Oppenheimer / Facebook

Antonio Abdilla Zerafa, Head of Financial Crime Compliance at the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), on Sunday shared three key lessons he took away from Christopher Nolan’s latest movie ‘Oppenheimer’.

‘Oppenheimer’ is a biographical thriller movie that is written and directed by the British-American filmmaker, chronicling the life of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the creation of the first nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project. The movie premiered on 21st July 2023 and has already grossed $174 million (€157.1 million) worldwide.

Antonio Abdilla Zerafa / LinkedIn
MGA Head of Financial Crime Compliance and MLRO Antonio Abdilla Zerafa / LinkedIn

Mr Abdilla Zerafa, a self-described fan of Mr Nolan’s cinematic work, found some time away from his work on his PhD in Law and Criminology last weekend to see the movie. He remarked that despite the movie primarily focusing on Dr Oppenheimer’s life and the creation of the atomic bomb, it also touches on some “crucial themes”, which he decided to list without revealing any spoilers.

Firstly, he noted that the movie concerns the “pursuit of power and the responsibility that comes with it”. He explained that scientists like Dr Oppenheimer are “torn between their quest for knowledge and the moral implications of their creations”.

“The movie reminds us of the complexity of human decisions and the need to weigh the consequences of our actions carefully. In our lives, we must also confront ethical dilemmas that may not involve scientific breakthroughs, but require us to choose between personal gain and adhering to a moral compass,” Mr Abdilla Zerafa said.

He explained that the key lesson in that respect is of recognising the importance of “ethical decision-making” even when faced with daunting challenges, and to thus “embrace a sense of accountability for our choices”.

Mr Abdilla Zerafa then highlighted the power that collaboration and collective responsibility have in innovation and development.

“The movie showcases the monumental achievement of the Manhattan Project, which brought together some of the brightest scientific minds of the time,” he said, remarking that it emphasises the power of collaboration and how “collective efforts can lead to groundbreaking discoveries”.

He remarked that this can relate to our lives by recognising the “value of teamwork and shared responsibility”.

“Whether in science, business, or personal endeavours, working together and leveraging diverse perspectives can lead to innovative solutions and meaningful progress,” he added.

The third point he brings to light concerns the “illusion of protagonism”, as the movie “subtly portrays the complex nature of human existence, unveiling the often-overlooked truth that we can simultaneously be the protagonists of our own stories and pawns in the grander narratives of life”.

In the same way that Dr Oppenheimer found himself deeply involved in the events of his time, influenced by the prevailing political climate and the drastic needs of World War Two, Mr Abdilla Zerafa explained that we too can find ourselves “swayed by circumstances beyond our control”.

He also chose to relate this final point to his area of expertise, that of financial crime compliance, where the concept of the illusion of protagonism takes on a “significant role”, particularly when navigating through a “complex ecosystem where various stakeholders hold diverse perspectives”.

“While academics and practitioners may advocate for strong compliance measures, political factors may influence decision-making in this realm. This creates a delicate balance for subject persons and regulatory bodies to navigate,” he explained. He called for such people to work towards finding “common ground” between academic best practices, practical considerations, and political realities in order to create “effective compliance frameworks”.

Mr Abdilla Zerafa has worked at the MGA for more than eight years, having initially joined as an Intern in the Enforcement Directorate in 2015. He has since served in various financial crime compliance and due diligence roles at the authority, and has lead its financial crime compliance department since the start of 2022. He was also named Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) at the MGA in October 2022.

He holds a Master of Science in Counter Fraud and Counter Corruption Studies from University of Portsmouth and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from University of Malta, among other qualifications. In his PhD from Sheffield Hallam University, he is focusing his research on the relationship between AI and the remote gaming sector, and its effects on financial crime prevention and responsible gaming matters.

Featured Image:

Christopher Nolan's 'Oppenheimer' / Facebook

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