Ali Sadr’s legal defence team asks for extension to file post-trial motions

Ali Sadr’s legal defence team has requested an extension from a judge to file post-trial motions to examine two separate pieces of evidence, which were sent in by the US Attorney after the jury handed down a guilty verdict in his trial for fraud.

In the official request, Sadr’s lawyers asked for the deadline to be extended to 7 May instead of 16 April to “allow sufficient time to address certain disclosures the government made after the trial”.

The US Attorney General’s office has made two post-trial disclosures and “the government has indicated that these are not yet complete,” Ali Sadr’s lawyers said.

The former owner of Pilatus Bank was found guilty last month by an American jury of breaching US sanctions against Iran as well as bank fraud by moving millions of US dollars through a Venezuelan housing project.

He was also found guilty of bank fraud conspiracy and defrauding the US government. He is now under house arrest awaiting sentencing – this, however, has been put on hold due to coronavirus.

In their official request to presiding Judge Alison Natham, Ali Sadr’s lawyers said the first disclosure was released to them on 31 March – after the guilty verdict was handed down. It consisted of a recording of an interview held in January with Bahram Karimi, the project manager of the Venezuela project.

In the interview, which is almost four hours long, Karimi made “multiple exculpatory statements” that were not reflected in the notes produced by the government during the trial, Sadr’s legal team said.

Also, on 3 April, the US government disclosed two FBI documents that contained summaries of 2016 interviews of Victor Aular, former Chief Financial Officer and director of PDVSA,  the Venezuelan State-owned oil and natural gas company. PDVSA was responsible for the payments to Turkey for the Venezuela project.

Aular had told the FBI that he was aware of US sanctions against Iran, which led to a thorough legal review of all payments and contracts before these were made. “It was only after PDVSA lawyers ensured legality did Aular authorise the payments on the Venezuela project. Aular told the prosecutors that he did not think he had done anything wrong,” according to the legal document.

In their letter, Ali Sadr’s lawyers also pointed out that the government’s disclosure still failed to give a complete reply to a list of requests they had made on 2 March.

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

Pilatus Bank first came into the 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 licence in November 2018. No legal action against the bank or its owner has been taken in Malta.


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