The owner of Pilatus Bank Ali Sadr Hasheminejad had written to former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri to complain about the findings of an FIAU inspection at the bank which found lax money-laundering controls.
According to a report in the Times of Malta, Ali Sadr complained to Schembri that issues raised by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) during the inspection were preventing the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) from accepting the bank’s request to open a UK branch.
The bank was at the centre of the political storm which developed in April 2017, when Daphne Caruana Galizia had claimed that the bank held an account for the secret company Egrant, which she claimed belonged to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife Michelle.
A few weeks after the email exchange, the bank was informed by the FIAU that it would not be fined for its shortcomings which, it said, “no longer subsisted”.
The revelation comes days after the bank was fined €5 million by the FIAU and, together with its money laundering reporting officer Claude-Anne Sant Fournier, was charged in court on money laundering charges.
In his email, Ali Sadr complained to Schembri about the FIAU’s “wrong allegations” and how they were preventing the MFSA from granting Pilatus Bank its “simple right” to passport its banking license to the UK.
He insisted that the MFSA had “no right to hold up the process”.
It would appear that Ali Sadr’s complaints to Schembri bore fruit since the bank was cleared a few weeks later, allowing the MFSA to approve the process for Pilatus Bank to open its London branch.
The Times’s report cites sources saying that concerns had been raised in 2013 when the bank was first licensed by the MFSA.
Back in May 2018, the Times had reported that both Schembri and Muscat had attended Ali Sadr’s wedding in Venice, Italy in 2015.
Lovin Malta had later revealed that Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of masterminding the plot to assassinate journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had also travelled to Vince for the wedding.
What do you make of this development?