Criminal proceedings against Pilatus Bank and one of its former top officials will likely be set back by some months while the prosecution seeks legal assistance from UK authorities.

When the case against the bank and its former money laundering reporting officer Claude-Ann Sant Fournier continued on Monday, the court was informed that the prosecution was seeking legal assistance from the UK. 

Other requests for similar assistance from other foreign jurisdictions had been executed. 

Running through the list of additional evidence laid down by the Attorney General, the court observed that the prosecution was seeking help from the UK authorities to track down a person who was a money laundering reporting officer (MLRO) at the bank’s London branch. 

The request was questioned by the defence who observed that it was erroneous to describe that person as an MLRO at the London branch when in reality that branch, which Pilatus had planned to set up, had not materialised. 

“What does this have to do with the present case concerning the Maltese bank,” asked Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech.

“What’s the object of proof,” asked the magistrate, while observing that as a court of criminal inquiry, it was to compile evidence as requested by the AG. 

'Left in the dark'

Skimming through the document prepared by the AG, the court read out that the female official had been appointed as MLRO at the London branch in March 2017 but appeared to have been “left in the dark” and could not “fulfil her role”.

She, therefore, handed in her resignation letter. 

If this person had information that matters might not have been conducted properly, then such information could impinge on the criminal charges at hand and would thus be relevant to the proceedings, observed the court. 

The Maltese authorities were requesting assistance from their UK counterparts to be able to track down this person so that she might testify via video conference. 

In light of such a request, the court granted the prosecution three days to produce evidence to support their request. 

They were to show that the person indicated as a possible witness was indeed an MLRO at the London branch, that in January 2017 Pilatus Bank had opened that UK branch and that the official in question had played some role at the [now shuttered] bank in Malta. 

Until the formal process is completed and the sought-after assistance obtained from the UK, proceedings against Sant Fournier and the bank will most likely not register much progress.

“I cannot envisage this case going forward for another six months,” said the magistrate, putting off the case sine die (indefinitely). 

At a previous hearing, the court had been told that Pilatus Bank was being bombarded by judicial letters from disgruntled clients seeking to retrieve their funds from the bank which had now ceased to operate. 

A civil suit had also been filed to that effect.

AG lawyers Kevin Valletta and Marthese Grech prosecuted. Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Kathleen Calleja Grima were counsel to Sant Fournier. Lawyers Stefan Camilleri and Max Ebejer assisted Fabio Axisa who was appointed as competent person to represent Pilatus Bank. 

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