The Malta Independent 20 March 2019, Wednesday

No bank can say it had the same access to IIP agents as Pilatus Bank

Jeremy Micallef Sunday, 23 December 2018, 10:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

Not a single bank in Malta has been able to tell this newspaper it was given the same opportunity to pitch its services to Individual Investor Programme (IIP) accredited agents as that given to Pilatus Bank.

Earlier this month, MEP candidate Dione Borg released an email allegedly sent from Identity Malta to accredited agents selling passports through the IIP, to which a number of Power Point presentations were attached.

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Included with the presentations sent to the agents was one specifically on Pilatus Bank’s services, while the other attachments were on unrelated IIP issues.

The bank, based in Ta’ Xbiex before being shut down by authorities in early November, has been at the centre of political controversy ever since a series of leaked Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports alleged money-laundering and serious compliance shortcomings. 

Replies previously given to this newspaper by the Office of the Prime Minister claimed that Identity Malta had always collaborated with local banks and given them all equal opportunities.

Following that reply, this newsroom contacted 22 entities licensed as credit institutions on the Malta Financial Services Authorities’ (MFSA) Financial Services Register, asking a series of questions to confirm their involvement, if any, with the IIP scheme, as follows:

1.                   Were you ever offered to put your name forward as a potential bank for the IIP scheme?

2.                   Were you ever informed of the option to put your name forward as a potential bank for the IIP scheme?

3.                   Did you put your name forward to be advertised?

4.                   Was your bank specifically advertised by Identity Malta?

Twenty-two of the 29 listed entities were contacted, with the rest either not currently having a licence, having a suspended licence, or having had their authorisation revoked.

Satabank was also not contacted as Ernst and Young (EY) have been tasked by the MFSA with taking charge of the bank’s assets in light of the shortcomings in its anti-money laundering procedures.

Speaking to this newsroom, 15 of the 22 credit institutions questioned said that they had never put their name forward to be advertised by the IIP scheme or Identity Malta.

Of those 15 credit institutions, three — Ferratum Bank, HSBC Bank, and Novum Bank — neither confirmed nor denied having been informed of or offered the option of collaborating with Identity Malta on the IIP, although in their replies they stated that they do not promote their services with the IIP scheme.

A spokesperson for Bank of Valletta said: “Unfortunately, the information you are seeking is of a confidential and sensitive business nature and, therefore, we are not in a position to supply you with the requested information.”

A spokesperson for APS Bank said the bank “will not comment on the topic.”

Five of the listed credit institutions are yet to answer questions sent by this newspaper — Banif Bank, Credorax Bank, IIG Bank, Lombard Bank, and MeDirect.

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