The police are in the process of concluding their investigations into Pilatus Bank and are expected to proceed with court arraignments.
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà said on Thursday that the force was close to solving a case on which people thought the police were doing nothing.
He did not mention the bank by name or give away any details but Times of Malta has ascertained from other sources that he was referring to Pilatus.
“By the end of this month, the police will be solving a big case which was recently in the limelight, one which people thought we were doing nothing about. At this stage, since there are sensitive investigations, I must be careful what to say.
“Yes, it is a case on which the FIAU had drawn up a report. We are committed to start getting results this month and by results I mean prosecutions,” Gafà said in an interview.
In another development, he said the police were reviewing the security detail for Melvin Theuma, the middleman and key witness in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder who is in hospital after what police believe were self-inflicted injuries.
Concerns about the activities of Pilatus Bank were first raised in a compliance review by the anti-money laundering unit in 2016, but the bank successfully contested its findings.
By the end of this month, the police will be solving a big case recently in the limelight
The leaked compliance report said the “veil of secrecy” that had been created at the 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.
Separately, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) had flagged, in a report sent to the police, two suspicious transactions at the bank involving an account owned by former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
A year later, journalist Caruana Galizia thrust the bank into the spotlight with reports about the high ratio of Azerbaijani clients there.
Former prime minister Joseph Muscat had called for a limited inquiry into the journalist’s claim that Pilatus Bank was used to pass on kickbacks to a company called Egrant, which she alleged was owned by Muscat’s wife Michelle.
Although the Egrant inquiry did not find any evidence of kickbacks or links between Egrant and the Muscats, the inquiring magistrate ordered the police in July 2018 to probe potential money-laundering activities at the bank involving Azeri elites. The bank’s licence was withdrawn in October 2018, following the arrest in March 2018 of its sole owner, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, on money-laundering and sanctions busting charges in the US, on which he has been cleared.
In his first interview since he took over the police force a month ago, Gafà kept the cards close to his chest, saying only that the investigation of financial crimes was the “absolute priority” for the police force he was now leading.
Financial crime given priority
Asked if the force had the knowledge and know-how to investigate serious financial crimes, he admitted that this was lacking on a national level. He said the financial crime section, which until December had 56 officers, would soon be a unit of 95.
“This is a bold statement that is being given priority. The anti-money laundering section will soon see a threefold increase to 12 inspectors while the economic crimes unit will increase by one inspector to nine,” he said.
Gafà said the force was also investing in technology to help with investigations. This analytical software, purchased through EU funding, will help the police map organised crime groups, especially through the mobile phone contacts linking different criminal groups.
The commissioner said the force was also in the process of employing more technocrats, civilian experts in various fields, to beef up its investigative arm.
Other civilians will take over the non-core work currently being carried out by police officers so that these can be released to perform police duties.
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