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Washing machine placed in front of Pilatus Bank accused of money laundering activities

Activists placed a washing machine outside the infamous Pilatus Bank in Ta' Xbiex

A washing machine has appeared at the door of Pilatus Bank offices with a sign resembling an inaugural plaque that commemorates the launch of the bank by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on 3 January, 2014.

The sign read, “this monument was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Malta, Hon. Dr. Joseph Muscat MP KUOM to celebrate the opening of Pilatus Bank in Malta 3 January, 2014”

The bank’s owner, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, 38, was arrested in the US on Tuesday. He was charged in a six-count indictment filed in a Manhattan court accusing him of participating in a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran. If convicted, Ali Sadr could face a sentence of up to 125 years in prison.

Anti-money laundering investigator Jonathan Ferris told The Shift News this was “the beginning of the end” of a dark period in Malta.

Ferris, who was sacked from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) a few days after the 2017 general election, has so far been denied whistleblower status to reveal his findings.

He was fired from the FIAU after he started looking into reports by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that the Panama company Egrant, revealed in the Panama Papers, was owned by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife.

She had accused the bank of facilitating corrupt political activities and money laundering – the washing machine refers to that accusation which is now at the centre of charges against Ali Sadr. A sign was placed next to the washing machine with the words, “we do not want any more corruption”.

Caruana Galizia was assassinated on 16 October in a car bomb that exploded in broad daylight a few metres away from her home.

Her three sons – Matthew, Andrew and Paul – said in a statement today the arrest vindicated their mother’s work. They also said the Maltese authorities’ failure to hold to account Ali Sadr left their mother to do so alone.

“Their action vindicates our mother’s work, but it has come at a terrible cost. One of our mother’s sources, a woman who worked at Pilatus Bank, now sits in an Athens prison cell, and our mother is dead,” they said.

Maria Efimova, the Russian whistleblower who corroborated information revealed by Caruana Galizia when she reported the offshore company Egrant was owned by the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat, is currently held in an Athens jail awaiting a decision on extradition to Malta.

A spokesman for the Hellenic Police told The Shift News that Efimova voluntarily gave herself in to the police in Athens on Monday night. She was arrested after the police confirmed that she has two pending arrest warrants issued by Malta.

Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou said the arrest warrant against Efimova was based on “ridiculous accusations by Malta’s authorities”. Her possible extradition to Malta would seriously jeopardize her life, he added.

Former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil said the action taken by US authorities on Tuesday should have been done in Malta “a long time ago”. He said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was responsible.

“Let there be no doubt. There is one person who is singularly responsible for the incalculable damage that has been caused to our country’s reputation – and that is Joseph Muscat,” he said.

A protest was held this evening in front of the police headquarters in Floriana calling for the resignation of Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

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