The Malta Independent 30 September 2023, Saturday
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Pilatus Bank remains silent in wake of chairman’s arrest

Saturday, 24 March 2018, 09:16 Last update: about 7 years ago

Pilatus Bank has remained silent, not responding to questions sent by the Malta Independent, after the chairman of the bank was arrested in the United States of America.

Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was arrested on charges that he evaded US economic sanctions against Iran by sending more than $115 million from Venezuela through US banks. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Ali Sadr created front companies and foreign bank accounts to mask his dealings with Iranian businesses in Venezuela.

Ali Sadr, 38, is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  If convicted, Ali Sadr faces up to 125 years in prison.

The Malta Independent sent questions to the bank on Wednesday morning, however they have remained unanswered.

This newsroom asked for the bank's reaction to their chairman's arrest, whether they were contacted by the Maltese authorities over the arrest, about the source of funds by which the bank in Malta was setup, whether any bank officials were being probed, and for a reason as to why the bank was open in the early hours of the morning on the day of Ali Sadr's arrest (given that activists had said on the morning when the news broke that individuals were seen entering the building overnight.)

The bank however, has not answered.

Hours after the arrest, the Malta Financial Services Authority ordered the removal of Ali Sadr from his position in the bank, and later appointed Lawrence Connell to take charge of all the assets of Pilatus Bank Limited. Connell is a US financial regulator at both state and federal levels.  

The bank's licence has not been revoked, but the MFSA has directed the bank not to dispose, liquidate, transfer or otherwise deal with clients' assets and monies. It also suspended Ali Sadr's voting rights as shareholder of the bank, and, among other things, directed Pilatus Bank Limited not to allow any banking transactions, including withdrawals or deposits held with the Bank by the shareholder, members of the Board of Directors and Senior Management officials of the Bank, or any connected persons or related persons thereto, whether direct or indirect, and any other clients. 

This situation has once again led to calls for the Police Commissioner's resignation. Activists on Wednesday staged a protest outside the Police Headquarters in Floriana, called for the Police Commissioner's resignation. Activists that night also slammed the Prime Minister for "destroying [Malta's]" institutions and slammed the commissioner for being a government "puppet".

Pilatus Bank has been at the centre of controversy for quite a while, and has been part of the focus of certain leaked FIAU reports, and magisterial inquiries. Maria Efimova, a former employee of Pilatus Bank who was behind allegations that the Panama company Egrant was owned by the Prime Minister's wife, Michelle Muscat, had run away from Malta last year fearing for her life, but has now turned herself in to Greek police. The Cyprus Business Mail reports that Efimova is likely to be granted asylum after she surrendered to Greek authorities on Monday. PM Muscat and his wife deny the allegations.



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