Maltese businesses and workers are "in a state of desperation" after they became unable to access funds in their accounts due to measures taken against Satabank, the Chamber of SMEs (GRTU) has warned.
Accounts at Satabank were effectively frozen by the Malta Financial Services Authority last week, when the MFSA also announced that Ernst and Young (EY) had been appointed to administer the bank’s assets in the best interests of depositors.
The financial regulator later decided to start a controlled release of customer deposits at Satabank, bringing some relief to customers.
However, the GRTU noted many were still facing “grave financial and cashflow difficulties".
"The issue experienced in the recent past with vast numbers of workers finding difficulties setting up a bank account through the major banks in Malta caused a shift to e-money accounts in Satabank and elsewhere,” the GRTU noted.
Those who turned to Satabank, a small international bank, now have little information on what is about to happen. To make matters worse, calls to Satabank were now being diverted to a call centre in Bulgaria, the GRTU said.
The Chamber said it was also concerned about the effect the Satabank move was having on retail sales. The fact Satabank users cannot access their funds means, from the consumer side, that they are unable to spend. From the business end, they are now unable to trade and sell.
"The problem is being felt most prominently in the Msida, Gżira, Sliema and St Julian’s area," the GRTU said.
The chamber is asking businesses who have accounts in Satabank to contact it urgently, adding it was holding a meeting to inform members who are clients of the bank on what corrective measures can be taken.
GRTU said it is actively in discussion with all relevant authorities to limit any repercussions this is having on businesses.
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