Financial Services Authority chairman leaves “for family reasons”

The chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) Joe Bannister, who has presided over several unresolved controversies during his tenure, quietly left his post “for family reasons” while the former head of the Malta Gaming Authority Joseph Cuschieri will become the new CEO, according to announcements in the government gazette.

Bannister’s role had come into question at the height of the 2017 election campaign when serious questions were raised following a damning report by the government’s anti-money laundering agency in an investigation related to Pilatus Bank.

The owner and chairman of Pilatus Bank, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, was arrested in the US on charges of money-laundering and evading US sanctions. He was already being investigated by US authorities when he was granted a license in Malta in 2014.

The last few months of Bannister’s tenure were plagued by stories about his directorship in a company based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in 2007, while he was already chairman of the MFSA.

John Mamo – the son of the late President Anthony Mamo – will replace Bannister as non-executive chairman. He served as commercial law professor at the University of Malta and as head of the same department. In 2002 he was also appointed Data Protection Commissioner.

Cuschieri, the new CEO of MFSA, is the son-in-law of former Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella. He was appointed executive chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority soon after the Labour Party was elected in 2013. During his tenure, the sector was linked to at least two major scandals involving the Italian mafia.

In 2015, the Italian authorities issued 41 arrest warrants, seized over €2 billion and closed online betting shops linked to the Calabrian mafia N’drangheta. Last year, Malta was also linked to a mafia clan in Palermo that earned money through gambling, drugs and prostitution.

The other members of the board of the MFSA appointed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat are: Andre Psaila and Mario Borg.

                           
                               
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