VALLETTA (Reuters) - The world's money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog (FATF) said on Friday that Malta was no longer subject to its increased monitoring process, a decision welcomed by the Mediterranean island's prime minister.
The Paris-based inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force had put Malta on its grey list of untrustworthy jurisdictions in June 2021.
It had told the EU's smallest state to beef up the way it combats tax evasion, bolster information gathering on ultimate beneficial ownership, and improve the way it shares data with local and international authorities.
FATF said in a statement that Malta had strengthened its oversight of the financial sector, while the watchdog's president, Marcus Pleyer, said the country was better placed to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Malta, he said, was now identifying companies which concealed their true owners, it was imposing more penalties for money laundering and it had improved its company registry.
"Dozens of effective enforcement actions have been taken against company owners, compared to zero before," he said during a visit to the country. "Malta is now cracking down on money laundering risks related to shell companies."
Prime Minister Robert Abela said Malta remained committed to strengthening its governance and institutions.
"The reform process was a challenge which we turned into an example of how Malta was a reputable financial jurisdiction," Abela told reporters. "We will continue to fight financial crime, notably money laundering and the financing of terrorism."
The Malta Chamber of Commerce welcomed the FATF decision.
"The next objectives need to be achieving a sustainable regulatory environment whereby anti-money-laundering obligations will be more risk-based, proportionate to the size of the business, and effective at rebuilding our reputation as a reliable and competitive jurisdiction," it said.
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Crispian Balmer and David Evans)