BNP Paribas’ Chairman and CEO have been handed yet another lifeline to miss a scheduled Maltese court hearing in a €1 billion lawsuit amid concerns that the pair could be interrogated over the Electrogas project, which they helped finance.
In court last week, claimant Jacob Agam, a British-Israeli resident in Malta, was brought all the way down to the country from France (where he was on a business trip) to hear that his cross-examination and scheduling of testimonies from BNP Paribas Chairman Jean Lemierre and CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé will be postponed yet again.
Agam’s testimony and Zammit Mcekon’s order has been delayed for at least another couple of weeks after BNP Paribas’ lawyers complained that they did not have access to transcripts of Agam’s previous testimony.
The issue dates back to August 2020 when Judge Joseph Zammit Mckeon ordered the pair to appear in a lawsuit filed by multi-millionaire Jacob Agam who accused BNP Paribas, one of the world’s largest banks, of anti-semitism and criminal acts.
The ruling was then reaffirmed in November, with Zammit Mckeon ordering that the two must appear in court to give evidence on a date to be determined by the court.
Zammit Mckeon ruled that Agam’s testimony will end in the next hearing in February 2021, and that the subpoenas issued in September against the defendants Lemierre and Bonnafé, in their capacity as witnesses in the case, remain effective, and the two must appear in court to give evidence on a date to be determined by the court.
Failure to do so would result in the two facing the legal consequences, including the issuance of a warrant for arrest.
Zammit Mckeon had previously been very critical of the bank’s position, stressing that his position was clearly expressed in his decree on 11th August and he repeatedly questioned the motive of the Chairman and CEO of BNP Paribas to avoid appearing in court.
However, it seems that the sentiment has changed in recent weeks with the bank’s attorneys placing unorthodox pressure on the judge to reconsider his ruling. Concerns have been raised that the attempt to delay the hearing once more will simply allow Zammit Mckeon to reach retirement age, which is in a matter of months, and not issue the order for the men to appear.
Agam and his Maltese company Vertical Group Holding Ltd claim transactions involving hundreds of millions of euro were compromised by the bank’s illicit and malicious actions.
He says the bank has admitted involvement in multiple criminal activities, including money-laundering for pariah regimes and transacting with terrorist sponsored states.
Both Lemierre and Bonnafé could face serious questions on the bank’s involvement in ElectroGas transactions and other parts of the bank’s operations. BNP Paribas was a part-financier of the notorious ElectroGas deal, the operator of the LNG power station with major links to the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination.
During the previous court hearings, BNP Paribas and its CEO and Chairman, as joint defendants in the case, consistently maintained that it has not and had not any business activities in Malta.
However, Agam surprisingly unveiled a range of business activities between BNP Paribas and Maltese businesses and corporations, in particular its direct involvement in the ElectroGas deal. Matthew Caruana Galizia has said that the deal was the motive behind the assassination.
Agam also accused Bonnafé and Lemierre of being directly involved with the bank’s misconduct against Maltese assets and individuals as well as with its knowledge or involvement in the ElectroGas corrupt transaction as a demonstration of the bank’s misrepresentation to the court, and its continued pattern of alleged criminal misconduct, this time, in Malta.
According to sources, the constant refusal of the Chairman and CEO to adhere to the warrants issued stems from fears that they may face additional demands for interrogations concerning their respective alleged misconducts against Maltese assets and individuals, in particular their respective alleged involvements in the corrupt transaction with ElectroGas.
France’s national financial prosecutor’s office has been asked to open an investigation into whether four French-based banks, including BNP Paribas, and an investment fund were complicit with Electrogas in laundering the proceeds of corruption.
Sherpa, a French association that fights financial crimes, teamed up with the Daphne Caruana Galizia foundation to file the complaint.
What do you think of the issue? Comment below