Former European Commissioner John Dalli has confirmed he had an account at Pilatus Bank but said this was closed down “long ago”. The bank was set up in 2015.
Dalli’s statement to Lovin Malta clarifies a question MEPs had asked the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) during a recent visit to Malta, for which they failed to receive an answer.
Dalli said he decided to open up an account at the Ta’ Xbiex-based bank because he “wanted to experience firsthand their costs and services”. However, the bank closed down his account due to “inactivity”.
Dalli’s Pilatus Bank account was first reported by late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia last year during her famous blog post claiming the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat is the ultimate beneficial owner of the Panama company Egrant. Joseph Muscat has denounced this story as “the biggest lie in Maltese political history”.
According to the report, the mysterious Egrant declaration of trust was retrieved from a safe which Pilatus Bank had kept in its kitchen, away from the glance of CCTV cameras. According to Caruana Galizia’s original report, the safe also contained documents pertaining to the bank’s Russian clients and Maltese PEPs, including John Dalli and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Caruana Galizia reported Dalli didn’t use his account much, but Schembri used his regularly including to conduct “suspicious transactions” with people in Azerbaijan.
Joseph Muscat had appointed John Dalli as a health consultant after the 2013 election
Now Dalli has confirmed with this website he indeed used to have an account with Pilatus Bank, but this was closed by the bank “long ago” because it was inactive. This statement must be put into some perspective, given that Pilatus Bank only started operating three years ago.
“This was another perverse extrapolation by Daphne Caruana Galizia who, for her malicious vindictive agenda, was always trying to paint me in an evil role in the scripts she was fantasising,” Dalli told Lovin Malta.
Asked why he chose to set up an account at Pilatus Bank in the first place, Dalli responded that he has accounts with other Maltese banks. Asked further why he opened an account at Pilatus Bank just to keep it inactive, Dalli responded as such:
“First of all, this is very impertinent as I should not be discussing private issues with anybody, especially poison pens. In this case, I wanted to experience firsthand their costs and services”.
— Jason Azzopardi (@AzzopardiJason) January 19, 2018
Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi reacted to the news by revealing one of the terms of the ongoing Egrant inquiry was precisely to establish whether John Dalli, as well as Keith Schembri and Michelle Muscat, owned a Pilatus Bank account.
He told this website he found out about the terms of inquiry, which have not been made public, when he filed two court applications to magistrate Aaron Bugeja to look into leaked FIAU reports into alleged kickbacks paid by Keith Schembri to Nexia BT boss Brian Tonna and former Allied Group managing director Adrian Hillman.
The reports are now being investigated by two other magistrates.
PN MEP David Casa said he has proof Pilatus Bank was deliberately set up to launder money
During a recent visit to Malta, a special delegation of MEPs asked representatives from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) whether Dalli had a Pilatus Bank account and whether the account had received money from 17 Black, a Dubai company which was set up by the Maltese agent for the tanker used to supply LNG to the Delimara power station.
According to an unfinished FIAU report leaked on the eve of last year’s election, 17 Black had transferred money to Keith Schembri’s and Konrad Mizzi’s two Panama accounts.
The FIAU did not answer the MEPs’ questions, only admitting it was possible Dalli could have a Pilatus Bank account.
Opposition MP and former leader Simon Busuttil quizzed Konrad Mizzi about 17 Black several times during a parliamentary session this week, but the tourism minister dodged the questions.
In his response to Lovin Malta, Dalli reiterated he had absolutely nothing to do with 17 Black.
“If you want a story, you could ask the police why they never took action on a complaint for harassment against Daphne Caruana Galizia that I had lodged with them in December 2016,” he said.
Dalli’s statement comes a day after Nationalist MEP David Casa claimed he had come about new evidence which proves Pilatus Bank was intentionally set up as a money laundering vehicle.
“The bank appears to have been conceived from the very start as an organisation designed to launder money, with banking staff instructed to fabricate paper trails justifying suspicious transactions after they have been carried out,” he said.
Casa said he has been asked to pass on this new evidence to the European Central Bank, which is investigating Pilatus Bank following a request by the PN MEP. Casa is calling on the ECB to force the revocation of Pilatus Bank’s license and to take control of the bank itself.