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WATCH: First Reaction Of Malta’s Finance Minister On Pilatus Bank Chairman Arrest

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Left: Finance minister Edward Scicluna. Right: Pilatus Bank chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad

Finance minister Edward Scicluna refused to give a straight answer when asked whether the license of Pilatus Bank will be revoked following the arrest of its chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad by the United States last night. 

Doorstepped by Lovin Malta, Scicluna initially said: 

U ejja, come on. You’re going to ask these questions so early in the morning? In any case, it’s the regulator (the Malta Financial Services Authority) which deals with such cases.”

“These are serious things which involves the regulators,” he said. “When I go back to the office, we’ll start the work and see what to do.”

Asked whether he will tell the MFSA to investigate Pilatus Bank, Scicluna said that “they know their job”. He didn’t respond when asked whether he had any contact with the US authorities about last night’s arrest. 

He later said that the case will in all likelihood also be reviewed by Malta’s Sanctions Monitoring Board – which falls under the jurisdiction of the foreign affairs ministry. 

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Pilatus Bank chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad 

Sadr was arrested on charges that he evaded US sanctions on Iran by funnelling over $115 million from Venezuela through US banks as part of a $476 million deal to build 7,000 housing units in Venezuela.The project stemmed from agreements that Iran and Venezuela entered into in 2004 and 2005 that called for cooperation between the two governments in constructing housing units in the South American nation. US prosecutors say Sadr belonged to a committee overseeing the project’s execution and that he took steps to evade US economic sanctions by concealing the role of Iran and Iranian parties in payment sent through the US banking system.

Sadr faces six counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, charges that can land up to 125 years in prison. 

Following the arrest, Opposition leader Adrian Delia urged Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to “stop washing his hands” and suspend Plates Bank’s license instantly. PN MEP David Casa, who has asked the European Central Bank to investigate Pilatus Bank, said the Maltese authorities have a lot to answer for after “allowing this crook [Ali Sadr] to operate with impunity”.

What do you make of last night’s arrest? 

READ NEXT: BREAKING: John Dalli Confirms He Had A Pilatus Bank Account

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