The Malta Police Commissioner’s recent revelations, after concluding investigations into money laundering accusations against Pilatus Bank, are “too little, too late”, and might be motivated by Malta seeking to head off EU banking sanctions, says US financial crime expert Kenneth Rijock.
“Four years after money laundering allegations first appeared against the bank, and a full two years after it was shut down, we are made to believe that Malta’s law enforcement and regulatory community is about to finally bring indictments,” Rijock said.
Recently appointed Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ made himself available to the local media with at least two interviews last week. In the interviews he gave, Gafa’ said the police are in the process of concluding their investigations into a bank in Malta, and are expected to proceed with court arraignments.
He never mentioned Pilatus Bank, but The Times said Gafa’ was referring to Ali Sadr Hasheminejad’s banking venture on the island.
Rijock suspects that this announcement comes due to the imminent imposition of Moneyval sanctions: “Any of those charged may never go to trial, given Malta’s abysmal record on important criminal cases, which often linger for years for no apparent reason, other than corruption in the courts”.
Malta risks being placed on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list. The European wing of FATF is called Moneyval, and experts have told The Shift that action and monitoring of money laundering are crucial for Malta to not be placed in the grey area.
Rijock pointed out that, even if arraignments do take place, it will be the minor players who will be indicted.
“The foreign nationals who supervised the movement of the proceeds of corrupt, politically exposed persons (PEPs), will most likely escape justice, as they could potentially rollover, meaning cooperate, on very senior former Maltese government officials that the local power structure is intent upon ignoring, lest they, themselves, expose certain individuals in the business community.”
“Don’t expect miracles; expect only window dressing actions, as a feeble attempt at damage control in Europe’s only Banana Republic,” he added.
The prosecution in the US case of former Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr dropped the charges related to fraud and breaching sanctions after a jury delivered a guilty verdict.
Murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported on Pilatus Bank’s links to money laundering, kickbacks to Maltese politicians and large transfers to members of the Azerbaijani ruling elite.
The European Central bank revoked Pilatus Bank’s licence in November 2018.