Cecil Pace, the main shareholder of the defunct Bical Bank has filed a judicial protect against the controller of the bank, Raymond Gatt, calling on him to publish a report of his activities for the past 10 years and to distribute the remaining 20% of the funds due to the depositors.
Pace also called on the MFSA, the Central Bank, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to ensure that the distribution of funds is completed, now that 40 years have passed since the bank was wound up.
In his protest, Mr Pace recalled how in November 1979, the then Minister of Finance had decided, on advice from the Governor of the Central Bank, to 'temporarily' suspend the operations of Bical. A controller was appointed to administer the bank and safeguard the interests of depositors, creditors and shareholders.
Some 3,000 employees of Bical and its 30 associated companies lost their job because of the poor administration of the controller. The companies and assets, Mr Pace said, included six hotels, seven ships, a shipyard, a large number of properties , Jablo Plastics Ltd and several other entities with an investment of the equivalent of €7 million.
He said that controller Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was allowed to dispose of the assets with ridiculous prices and he had not collected all that was due to the Bical group. He had also kept insufficient record, other than notes on a copybook.
The next controller, Emanuel Bonello, had found a complete mess in the administration of his predecessor with a substantial amount of funds were missing without explanation.
This controller, Mr Pace claimed, charged exorbitant compensation in order to continue the disposal of the assets but took no action against his predecessor for his shortcoming.
Once his term ended, he did not file a final report. Again, Mr Pace said, the authorities took no action for bad administration.
He recalled that he had taken legal action against the two controllers, having instituted some 20 court cases which have been heard since 1986.
In November 1995 the parliament enacted the Controlled Companies Act which sought to give the government and the controller legal immunity with retroactive effect.
This law, Mr Pace said, would not have been needed had there been good administration.
The Constitutional Court in February 2003 found the law to violate human rights and cases instituted before it came into force should continue to be heard.
Despite this, all the pending cases were recently assigned to one judge. An appeal over this procedure is pending.
Mr Pace complained that the current controller, Raymond Gatt in representation of Gatt Galea & Co, was appointed 10 years ago, and had since then not produced a single report or done anything substantive to distribute the remaining funds and close the matter. He had, however, charged exorbitant fees without producing concrete results.
The authorities had not done any action to ensure that the Bical case was concluded.
Mr Pace said that after 40 years of bad administration by the controllers and a lack of effective supervision by the government and the authorities, he was calling on those responsible to distribute the final 20% due to the depositors since they were being denied access to their property. He also demanded compensation and held them responsible for damages he and his brother (another shareholder) had suffered.
Drs Tonio Azzopardi and Malcolm Pace signed the protest.