In a press conference held earlier this morning, Repubblika president Robert Aquilina announced that ongoing court procedures originally filed by the rule of law NGO, with the intent of effectively forcing the state to prosecute former Pilatus Bank executives who were recommended for criminal prosecution by a magisterial inquiry following their failure to do so, will now be open to public scrutiny.
The case, which was originally filed in the constitutional court, was temporarily held up by an appeal filed by attorney general Victoria Buttigieg and state advocate Chris Soler, who had previously argued that due to ongoing proceedings at the highly secretive International Centre for the Settlement of Investor Disputes (ICSID), the court proceedings filed by Repubblika must continue behind closed doors.
In March of last year, Aquilina published a book about Pilatus Bank which contained detailed references to the bank’s history of wrongdoing, leaked material from the conclusions of the massive magisterial inquiry which was tasked with looking into the bank, and an extensive due diligence report authored by renowned auditing firm Duff & Phelps. Repubblika has been pushing for the authorities to investigate criminal activity at the bank since the NGO’s inception.
At the press conference held earlier today, Aquilina stated that “it is scandalous that the attorney general and the state advocate worked against Malta’s interests” in the case and that they “helped criminals cover up the obscenities they committed”. To date, both Buttigieg and Soler, along with police commissioner Angelo Gafa’, have failed to adequately prosecute former bank executives who inquiring magistrate Ian Farrugia had recommended for criminal prosecution. In spite of the fact that the magisterial inquiry cost taxpayers over €11 million, the state has not followed up accordingly.
In light of this failure, Repubblika has repeatedly accused the state of willfully covering up criminal activity at the bank, arguing that both the attorney general and the state’s advocate have instead wasted over a year’s worth of the court’s time by attempting to mislead the court into thinking that proceedings at the ICSID meant the case against the authorities’ failure to prosecute would have to be held behind closed doors.
Aquilina further claimed that, according to sources within the police force and the office of the attorney general, the police corps are not investigating the bank at all, arguing that the police commissioner is complicit in the state’s failure to prosecute bank officials who were evidently cognisant of the bank’s mode of operations.
Pilatus Bank was incorporated in Malta in December 2013, in spite of the fact that the owner of the bank, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, had no prior experience in the banking sector. The bank was granted a license to operate in August 2015, and began eliciting the wrong kind of attention from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority almost immediately after it began operating. Leaked FIAU reports in 2016 showed that financial authorities were already aware of links to money laundering.
In April 2018, news reports exposed how the bank was effectively serving as a laundromat for Azerbaijani elites and former members of the Maltese government, and it was officially closed down by November 2018 on orders of the European Central Bank. Since then, Hasheminejad has been on a scorched earth litigation spree with the Maltese government over the way in which the bank’s assets were stripped down shortly after the European Central Bank permanently revoked its license to operate. For more background on the bank, visit our data library for more detailed references.