US court: Pilatus Bank owner guilty of breaching sanctions

Iranian banker and former owner of Pilatus Bank Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was found guilty by an American jury of breaching US sanctions against Iran and bank fraud by moving millions of US dollars through a Venezuelan housing project.

He was also found guilty of bank fraud conspiracy, defrauding the US government. Sadr was not found guilty of money laundering.

Ali Sadr was facing a trial by jury which revolves around multi-million dollar payments processed through the US banking system. The US Assistant Attorney argued that this constituted a federal crime as it breached US-Iran sanctions.

The jury agreed and found Ali Sadr guilty. The Judge did not jail Ali Sadr, placing him under house arrest pending the handing down of the sentence.

The former owner of the now-defunct Pilatus Bank in Malta came under the local spotlight after journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia reported on the bank’s links to money laundering, kickbacks to Maltese politicians and large transfers to members of the Azerbaijani ruling elite. The European Central bank withdrew Pilatus Bank’s license in November 2018.

He was recently mentioned in the public inquiry looking into whether Caruana Galizia’s murder could have been prevented. The three Judges asked Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla, the Head of the Economic Crimes Unit, whether they had investigated the contents of a briefcase that Ali Sadr was seen carrying out of the bank the night the murdered journalist linked Panama company Egrant to Michelle Muscat, wife of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The bank in Malta was set up under his administration.

Abdilla said that no sensitive documents had been taken out of the bank because they had searched it, only the had occurred the following day.

PN MEP David Casa reacted on social media, saying the ruling was “confirmation that the Maltese government truly befriended a world class criminal”.

During the trial, the prosecution accused Ali Sadr of using “smoke and mirror” tactics to hide his Iranian identity through the use of multiple passports and different dates of birth.

The prosecution displayed the four passports Ali Sadr purchased from St Kitts and Nevis and showed the jury that he travelled more than 100 times and paid multiple visits to Malta, Istanbul, London, Zurich and Tehran.


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