The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has said it would “review” material provided by MEP David Casa about what he termed as “evidence of systemic money-laundering” at Malta-based Pilatus Bank.

In a letter to the NCA sent days before the arrest of Pilatus Bank’s owner Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, Mr Casa said the bank’s clients were predominantly Azeri politically exposed persons.

Mr Casa provided the NCA with a number of documents to substantiate his calls for a UK investigation.

In response to Mr Casa’s letter, NCA director Donald Toon said the agency would consider criminal allegations of bribery and corruption which potentially had an impact on the integrity of the UK as a financial sector.

Growing body of evidence concerning the bank’s involvement in corruption

Pilatus Bank operated a Mayfair branch after it passported its Maltese banking licence to the UK.

Mr Toon said the NCA would take Mr Casa’s report on Pilatus Bank seriously, including allegations of money laundering by politically exposed persons.

The MEP pointed out links between Mr Hasheminejad and Mehdi Shamszadeh, an Iranian national who was sentenced to death in-absentia following a conviction on charges of embezzlement of billions of dollars of public revenue

The NCA said it would review the material provided by Mr Casa, and was committed to supporting efforts of the Maltese and overseas law enforcement partners, in their sanctions investigation into Mr Hasheminejad. He faces up to 125 years imprisonment on money-laundering and sanction- busting charges.

In his letter, the MEP pointed out links between Mr Hasheminejad and Mehdi Shamszadeh, an Iranian national who was sentenced to death in-absentia following a conviction on charges of embezzlement of billions of dollars of public revenue.

Mr Casa said Pilatus Bank’s mother company, Pilatus Capital Ltd, was a UK company opened in 2008 by Mr Shamszadeh.

Mr Casa said there was a growing body of evidence concerning the bank’s involvement in corruption and money laundering, most of which originated from leaked analytical FIAU reports.

He described Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna as the “architect of the money-laundering schemes created for Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi”.

Mr Tonna also set up a similar scheme for Chen Cheng, who was responsible for negotiating the sale of €320 million stake in Enemalta, Mr Casa said.

Mr Casa told the NCA that this scheme involved the setting up of a Pilatus account, in which it was indicated that a total of €1 million would be deposited.

The MEP said the use of Pilatus by top Maltese government officials for money laundering, and the fact that no action had been taken by the authorities despite the “overwhelming evidence” available in the public domain, was indicative that the institutions tasked with supervising the bank had been politically captured.

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