Updated 6.45pm

A court has declared that a former senior official at Pilatus Bank has a case to answer in her personal capacity over alleged money laundering activities while employed at the bank.

This was the outcome of a prima facie decree delivered on Friday afternoon in the ongoing compilation of evidence against Pilatus Bank and its former money laundering reporting officer Claude-Ann Sant Fournier.

During a previous sitting on Wednesday, defence lawyers strongly contested the charges against Sant Fournier in her personal capacity, arguing that mere hours before the September 2 arraignment they had been told that she would only face charges in her former capacity as MLRO at the bank.

Moreover, testimony by one of the investigating inspectors confirmed that no funds from suspicious transactions had been traced to Sant Fournier’s personal accounts. 

Nonetheless, the prosecution insisted that repeated administrative shortcomings constituted a course of conduct indicating suspected money laundering activities which Sant Fournier was allegedly aiding and abetting. 

In August, the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank was fined a record €4.9 million for a “serious and systematic failure” to follow anti-money laundering laws.

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit had flagged a number of failures, expressing particular concern over the bank’s lax approach to due diligence on its customers. 

When delivering its decree on Friday afternoon, the court, presided over by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, made reference to a previous decision by the Criminal Court stating that at prima facie stage the courts must only determine whether there is a “probable case to answer” without entering into the merits.

At this stage, any doubt favours the prosecution and sways the decision in favour of “committal,” said Magistrate Frendo Dimech.

Charges were filed against the bank and Sant Fournier and contrary to what the defence argued, in case of conviction punishment would be imposed upon Sant Fournier personally. 

Therefore, at this stage, the court cannot draw a distinction between Sant Fournier’s personal and vicarious capacity since the person charged was one and unique. 

As former MLRO she allegedly failed in her duties in terms of money laundering and financing of terrorism laws, observed the court.

Moreover, Sant Fournier was also charged as an accomplice and although, in light of the evidence put forward so far, she did not appear to have made any personal gain, she was shouldered with the responsibility of ensuring that no money laundering activities took place. 

The case continues.

Inspectors Claire Borg and Pauline Bonello are prosecuting assisted by AG lawyers Cinzia Azzopardi Alamango and Marthese Grech. Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Kathleen Calleja Grima are counsel to Sant Fournier. 

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