MEPs have asked the European Central Bank (ECB) to consider whether the measures taken by Malta’s financial regulator following the arrest of the owner of Pilatus Bank in the US were sufficient.
The rule of law committee that visited Malta last year asked the ECB to consider whether the circumstances warranted its intervention.
In the letter sent to ECB President Mario Draghi the members of ad-hoc delegation on the rule of law stated: “We regret that, after months of warnings and allegations on the integrity and compliance of Pilatus Bank’s activities with Union law, dating back to reports and investigations of the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, no visible action was taken by either Maltese or European supervisory or law enforcement bodies to ensure the integrity of the EU financial system”.
Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad – the owner and chairman of Pilatus Bank – faces 125 years in prison on charges of money laundering and evading sanctions. He gained notoriety in Malta after escaping through the bank’s back door in the dead of night with bulging bags suspected to contain documents on the night assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia reported the Panama company Egrant (exposed in the Panama Papers) belonged to the Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat.
The MEPs provided a detailed explanation of the legal grounds on which they based their request.
MEP David Casa stated: “The arrest of Hasheminejad did not occur in a vacuum. In fact it is no surprise at all. Pilatus Bank has been at the centre of alleged corruption and money laundering connected to the Office of the Maltese Prime Minister ever since it was set-up in 2014. This has been known to the authorities since at least early 2016 and the information has been in the public domain for well over a year”.
The MEPs noted that the measures taken by the MFSA have so far not included the withdrawal of the authorisation for the bank to operate.
“The continued operation of Pilatus Bank – in any capacity – risks the continuation of criminal activity. The bank must be closed down once and for all,” Casa said.