An as-yet unpublished inquiry into the shuttered Pilatus Bank cost the Maltese taxpayer over €7.5 million.
The information was revealed by Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis in reply to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi.
“I am informed that up until 29th March 2021, the cost of the magisterial inquiry into the bank amounted to €7,501,664.50,” Zammit Lewis said in his response.
The magisterial inquiry into potential money laundering and criminal activity by the bank was launched in November 2018, shortly before the bank was shut down by the Malta Financial Services Authority.
The inquiry, which was led by magistrate Neville Camilleri, is understood to have been concluded in December last year and is said to recommend criminal action against a number of individuals.
The Times of Malta had reported that the document was a voluminous one, and contained expert reports including a “lengthy analysis by a UK-based forensic accountancy firm”.
Back in August 2020, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa declared that the police were in the process of concluding their investigations into the bank and would soon be arraigning those involved.
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.
Exactly four years ago today, on 20th April 2017, the late Daphne Caruana Galizia had 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 in recent weeks.
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 inquiry also ordered the police to probe the bank for potential money laundering activities.
The bank’s license was eventually withdrawn in October 2018 following the arrest in the United States of the bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.
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