The Former FIAU Director who wrote damning reports into Pilatus Bank and Keith Schembri’s alleged passport kickbacks scheme felt there was enough evidence for police to treat the case seriously and with urgency.
While Manfred Galdes will give more sensitive details about the report and his resignation to the public inquiry into the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination behind closed doors, he still provided a unique insight to his tenure.
A resignation letter he wrote at the time, that is yet to be revealed to the public, has even been submitted to the inquiry.
“This was never published. I kept it just in case a public inquiry ever happened,” he explained.
Galdes resigned just months after submitting a report into Schembri’s alleged kickbacks scheme to then-Police Commissioner Michael Cassar. The report was presented before the Panama Papers was revealed, he explained.
The report concerns two bank transactions of €50,000 each from a British Virgin Islands (BVI) registered company owned by Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna to Keith Schembri’s bank account at Pilatus Bank.
The payment came just as Nexia BT received payments from three Russian passport buyers, with the FIAU believing there was sufficient evidence to establish reasonable suspicion of money laundering and/ or the existence of proceeds of crime.
Schembri and Tonna have denied the claims. They’ve said it was Tonna repaying back a personal loan. However, authorities are yet to locate a receipt of the initial loan payment.
Three weeks after receiving the report, Police Commissioner Michael Cassar resigned from his post, citing ill health.
Galdes said he resigned from the role because of a lack of resources and a political will to see improvements through.
On Pilatus Bank, Galdes reiterated that the FIAU identified severe failings at the bank on a routine visit, especially when it came to identifying the source of funds of their clientele.
A follow-up report was never completed, with Galdes stepping down before it could be finished. The delay, he said, was because of Pilatus Bank Chairman Ali Sadr’s decision to appeal their findings.
Galdes said Ali Sadr was the first person ever to do so.
When it came to the FIAU itself, he insisted that it was under-resourced and under financed, as was the police’s department to investigate money laundering and financial crime.
“I feel that you can have the best FIAU in the world, but if there are just three police inspectors who work on money laundering cases and spend most of their time in court or abroad, the system will never be effective.”
“They didn’t have enough time for these complex cases,” Galdes explained. “And I’m not saying just on PEPs, on all cases of money laundering.”