There is enough evidence to issue a bill of indictment against the director of Pilatus Bank, Claude Anne Sant Fournier, who has been charged in connection with money laundering offences.
The charges are linked to a magisterial inquiry kickstarted against the bank in November 2018 following the arrest of the bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hashinejad in the United States of America. The inquiry cost about €7.5 million. It was the inquiring magistrate who said that charges must be taken against Sant Fournier.
Sant Fournier had been on police bail for a number of months before the charges were issued. The police have since revealed that she stayed silent during interrogation, refusing to answer any questions.
She was the MLRO and director of the bank, which meant she was responsible for ensuring that the bank remained in line with anti-money laundering laws. Sant Fournier is no longer a director at the bank.
Pilatus Bank and Sant Fournier both pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, the inspectors insist that she was assisting and encouraging money laundering.
The bank was at the centre of corruption and money laundering claims against a number of high-ranking officials that formed part of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s administration.
On 20th April 2017, assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed that the bank held an account for the Panama company Egrant, which she had claimed Muscat’s wife Michelle was the Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO).
Caruana Galizia had also claimed that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and other associates including former John Dalli held an account at the bank. The inquiry had shown that both men did in fact hold accounts at the bank.
Schembri’s account at the bank has been central to corruption and money laundering charges brought against them.
A magisterial inquiry into the allegation could not find any evidence linking Muscat to the company, though it did not determine who the company’s UBO was. It did however uncover a dual filing system likely intended to withhold key documents from authorities.
The bank’s license was eventually withdrawn in October 2018 following the arrest in the United States of the bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.
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