Updated at 1.55pm: Adds PL statement
MEP David Casa has called on the European Central Bank's Supervisory Board to intervene in the case of Malta-based Pilatus Bank.
Mr Casa resorted to seeking ECB intervention after his calls on Malta’s National Supervisory Authority, the MFSA, to act, proved in vain.
Pilatus Bank is at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal in Malta. The bank was the subject of extensive investigative reporting by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was assassinated on October 16.
Mr Casa said leaked reports from Malta’s Anti-Money Laundering Agency (the ‘FIAU’) revealed Pilatus Bank’s clients to be, almost exclusively, politically exposed persons from Azerbaijan.
Bank accounts held by Pilatus Bank were also used to launder the proceeds from illegal kickbacks to the Maltese Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri from the sale of Maltese passports, he claimed.
Mr Casa noted that in another FIAU investigation it was revealed that payoffs by Mr Schembri to Adrian Hillman, the former Allied Newspapers' managing director, were also laundered through Pilatus Bank accounts.
He said that in another case, Cheng Chen, an accenture strategy employee who negotiated on behalf of China’s state-owned Shanghai Electric to buy Malta’s power station and a large stake in Malta’s state electricity company, Enemalta, was also revealed by Ms Caruana Galizia’s ‘Panama Papers’ reporting to have an offshore company with an account at Pilatus Bank.
Extracts from another FIAU investigation report later revealed Chen Cheng expected to receive a €1 million payoff from the deal into his Pilatus Bank account.
"The evidence is overwhelming and in many cases conclusive. The anti-money laundering violations by the bank, as uncovered by the FIAU, are shown to be so extensive that they likely form the basis of the bank’s business model.
"The fact that the evidence directly links the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta to Pilatus Bank suggests this money-laundering outfit will continue to operate within the European Union with impunity unless the ECB uses the legal powers it has at its disposal to intervene."
Mr Casa said that Pilatus Bank also featured extensively in the European Parliament’s recent resolution on the rule of law in Malta.
"It is outrageous that this bank continues to hold a license to operate in the European Union.
"While I am fully aware that there is no precedent, I maintain that due to the gravity of the situation the ECB’s Supervisory Board set up under the Single Supervisory Mechanism has a duty to intervene. I have requested the revocation of Pilatus Bank’s license."
Mr Casa said he was informed that the ECB had received his letter as well as the relevant FIAU reports and that they had been circulated to the relevant units.”
MEP David Casa is Head of the Maltese Delegation in the EPP.
In a statement, the Nationalist Party said it fully supported Mr Casa's initiative.
It said it was a shame that Mr Casa had no other way but to seek the ECB's intervention after his calls on the MFSA to take action remained unheeded.
The PN's statement of support to Mr Casa was another desperate attempt by PN leader Adrian Delia to get the people who were loyal to his predecessor into his fold, the Labour Party said.
It said that Mr Casa's action aimed at blemishing Malta's name through repeated allegations was not a surprise. This had been his only intention in the past years.
The PL noted that the only action taken recently by the European Central Bank against a company in Malta was against one which had former PN leader Lawrence Gonzi serving as a director.
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