Former Pilatus Bank chairman Ali Sadr was one of the individuals against whom charges were recommended by a magisterial inquiry into the bank’s alleged money laundering activities, but he has yet to be prosecuted.
Sadr is suspected to have knowingly helped his bank’s clients transfer, convert and conceal the proceeds of crime, according to the inquiry findings.
Times of Malta has just confirmed that he was among eight foreign board members that the inquiring magistrate deemed should face charges. An international warrant for Sadr’s arrest was even signed by the magistrate, Ian Farrugia, in March, sources familiar with the Pilatus investigation have confirmed.
An international warrant for Sadr’s arrest was even signed by magistrate Ian Farrugia in March 2021
The inquiry was concluded and handed to the state advocate in December 2020. It cost the government €7.5 million. It is unclear why the police forged ahead with certain Pilatus prosecutions without first securing the extradition of the former chairman and other board members to Malta.
In September, Pilatus Bank and its then money-laundering reporting officer Claude-Anne Sant Fournier were both charged with alleged money-laundering offences. Pilatus was represented in court by Fabio Axisa in his capacity as the latest administrator appointed by the Malta Financial Services Authority to run the bank after Sadr was barred from Pilatus by the regulator in 2018.
The recommendation that Sadr could have a case to answer for was made by a UK firm of forensic accountants hired by the inquiry to identify suspicious transactions carried out at the Ta’ Xbiex-based bank. Asked by Times of Malta why other suspects, like Sadr, had not been charged, a police spokesperson said investigations were still under way and no further information could be divulged.
In September, Magistrate Joe Mifsud, who is hearing the case against Pilatus and Sant Fournier, urged the police to investigate and prosecute anyone else involved in “this Pilatus Bank scandal”. “We are suffering because of those who abused. So, continue to investigate, even by asking for European arrest warrants,” the magistrate urged.
Sources familiar with the inquiry’s findings confirmed that Sant Fournier’s former colleague Antoniella Gauci was also indicated on the list of potential suspects drawn up by the foreign experts. Gauci, a former risk manager at Pilatus Bank, was questioned by police but released without charge. She was famously filmed surreptitiously exiting the bank alongside Sadr on the night that slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia linked the Panama company Egrant to former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s wife Michelle. No evidence was ever found at the bank to confirm the journalist’s claims; however, the same foreign experts in the Pilatus inquiry recommended further investigative steps that could be taken to get to the bottom of the Egrant mystery.
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana assured parliament in November that all the necessary resources would be offered to authorities if the Egrant investigation was reopened. Pilatus Bank was fined a record €4.9 million by the FIAU for letting millions in suspect funds flow through Malta unchallenged.
According to the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, the bank’s dependence on a “series of connections to the Caucasus region” – a veiled reference to Pilatus’s high number of Azeri clients – made it impossible for the bank to ever take concrete actions in respect of any transactions, activity or relationship deemed to be suspicious.
Sadr was arrested in the US in March 2018 on money-laundering and sanction-busting charges. His conviction for breaching US-Iran sanctions was overturned last year over serious evidence disclosure failures by US prosecutors.
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