Footage produced by Pilatus Bank did not prove she had been paid by her former employer, the whistleblower behind the Egrant claims insisted yesterday.
In the CCTV footage, which the bank voluntarily showed to this newspaper yesterday, the Russian woman is seen receiving an envelope allegedly containing €2,000 in cash while at work. This, the bank insisted, proved that, contrary to her claims, she had been paid for her work.
However, she insisted that the money was meant to pay outstanding traffic tickets incurred by the chairman’s wife.
The footage was seen at Pilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex under strict supervision and the Times of Malta was not given a copy. The invitation to watch the footage came in the wake of an interview the woman gave to The Malta Independent on Sunday yesterday.
This newspaper was not allowed to take copies of the documents shown and no clarification could be sought there and then as they insisted that any questions had to be made via e-mail later, though they did reply subsequently.
The whistleblower is claiming she had evidence showing that secret Panama company Egrant belongs to the Prime Minister’s wife. Michel Muscat denies the allegations.
The woman joined the bank on January 15, 2016 and was fired on March 29 of that same year.
She insists that after she went to the authorities complaining she had not been paid for her work, the bank reacted by accusing her of misappropriation and fraud. She is undergoing criminal proceedings in court.
Evidence had been handed over to the police as part of the criminal investigation
The CCTV footage was allegedly shot on March 24 last year. In it, the woman is seen receiving an envelope by the bank’ risk manager who was earlier seen depositing some money in it in another room. The bank claimed the envelope contained €2,117.50.
The bank also produced a printed version of an SMS exchange, allegedly between the whistleblower and the bank’s CEO, Hamidreza Ghanbari, dated February 26, 2016 in which she complained that she had not received her full pay. The text messages were presented as proof that the woman had been paid January’s salary.
The bank also produced correspondence from Schlosshotel Kronberg, in Frankfurt, which allegedly showed that the woman’s husband had stayed there during a two-day business trip for bank employees.
According to this document, her husband racked up a bill of €1,049 for two days and stayed in a room at a daily rate of €400, which was double the rate paid by the CEO.
The bank is insisting that the whistleblower had handled the bookings herself and kept the fact that she was travelling with her husband and two children concealed.
Asked to clarify by this newspaper, the bank said the footage in question had been passed on to the police. The bank also pointed out that the woman had been paid on January 29, February 26 and March 24.
No documents were produced to support these claims. The last payment was reportedly made in cash.
Asked about the authenticity of the text messages, the bank said the evidence had been handed over to the police as part of the criminal investigation.
As for her employment contract, this newspaper was told that no such document existed because it could only have been given to the woman had she received her residence permit. Her designation upon receiving such a document would have been executive assistant, the bank said.
It was also pointed out that the bank became aware of her husband’s presence in Frankfurt at the airport on their way back to Malta. The bill for his stay in Frankfurt was received in April when she was no longer employed there since she had been fired on March 29, 2016.
The Russian woman acknowledged that she had been given an envelope containing money but insisted it was meant to pay outstanding traffic fines incurred by the bank chairman’s wife. Payment had to be effected at the Sliema local council.
She denied claims that she ever sent the SMS mentioned by the bank and insisted that her boss was aware of her husband’s presence at the Frankfurt hotel.
“Since I had no residence permit, the only way I could travel abroad was in his company and so the bank offered to cover his expenses. Since he was taking care of our children, I booked a triple room that was more expensive than the rest,” she said.
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