The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

Rule of law report: Jonathan Ferris formally requested whistleblower protection

Neil Camilleri Saturday, 13 January 2018, 10:40 Last update: about 9 months ago

Former police inspector and former FIAU investigator Jonathan Ferris, who is claiming unfair dismissal from the latter, told MEPs compiling a report on rule of law in Malta he had applied for whistleblowers’ status under Maltese law and should receive a reply within 28 days.

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“Mr Ferris said he feared for his family but did not get police protection, although he had been told that there were patrols in his street.”

Ferris contested that the Police cannot do much when they receive information about suspicion of money laundering. He said the Police have all the legal conditions in place to investigate after a complaint, the filing of a report or information brought to their attention.

He emphasized several times that the Police is expected to prevent money laundering and wrongdoing, not just prosecuting. Once information is public, the Police is informed and is bound to act.

Ferris also told the MEPs that he did now work on the two FIAU reports related to Keith Schembri – both of which were leaked to the press – and he had only signed one of the reports after a “grammatical proofreading“

 

We know names of BOs and amount of deposits at Pilatus Bank- MFSA

Representatives of the Malta Financial Services Authority told the mission that the authority needs “systemic proof” of money laundering to be able to revoke a license but this is not a one-off decision, rather  a process, based on a series of information.

The MFSA argued that it cannot rely on journalists’ revelations or leaked FIAU reports in such cases, but needs to find concrete evidence, otherwise the bank could appeal the decision.

MFSA added it is working intensively with Pilatus Bank, but said this may not be seen by the Maltese population. Asked about the share of PEPs in the Pilatus clientele, the MFSA said it has the information, but cannot share it.

“We have an ongoing investigation and we don’t want to provide information which can lead to confusion. We never disclose any information about the client profiles of banks, of any bank. We know the names of the Beneficial Owners and the amount of deposits. This is not because we have something to hide, there are rules we cannot breach.”

 

Maria Efimova – not Daphne’s original source

On 11 December, a few days after the Malta visit, the mission spoke to Russian whistle-blower Maria Efimova via video conference. She spoke from an undisclosed location

The Russian was working with Daphne Caruana Galizia as a source on Pilatus Bank, specifically the claims that Michelle Muscat is the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant.

She told the MEPs, however, that she was not the ‘original’ source who had provided information on Egrant to Caruana Galizia.

Efimova said she had fled Malta out of fear for her family’s safety. “She described questioning and intimidation by detectives that her parents in Russia had been subjected to.”

Efimova could not disclose certain information in view of the ongoing magisterial inquiry.

 She had been to the Police in Malta and had also seen the Magistrate in charge of the egrant inquiry and was therefore bound to not disclose certain elements she had discussed with the Magistrate.

She told MEPs that Pilatus Bank was mainly operating on the basis of deposits of 2 or 3 Azerbaijani clients, among other PEPs.

 

Element of risk in IIP scheme - FIAU

Anton Bartolo, Deputy Chairman of the FIAU's Board of Governors, when asked about Pilatus Bank’s Azerbaijan links, said: “We don’t have precise information about all clients, but we are aware that the Bank has accounts directly or indirectly owned by Azerbaijani, and significant deposits by Azerbaijani nationals. On this basis, we continue to make verifications.”

The FIAU was also asked about Malta’s controversial passport sale programme, the IIP.

“The FIAU received very few Suspicious Transaction Reports (STR) related to applications for passports under the IIP but acknowledged, nonetheless, that there is “an element of risk” in the scheme.

 

Report conclusions

Following the meetings held in Malta in early December, the MEP delegation published a damning report in which it called on the European Commission to investigate or assess the serious concerns raised over Pilatus Bank, Nexia BT, the MFSA, and the IIP citizenship scheme.

The IIP scheme, in particular, is accused of “distorting the Internal Market and attempt against the security of the European Union, fomenting corruption, the importation of organized crime and money laundering.”

The report also says persons perceived to be implicated in serious acts of corruption and money laundering, as a result of Panama Papers revelations and FIAU reports, such as Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, “should not be kept in public office and must be swiftly and formally investigated and brought to justice.”

“Keeping them in office affects the credibility of the Government, fuels the perception of impunity and may result in further damage to State interests by enabling the continuation of criminal activity,” the report reads.

There are also calls for investigations into the SLAPP lawsuits Pilatus Bank and Henley and Partners imposed upon Maltese media houses.

 A change in method for appointment of the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General has also been recommended.

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