The non-resignation of Professor Joe Bannister from the MFSA

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Questions over directorships in the Cayman Islands and Russian mining venture will apparently remain unanswered.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the current chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority, Joe Bannister would be stepping down from his role on March 31 of next year. Apart from the fact that this announcement has been so long in coming, one would have been forgiven of believing it was never going to come, what followed was even more bizarre. For Dr Muscat announced that the wily Bannister would be appointed government advisor, whatever that means but probably this indicates that Bannister will not be departing from the financial scene.

Prof John Mamo will eventually take over the chairmanship of the MFSA when Bannister steps down in March. The former is a widely respected figure in financial and legal circles having founded the law firm John Mamo and Associates which later merged with Tonna Camilleri, Vassallo Advocates in 2000 to become Mamo TCV Ltd. The appointment was also welcomed by the Nationalist Party who trumpeted consensus on the issue.

Bannister was recently in the news with regards to the Paradise Papers where he was revealed to have held offshore directorships in well-known tax haven jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands. This portal has repeatedly commented on his activities in this sector which are a blatant conflict of interest with his role as Chairman of Malta’s Financial Regulator. Still, the government seems to be pleased with his work as it will be retaining him as an advisor.

Sources within the industry told this portal on condition of anonymity that the move will mean that Bannister will continue dictating policy on financial services just the same. A few weeks ago it was revealed that Bannister had invested in a Russian mining firm that lost millions of public funds in a failed venture. To date, nothing has come out of this debacle and it is still unknown what Bannister’s role was, apart from that he was a non-executive director.

A few weeks ago there had also been a story in the Malta Independent which indicated that current Malta Gaming Authority Chairman Joe Cuschieri would be taking over the MFSA position. It had also been mooted that disgraced former Allied Newspapers Managing Director Adrian Hillman would be replacing Cuschieri at the MGA. The story also stated that former Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis had been offered the role but had declined. With the appointment of a non-executive chairman however, the position of CEO is still up for grabs.