A magisterial inquiry into Pilatus Bank cost €7.5 million, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said in Parliament on Tuesday.

He was replying to a question by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi.

Both Azzopardi and the minister did not mention the bank by name, but Times of Malta has confirmed that the question referred to Pilatus Bank.

The inquiry, by Magistrate Ian Farrugia, was concluded in December last year but its conclusions were not published.

Times of Malta had reported on December 14 that the voluminous inquiry report had been handed to the State Prosecutor to be assessed for possible criminal action. Sources had said that the report recommended criminal proceedings be initiated against a number of bank personnel. 

Police had initially been expected to file charges against Pilatus Bank officials last summer, but the sources said this was put off, partly to await the conclusions of the magistrate’s own investigation.  

The inquiry document included lengthy analyses by a UK-based forensic accountancy firm.

The magisterial inquiry into potential criminal wrongdoing by employees at Pilatus Bank was launched just before the bank was shut down by the European Central Bank in November 2018.

The bank’s former chairman Ali Sadr was arrested in the US on sanctions-busting and money-laundering charges in March 2018. He was subsequently convicted on the sanction-busting charges but acquitted of money laundering.

Weeks before his arrest, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) had conducted a surprise visit at the bank, during which all its data was seized for analysis.

Concerns about the bank’s activities were first raised in a compliance review by the FIAU’s anti-money laundering unit in 2016 but Pilatus successfully contested its findings.

The compliance report, which was eventually leaked, said the “veil of secrecy” that had been created at Pilatus Bank made it easier for transactions to be carried out by politically exposed persons, their family members and their close associates, without the level of scrutiny required by law.

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