The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

No stone unturned by Pilatus Bank to uncover source who leaked FIAU authentic reports

Wednesday, 17 May 2017, 09:30 Last update: about 4 years ago

The owner and Chairman of Pilatus Bank, Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, is taking every possible measure to uncover the source that leaked two FIAU reports, of which the contents of one was revealed in this newspaper.

Earlier this week, Pilatus Bank filed an urgent criminal complaint (kwerela) to establish the source of the leaked reports, a move that itself proves the authenticity of the reports published in The Malta Independent and The Times; otherwise Pilatus Bank would not go this far to find out who leaked the reports.

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Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera opened an inquiry on the matter the day after the criminal libel was filed with the police. She took the inquiry because the magistrate on duty when the criminal complaint was filed, Francesco Depasquale, was indisposed.

The Malta Independent’s Director of Content, Pierre Portelli, was yesterday summoned before Magistrate Scerri Herrera to give evidence on the leaked FIAU report and its contents, which were published in two separate stories in this newspaper and in The Malta independent on Sunday.

Mr Portelli was asked by Magistrate Scerri Herrera to divulge the name of the source who handed him the text of the FIAU report. Mr Portelli refused to divulge the source who showed him the original FIAU report while confirming that the text used in the two TMI stories corroborates word by word with the original shown to him.

He also confirmed that the text was handed over to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is investigating the revelations made by a whistleblower who worked at Pilatus Bank and who claimed to be in possession of documents which show that the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Michelle Muscat, is a beneficiary owner in Egrant, a company opened in Panama after the 2013 elections. Two other companies were opened by Brian Tonna of Nexia BT, who is also a consultant to the Prime Minister.

The Panama Papers revealed that the other two companies are owned by No Portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri. Egrant, the third company, had a secret beneficiary owner whose name was so sensitive that Mr Tonna’s business partner, Karl Cini, told Mossack Fonseca that he would give it over Skype, not by email.

During the summons, Magistrate Scerri Herrera warned Mr Portelli of article 46 of the Press Act, which states that “Provided that the court shall not order such disclosure unless it is also satisfied that in the particular circumstances of the case the need for investigation by the court outweighs the need of the media to protect its sources due regard being taken of the importance of the role of the media in a democratic society.” On his part Mr Portelli noted with Magistrate Scerri Herrera that neither he nor his lawyer, Dr Peter Fenech, feel that the circumstances warrant the naming of the source.

Mr Portelli insisted that the fact that Pilatus Bank filed a criminal complaint to establish the source who leaked the FIAU report is further confirmation of the authenticity of the leaked report.

Sources in court told this newsroom that amongst those asked to give evidence in this Magisterial inquiry are former and present FIAU officials, journalists from The Times and employees of Pilatus Bank, including its owner and chairman Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.

The source who spoke to The Malta Independent and backed up the claims with documents from the bank said that “In one particular bank account, the equivalent of approximately €1,000,000 was transferred into an account classified as high-risk from the bank account of a third party. No documentary evidence was recorded on file on the origin of the funds. Furthermore, this third party made a number of other significant deposits to different bank accounts pertaining to companies owned by the same UBOs (PEPs in a high risk jurisdiction) within a short period of time." No names of PEPs were mentioned in the document seen by this newsroom.

Last week Pilatus Bank said it commenced legal action in the USA "for having its reputation threatened with false and defamatory allegations."

 

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