MEP David Casa asks European Central Bank to revoke Pilatus Bank licence

The head of Nationalist Party delegation in the European Parliament, David Casa, has called on the European Central Bank (ECB) to assume direct supervision of Pilatus Bank and proceed to suspend and withdraw its authorisation to operate.

In a letter sent to the ECB’s Chair of the Supervisory Board Daniéle Nouy, Casa underlined the evidence that emerged from three investigations held by Malta’s anti-money laundering agency, FIAU, in connection with the private bank’s involvement in the laundering of illicit funds for Azerbaijani and Maltese PEPs.

They including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s most trusted men:  his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.

“The fact that the evidence directly links the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta to Pilatus Bank suggests this money-laundering outfit will continue to operate within the European Union with impunity unless the ECB uses the legal powers it has at its disposal to intervene,” Casa told Nouy.

Despite raising these concerns with the Malta Financial Services Authority Chairman, Joseph Bannister, and the Authority’s Supervisory Council, Casa said “at the time of writing, no action has been taken.”

“I therefore call on you in the strongest possible terms to exercise the powers vested in you under Regulation 1024/2013 and assume direct supervision of Pilatus Bank and, based on the evidence available to you, proceed to suspend and withdraw its authorisation to operate,” he said.

Casa explained that Pilatus Bank is central to the revelations that emerged from the Panama Papers and was extensively investigated by slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The MEP also provided the ECB with the leaked FIAU reports, which he said showed that investigations found evidence that Pilatus Bank was set up for the express purpose of laundering money for the Azerbaijani ruling family and senior Maltese government officials.

The classified FIAU reports were leaked to the press in 2017 after the Maltese police failed to act on them.

The reports and the revelations made by Maria Efimova – a former Pilatus Bank employee – show that the bank’s clients are predominantly politically exposed persons from Azerbaijan, including President Aliyev’s two children and his Minister for Emergency Situations.

Caruana Galizia had also revealed that former EU Commissioner John Dalli and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle, were clients of Pilatus Bank.

The murdered journalist had alleged that Michelle Muscat received US$1.017 million from the daughter of the Azerbaijani president Leyla Aliyeva in her Pilatus Bank account through a Dubai registered company.

The allegations had led Joseph Muscat to call snap elections before the magisterial inquiry into the allegations could be concluded. The inquiry is still ongoing.

Further magisterial inquiries are being held over the accounts held at Pilatus Bank by Schembri and Mizzi.

Casa said the FIAU reports provide conclusive evidence that the bank was used in two instances by Schembri and his associates to launder the proceeds of corruption, namely from the sale of Maltese passports, as well as to corrupt certain individuals, such as the former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers, Adrian Hillman.

Read the full text of the letter here.

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