The US government has dropped its case against Iranian Ali Sadr Hasheminejad after he was found guilty on five counts of bank fraud and sanctions-busting, letting the former owner of the now-defunct Pilatus Bank in Malta walk free.
Last March, he 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.
Ali Sadr was due for sentencing in August and faced a prison sentence of up to 85 years. The US Attorney Geoffrey Berman has now told the court he had decided to drop the case based on issues related to information in possession of the US government that had not been disclosed to Ali Sadr’s defence team.
Reacting to the news, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation called for his extradition to Malta.
“The fact that Ali Sadr was prosecuted in the US means he was charged on the basis of evidence of money laundering. The prosecution is ending on the basis of an alleged technical, procedural issue, and only in relation to charges of a breach of US sanctions. None of this changes the evidence against Hasheminejad, which remains overwhelming,” the foundation said in a statement.
Pilatus Bank was set up in Malta soon after the Labour Party came to power in 2013 and was involved in a list of scandals until its licence was withdrawn by the European Banking Authority in June 2018. No action has been taken against the bank or its owner in Malta, despite evidence.
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation pointed out that proceedings in the United States do not exempt or prevent the Malta Police and Attorney General from prosecuting Ali Sadr. “On the contrary, it is now more important than ever that he is prosecuted in Malta, since he has destroyed Malta’s reputation in the process of using the country as a base for facilitating criminal activity, via Pilatus Bank.”