The Malta Independent 19 March 2019, Tuesday

Action taken by the MFSA on Satabank still leaves us uneasy – GRTU

Rachel Attard Sunday, 25 November 2018, 08:30 Last update: about 5 months ago

The action taken by the Malta Financial Services Authority with regard to the Satabank situation, which has left depositors high and dry and without access to their funds, is still leaving an uneasy feeling amongst the GRTU and its members, GRTU CEO Abigail Mamo told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Speaking to this newspaper, she explained: "In the research and discussions we have had over the past months, we have learnt more about how this issue could have been handled in order to affect deposits as minimally as possible.

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"Yet, we are not in the know, since information has been very scarce, but effort has been made by the authorities to put our mind at rest that what happened in Satabank was sufficiently serious to have warranted the most drastic action a regulator could take."

Fast forward through a month of severe stress for depositors and a devastating impact on businesses, and there have now been two small, yet important and welcome pieces of news for the HRTU and Satabank clients. According to Mamo: "The fact that small deposits will begin being released from tomorrow (Monday) is a step in the right direction. On the same day, businesses will also be able to start making use of a specific scheme, appropriately called the 'Hardship Fund'."

The Fund is a bridging loan facility established by Malta Enterprise specifically in reaction to the concerns raised by the GRTU and its members. It will start addressing what this whole Satabank saga has broken for business.

Mamo said that the GRTU welcomes these steps and its members, direct business victims, have also reacted positively overall. But, she adds: "Our members are, however, still very angry and rightly so. They have suffered damage that is beyond repair and up to today they do not have a timeline of when they can expect to get their funds back. The reality is that, even with these steps that have been taken, businesses are still on hold.

She added that businesses still feel short-changed by the bad hand they have been dealt by the authorities in the Satabank saga "and we are sure no effort can compensate for the damage these people have suffered, both personally and professionally.

"Just this week I spent half an hour talking to a lady, an EU national, hearing how this last month has been the worst time in her and her husband's life. These people, who are in a very serious financial predicament, have taken out loans to pay their staff and have spent many sleepless nights considering how to save their businesses, with no account to receive funds into and no access to pay their business suppliers.

"She explained to me how, during this month, her least concern was having her and her husband's wages paid. Some people have taken out of their pension fund, their life-savings, to try and patch things up, without knowing if they will ever see that money again, and all this through no fault of their own."

Businesses owners should be respected and no one should be made to go through something like this, Mamo insisted. She added that the situation had clearly been mismanaged and that the steps we are celebrating now with regard to Monday's possibilities should have been in place a month ago "because you cannot just close a bank without thinking of the hardships such action will create for depositors. You do not close a bank without having a scheme ready to help depositors.

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