BNP Paribas’ Chairman and CEO have been ordered to appear in front of a Maltese court in a €1 billion lawsuit or face the consequences following the reaffirmation of subpoenas issued last August.
In a sitting, Judge Joseph Zammit Mckeon reaffirmed a ruling handed down last August ordering Chairman Jean Lemierre and CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé 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.
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.
Agam has since submitted further evidence backing his claims during a recent cross examination.
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.
In a tense sitting, Zammit Mckeon was 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.
The legal representatives of Lemierre and Bonnafé communicated to the court that they would seek to appeal the initial court order for their clients to appear and be deposed.
The court drew attention to the fact that the decree was handed down on 11th August. The relevance assumed to be, that this is in excess of the ordinary time limit applicable to such an appeal.
During his cross-examination, Agam further elaborated on the involvement of BNP Paribas in ElectroGas alleged corrupt transactions. The bank has not refuted Agam’s revelations.
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.
Agam alleges he was targeted by the bank after raising concerns publicly and privately about its role in a number of horrific criminal misconducts. These included a 2014 criminal conviction imposed on BNP by the US Government for unlawfully processing transactions worth billions of dollars for sanctioned regimes linked to terrorism and genocide.
According to the lawsuit, the bank targeted Mr Agam and his Maltese company in retaliation to his challenge to the bank’s illegal activities and anti-semitic stance. It is also alleged Lafarge-Sarkozy the bank’s legal representative, who used anti-semitic language, referring to Jews as “ces gens-là” (“these people”, a highly derogatory phrase in the French language) and “parasites”.
According to the legal claim, the bank’s CEO and chairman, despite receiving many personal, governmental and parliamentary requests to intervene, chose not only to prevent the alleged destructive smear campaign against the claimants but to actively preside over the said malicious actions.
The bank denies all claims.
Agam told Lovin Malta:
“With the latest ruling, justice is about to reach the doorsteps of the bank, it’s Chairman and its CEO. The Chairman, CEO and the bank have left no stone unturned in their efforts to act as fugitives and to escape questions relating to their involvement in multiple criminal activities some of which have been motivated by bigotry and hate.”
“The time for people of Jewish heritage to be deprived of their own assets and rights due to their beliefs and moral standing, with impunity, has passed. Unfortunately, the bank, its Chairman and its CEO have chosen to ignore the fact that French official anti-sémitism as manifested by the French Vichy régime ended in 1944.”
Dr Pio Valletta said that “it is astonishing and disconcerting that the legal counsels of BNP Paribas and of the bank’s Chairman and CEO should seek to appeal from a court decree handed down on the 11th August 2020 and which clearly and cogently affirms the right of the plaintiffs to summon those witnesses they may choose in terms of law.
“It is yet another attempt to shield the Chairman and CEO of BNP Paribas from being asked and from answering questions in the same way and to the same extent my client Jacob Agam has been subjected. It is evident that Mr Lemierre and Mr Bonnafé have much to hide.”
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