Lawyers in money laundering proceedings against Pilatus Bank and one of its former senior officials, are claiming that the prosecution “knowingly” withheld information at the interrogation stage, failing in its duty of full disclosure. 

The issue came to the fore on Tuesday when Claude-Ann Sant Fournier, former money laundering reporting officer at the now-shuttered bank, returned to court for another sitting in the ongoing compilation of evidence.

Sant Fournier, a lawyer, stands accused of aiding and abetting money laundering activities both in her personal capacity as well as in her former official role at the bank.

Following a magisterial inquiry into suspicious transactions at the bank, charges were issued against her and the bank itself, represented in court by PWC partner Fabio Axisa who was appointed as competent person to represent the bank.

That magisterial inquiry, which cost the State some €7.5 million, had allegedly identified a number of third parties who were to face prosecution over their involvement in suspicious transactions at Pilatus Bank.

The names of those individuals were recently outed in an application filed in court by civil society group Repubblika, calling upon the court to order the Police Commissioner to take the necessary criminal action. 

During a previous hearing on Monday, defence lawyer Stefano Filletti requested a copy of the documents concerning Repubblika’s police challenge and questioned why criminal charges had only been pressed against Sant Fournier and the bank. 

Some 200 boxes of documents exhibited in inquiry

When the case resumed on Tuesday, Martin Bajada, a court expert appointed to assist in the magisterial inquiry, testified that he had exhibited scanned copies of the documentary evidence - some 200 boxes of documentation - in the records of the magisterial inquiry.

However, the Attorney General would rather rely on hard copies of that evidence. 

An inventory was drawn up of each document seized during the investigations and each document was then scanned, explained Bajada. 

A digital copy of the files, together with a site plan of Pilatus Bank, were to be exhibited by the expert as authorised by the court. 

However, defence lawyers Stefano Filletti and Kathleen Calleja Grima, promptly pounced on that piece of information, flagging the fact that a scanned copy of all relative documents had already existed at the time of Sant Fournier’s arrest. 

“All bank documentation was scanned and formed part of the proces verbal, which was in the hands of the prosecution at the time of Sant Fournier’s arrest,” started off the lawyers, minuting their protest in the records of the case. 

That scanned copy could easily have been reproduced and a copy on USB made available to the defence.

Yet, in spite of the fact that the defence at the time had asked for full disclosure, “the prosecution knowingly chose not to give that data to the defence as it was bound to do”.

Nor had the defence been afforded a “full copy” of the report drawn up by UK firm Duff and Phelps, which was tasked by the inquiring magistrate to scan all documents and electronic equipment at the bank. 

Such behaviour did not only run counter to article 534AF of the Criminal Code which granted a suspect or accused, the right to “all material evidence in the possession of the police,” but also “seriously prejudiced” the defence at the investigation stage. 

In light of the information revealed on Tuesday, the defence reserved its position to take any further steps as necessary, once this data is made available to it throughout these proceedings. 

Defence lawyers say they were given 'four sheets of paper'

AG lawyer Marthese Grech pointed out that the State prosecutor could not interfere in investigations by the police. 

However, that argument was promptly rebutted by the defence lawyers who pointed out that when they had requested full disclosure at the interrogation stage, all they got were “four sheets of paper”.

Police had told the lawyers that that was all they had in hand.

Following Tuesday’s testimony, it was evident that the AG had all evidence in hand and held onto it while ordering police to press charges, the defence heatedly argued. 

Prosecuting inspector Pauline Bonello, when questioned under oath, said she could not recall handing over any pendrive to Sant Fournier prior to her interrogation, adding that she “did not have one either”.

“We [the police] only had the report from Duff and Phelps with redacted parts… the substance, the conclusions of their analysis.”

Asked by lawyer Roberto Cassar, representing Pilatus Bank, whether any documents had been handed over to the bank, the inspector said that she did not recall “giving anything”.

The case continues this month.

AG lawyers Marthese Grech and Ramon Bonett Sladden assisted Inspector Bonello as prosecution.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.