Shadow Justice Minister Jason Azzopardi has questioned Justice Minister Edward Zammit whether a magisterial inquiry into Pilatus Bank has concluded and recommends criminal action against a number of people.
“Can the Minister confirm whether the Attorney General received the inquiry document from the inquiring magistrate last December? Can he confirm whether the magistrate has recommended that the bank, the bank’s owners, the bank’s directors and the Money Laundering Reporting Officer be charged with money laundering?”
“Has he recommended that the FIAU and the MFSA be investigated for possibly breaking the law when they gave Pilatus a banking license and for criminal complicity by covering up Pilatus’ crimes?”
“Can he say why the government hasn’t yet requested the extradition to Malta of the people named by the magistrate?”
Magistrate Ian Farrugia launched his inquiry into potential criminality at Pilatus Bank in November 2018, reportedly a few days before its license was revoked by the European Central Bank.
Times of Malta reported last month that the inquiry has concluded and recommends criminal proceedings against a number of bank employees.
Also last month, Pilatus announced that it intends to sue the ECB for damages, warning that it shuttered down on the basis of falsely alleged crimes which predated the bank’s existence.
This was a reference to allegations that its owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad had violated US sanctions on Iran by processing money from a housing project in Venezuela through the American banking system.
Ali Sadr was initially found guilty by jury, but federal prosecutors withdrew their case against him two months before his sentencing date, citing the likelihood of continued litigation over the suppression of evidence that arose after his trial.
His guilty verdict was subsequently expunged.
Pilatus Bank was at the centre of the Egrant allegation, with now-assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia claiming that the wife of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat owned a secret Panamanian company and that this had received large payments from Azerbaijan’s ruing family via the bank.
A magisterial inquiry later found no evidence that Egrant ever belonged to the Muscats or that it received any payments whatsoever, but didn’t establish who the company was purchased for. It also found evidence of forged signatures on alleged copies of declarations of trust that were presented by Pierre Portelli, who was back then editor-in-chief of The Malta Independent.
However, the bank was used by a number of Azeri PEPs, including a company owned by the daughters of president Ilham Aliyev. Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had an account there, in which he received €100,000 from Nexia BT owner Brian Tonna, a payment which was subjected to a magisterial inquiry into allegations that it was a kickback. Former EU Commissioner John Dalli also had a Pilatus bank account but never used it.
Cover photo: Left: Jason Azzopardi, Right: Ali Sadr Hasheminejad