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Pilatus Bank owner created construction company in Malta for social housing

Opposition MP Karol Aquilina reveals that Ali Sadr created company intended for social housing projects, government denies any link to housing projects

Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad is facing up to 125 years in jail over charges of money laundering and evading US sanctions

Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr opened a company in Malta four years ago to build social housing projects, Opposition MP Karol Aquilina revealed in Parliament.

Ali Sadr was recently arrested in the US and charged with breaching US sanctions on Iran after his company got involved in a Venezuela housing project. The shamed Pilatus Bank owner was released on bail last week.

Aquilina’s revelation comes after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s 1 May announcement of a €50 million social housing project funded by the cash-for-passport scheme.

Aquilina said that in 2014 Ali Sadr set up a company named Malta International Construction Ltd as a subsidiary of Pilatus Bank. The MP told Parliament that the company was created to enable Ali Sadr venture into the construction industry and specifically for “social and mass housing projects” according to the company’s declared purposes in the memorandum and articles of association.

Pilatus Bank, which US prosecutors said is linked to the Venezuela project, was also set up in 2014.
Two companies owned by Ali Sadr, Stratus International and Iranian International Housing Corporation, were involved in the Venezuela project which landed the Pilatus Bank owner in hot water.

Aquilina said the fact that Malta International Construction Ltd intended to get involved in social and mass housing projects raised major questions since it was government was solely responsible for social housing.

Aquilina questioned whether Malta International Construction Ltd was involved in the Venezuela project and called on the Malta Financial Services Authority to explain whether they investigated Ali Sadr’s construction company.

Alluding to Ali Sadr’s close relationship with Muscat – who together with his chief of staff Keith Schembri attended the Iranian’s wedding in Italy – Aquilina asked whether the new investment in social housing was in any way linked to Malta International Construction Ltd.

In reaction, home affairs minister Michael Farrugia dismissed Aquilina’s questioning as a lie and said Pilatus Bank was not involved in any way.

Junior minister Roderick Galdes who is responsible for social housing denied that Malta International Construction Ltd was involved in talks with the government and said the company never tendered for the project that was financed by the European Investment Bank, adding that he hoped this was not an attempt to hinder access to European funds.

In July 2017, government announced a €58 million investment which will see the construction of 680 apartments over three years.

But Muscat also announced a separate project which will see government funnelling €50 million from the controversial cash-for-passport scheme into social housing.

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