The Malta Independent 22 August 2019, Thursday

Was this a Pilatus Bank II?

Thursday, 31 January 2019, 10:16 Last update: about 8 months ago

The country is still facing the reverberations from the Pilatus Bank scandal which have dragged Malta's name in the mud all over the world and which have brought down on Malta's head an extraordinary amount of investigations, probes and draft directives from various bodies ranging from the European Parliament to the European Central Bank.

Now it seems we may have a rather similar case on our hands.

According to a report on The Sunday Times, investigators handling the Satabank accounts have found that at least half of that bank's transactions are 'high risk'.

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The report said that "billions of euros in suspicious transactions through Satabank are under investigation.

"Financial regulators and police are looking into a cornucopia of cases with suspected links to fuel smuggling, drug trafficking, the Mafia and black-listed countries..

"This makes previous cases of money laundering through a Maltese financial institution look like child's play."

Along with other media, we had taken up the plight of the investors in Satabank who were locked out of their accounts and, as a result, could not trade, or operate and suffered hunger and desperation.

These were, in most cases, genuine operators who got caught up in a situation well beyond them. Now it seems they were sacrificial lambs.

To recap: the bank became known locally for its new and hassle-free methods, where accounts were opened with the minimum of fuss and actioned speed and the use of electronic means as opposed to the paper used by the traditional banks.

It all seemed very attractive, until the pips began to squeak. Now it seems the bank found a very eager clientele in and outside Malta that found in Satabank the bank of their wildest dreams where no questions would be asked.

Tens of billions of euros passed through the bank in its four years of operation. As much as half of these, the investigators believe, may have been "high risk and highly suspicious."

Questions are now being asked how this bank was given a licence to operate in Malta in the first place.

Before it came to Malta, Satabank's Bulgarian co-owner Christo Georgiev ran an e-money business in Luxembourg. He has since faced, the paper said, a number of international investigations into alleged wrongdoing.

"The group the bank forms part of had voluntarily surrendered its electronic money institution licence issued by Luxembourg shortly after Satabank was given its licence in Malta," the paper said.

When one compares this saga to that of the Pilatus Bank, there do not seem, so far at least, any allegations of involvement by people near the political scene.

While this is of some import, the mind boggles when one reads about the modus operandi of Satabank and its happy-clappy approach to banking. We get so lax and then we should not be surprised when the inevitable happens. There seem to be no lack of people, if not Maltese, at least with connections to Malta and with connections to the Mafia in all its diverse ramifications.

It is in Malta's interests that such a bank is cleaned up, that people in positions of authority who disregarded the banking rules get the punishment they deserve, and that such lax banks are dissuaded from coming to Malta. 
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