EU citizen with all its rights including free movement," said Jourova, stressing that citizenship should only be granted to people that "have a real link to the country." 

"We must not enable suspicious people to come to Europe and get citizenship, to use it for money laundering, or to cause a security risk. The commission has a legitimate right to require some basic requirements," she said.

Jourova also called into question whether the Mediterranean nation was fully implementing EU anti-laundering rules, citing the scandal-hit Pilatus bank.

"We have to step up the fight against money laundering," she said. 

"I fear there are gaps in the Maltese system." 

She said the Pilatus bank, at the heart of a corruption scandal exposed by Caruana Galizia showed the "challenges Malta is facing in applying the existing anti-money laundering rules."

Malta's financial services watchdog froze the assets of Pilatus Bank and removed the bank's chairman Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad in March.

Jourova said "the Pilatus Bank case revealed that there are some shortcomings and the question remains whether it is just this one case or whether it revealed a systemic problem of the control of suspicious transactions". 

"Any time we systemic problem with the implementation of EU law the Commission has the possibility to launch an infringement procedure," she said, adding that she had asked European Banking Authority to investigate further.

©Agence France Presse

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