The (FATF) in Paris last week has flagged Malta’s initial push to attract cryptocurrency business as problematic stating it failed to fulfil its obligations to stop financial crimes.
The strategy adopted by Malta to become a global digital asset enclave seems to be working, although lax regulation error has raised concerns about money laundering and other financial crimes.
The Times of Malta reported on Sunday that since the small Mediterranean country first adopted its “blockchain island” strategy in 2017, about 71 billion U.S. dollars or 60 billion euros worth of cryptocurrency has passed through Malta.
Although Malta has improved its regulations focusing on cryptocurrencies in recent years, financial regulators are concerned about whether the country’s anti-money laundering system is strong enough.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) met in Paris last week to discuss whether Malta should be included in the list of countries that have failed to fulfil its obligations to stop financial crimes.
Specifically, financial regulators are concerned that Malta initially promoted the adoption of cryptocurrencies in 2017 and 2018, when the industry was much less regulated. The FATF officials also expressed concern about the country’s law enforcement system.
Numerous blockchain companies established operations in Malta in 2018, including the cryptocurrency exchange Binance, in anticipation of more favorable laws.
Companies established in the country can operate for up to a year without a license. An industry source told the Times of Malta that the one-year grace period resulted in “a surge in high-risk transactions steered by cryptocurrency exchanges in an unlicensed environment.”
Although, Malta is still considered a favourable destination for crypto asset companies. As reported by Cointelegraph, Crypto.com recently obtained Malta’s 3 types of virtual financial asset licenses, paving the way for wider recognition of cryptocurrencies throughout the European Union.
In June 2020, Malta expanded its blockchain ambitions to fully turn to digital assets as a way to drive business growth and adoption.
Kearon Bruno, president of the Digital Economy Think Tank responsible for Malta’s growing economic portfolio told Cointelegraph that: “We’re moving away from blockchain island, and more towards a digital island because we believe more in this holistic vision that includes all aspects and technological components,”