The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

Pilatus CEO on luggage footage – ‘situation could have been handled much better’

Helena Grech Tuesday, 25 April 2017, 18:49 Last update: about 5 years ago

Pilatus Bank CEO Hamidreza Ghanbari said today that the Chairman of the bank caught on film leaving with two large bags on the night when serious allegations were made, felt the situation could have been better handled.

The CEO explained that he held discussions with chairman Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad after the latter was filmed leaving the bank while holding large luggage bags, on the same night serious allegations regarding Michelle Muscat as the owner of Panamanian company Egrant were levelled. It was alleged that the bank held some documents which backed up these allegations.

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Mr Ghanbari also said that the bank has provided the authorities, in order to assist with the magisterial inquiry, a nine hour CCTV footage that he says will clear the bank's name.

Asked by The Malta Independent about the damning footage, he said:

"Let me step back and explain what happened that night. Obviously I did talk to the chairman and he believes that the situation could have been handled much better. In order to clarify, we have released a nine hour footage of our CCTV which clearly shows what happened inside the bank, why the chairman was inside the bank with the luggage. So we hope that that clarifies and the authorities have that footage."

Mr Ghanbari, risk manager Antoniella Gauci and the banks Chief Operations Officer Luis Felipe Rivera all testified in court today as the Magisterial inquiry into allegations that Egrant Inc, a company named in the Panama Papers scandal, truly belongs to the Prime Minister's wife Michelle Muscat.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja is inquiring into the allegations made by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, that the mysterious Egrant company set up in Panama is or was owned by the Prime Minister's wife Michelle Muscat. The allegations read that the declarations of trust containing this information were kept at Pilatus Bank, which allegedly also holds an account for Egrant. 

This, coupled with the Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar's going to a fenkata while this was taking place, has raised doubts among the public.

Mr Ghanbari was confident that the magisterial inquiry will clear the bank's name and preserve its reputation:

"We very much look forward to seeing the results which we believe that will prove we have done absolutely nothing wrong. The bank's reputation is intact. At Pilatus we are very client-centric and they are key to our success so we would never do anything to put the bank or the clients at risk. Everything has been given to the authorities and we remain open to any question or inquiry to make sure that the whole issue will be resolved, and to see a resolution at the end of this."

Mr Ghanbari, when asked to deny that Pilatus Bank has been involved, directly or indirectly, with money laundering activities, replied "absolutely".

"What I can say is that at Pilatus we have a very robust compliance and control system in place. It is reflected in our audited reports. What we implement in terms of ongoing monitoring, seeing online transactions is something unique, something the retail banks cannot apply. Since we are a private bank we have the ability to see every single transaction and apply live monitoring to that, which is completely unique in Malta."

Asked about whether, as CEO, he has been made aware of the bank being under any form of investigation, such as the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) or the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Mr Ghanbari said that the law precludes him from divulging such information.

"As a regulated credit institutions, by law we cannot confirm any inspection by any regulatory bodies. Obviously as a regulated entity we are subject to various inspections by the regulators. To make comment about the inspections...I encourage you to go to the regulatory bodies and ask them because by law I cannot divulge that information. "

At Pilatus Bank we adhere to the highest regulatory and corporate governance standards and are fully engaged in complying in the laws and regulations both internationally and at the local level. Secondary we are cooperating with the authorities given that the bank has volunteered to participate in the magisterial inquiry and we had the testimonies yesterday and today.

Ms Gauci testified for roughly 1.5 hours, Mr Felipe took another hour while the bank's CEO testified for roughly two hours.Pilatus Bank was set up in Ta' Xbiex in 2013, with Mrs Caruana Galizia claiming that it had attempted to be licenced in other member states until having to settle in Malta.   

 

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