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Pilatus Bank ‘winding down’ operations in Malta

Pilatus Bank in the process of winding down in Malta after closing London branch

Pilatus Bank
Pilatus Bank's offices in Ta' Xbiex. Photo: Daniel Cilia

Pilatus Bank is in the process of closing shop, opposition MP Karol Aquilina said on Twitter. Citing documents in his possession, Aquilina said the bank “is in the process of winding down.”

This follows another tweet by MEP David Casa who said that the bank’s London branch has been closed. The MEP tweeted “This money laundering institution has no place on our shores and the #Malta branch must follow suit.”

Casa told The Shift News that Pilatus Bank has informed the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority that the branch is now closed and the branch passporting notice is in the process of being withdrawn.

As Ali Sadr remains in a jail in the US awaiting prosecution for alleged money laundering and sanctions violations, his lawyers submitted a bail request in a New York court.

In the wake of his indictment Pilatus Bank’s assets were frozen by the Malta Financial Services Authority and an independent administrator was appointed to oversee day-to-day operations.

Pilatus Bank has been at the centre of controversy since last year, when murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia alleged that the Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat was the owner of Panama company Egrant that held a bank account at Pilatus and received $1 million from Azerbaijan. The allegations, which were vehemently denied by the prime minister and his wife, were partly-based on revelations by a former Pilatus Bank employee, Maria Efimova.

The bank has also been linked to money laundering allegations involving the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri who has admitted having an account at the bank, and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi. Both have denied the claims.

On Monday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed meeting Ali Sadr twice since 2013 while Mizzi confirmed that he, too, met with Ali Sadr but did not say how many times they met.

Both Muscat and Schembri attended Ali Sadr’s wedding in 2015 in Italy, along with KPMG consultant Juanita Bencini, who facilitated the bank’s licensing process.

This week it was revealed that Pilatus Bank held accounts for children of the two most powerful figures in Azerbaijan – president Ilham Aliyev and minister of emergencies Kamaladdin Heydarov.

On Monday, the Daphne Project, an international journalistic collaboration which is continuing investigations undertaken by murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, reported that a network of over 50 companies and trusts secretly owned by Azerbaijan’s ruling elite used accounts at Pilatus Bank to move millions around Europe.

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