Updated at 7.15pm: adds PN statement
The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) on Saturday announced that it has formally filed with the European Central Bank a recommendation for the withdrawal of Pilatus Bank’s banking licence.
The recommendation for the withdrawal of the licence has been made on the following grounds:
Indictment of the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO):
1. In March 2018, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, the sole and ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) of Pilatus Bank was indicted in the United States in relation to allegations of financial criminal offences. As a result, the MFSA is no longer satisfied that the UBO is a suitable person as required by the Banking Act,
2. The MFSA has been monitoring the bank closely and notes that the bank has been persistently breaching the liquidity coverage required by law since the indictment of the UBO.
The assets within the bank remain frozen in line with the sanctions imposed by the MFSA on March 21. The MFSA will continue to take all necessary actions to protect those assets until the results of the ongoing joint MFSA/FIAU investigation into alleged money laundering at the bank are completed.
Furthermore, the MFSA will now wait for the ECB’s assessment of the MFSA’s recommendation before proceeding with any further actions.
The European Banking Authority had opened a formal investigation into "shortcomings" over how Malta's Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit enforced anti-money laundering rules at Pilatus bank.
The revocation of the license came months late to the detriment of the country’s reputation, the PN’s spokesman for the economy, Kristy Debono, said in a statement.
She said the Nationalist Party had been saying for more than a year that Pilatus was endangering the financial services sector while blemishing the good reputation of the sector and of the country.
But the government opted to drag its feet and ignored everyone including the Opposition, the independent media and MEPs, who requested an investigation into the case.
It had been the arrest of the bank’s former chairman by the US that led the MFSA to embark on the process through which it could revoke the bank’s license.
This was apart from reports in the independent media where it was alleged that Pilatus was being used by foreigners to deposit money to buy citizenship. This was clear confirmation that Pilatus was doing a lot of damage to the country’s financial sector.
The PN would continue working for the country and the sector to reacquire the reputation they deserved, Ms Debono said.
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