Prosecutors in the United States have hit back at claims that a reference to Seyed Ali Sadr Hashemenijad’s link to Malta made in the criminal case built against him forms part of a misleading and irrelevant narrative.
Lawyers for the former Pilatus Bank chairman last month asked the US courts to dismiss the “vague and overbroad allegations” against him.
Mr Sadr, whose wedding guests in 2015 included Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his top aide Keith Schembri, was last year charged with money-laundering and sanction busting by US prosecutors.
He stands accused of having disguised the origins of $115 million worth of transfers for an Iranian-Venezuelan housing project, in violation of US sanctions against Iran.
Dr Muscat has insisted the charges against him have no link to Malta.
Apart from the oblique references to Mr Hashemenijad’s role in Malta, no direct evidence has emerged from prosecutors linking Pilatus Bank or Malta to the case.
Pilatus Bank’s licence was formally withdrawn by the European Central Bank in November 2018.
As part of his motion to dismiss the charges against him, Mr Hashemenijad’s lawyers complained about the description of his leadership position “at a Maltese bank” and references to how the US financial intelligence and enforcement agency had sanctioned Maltese entities for acting as fronts for sanctioned Iranian entities.
The lawyers also attacked references to incidents unrelated to the project in Venezuela.
In a reply to Mr Sadr’s motion, prosecutors said these references made in a warrant affidavit outlined a “sprawling, multinational criminal scheme to illicitly move US dollars through banks located in New York, and which involved the governments of Iran and Venezuela, entities and individuals in each country, and entities and bank accounts located in offshore jurisdictions like Switzerland, Saint Kitts & Nevis, and Malta”.
Court filings indicate that Mr Hashemenijad, who bought a Saint Kitts & Nevis passport, wanted to distance himself from Iran while setting up Pilatus Bank.
In an August 2012 e-mail to a certain Linet Estiroti, Mr Hashemenijad said that “bank accounts are needed, with a new bank, and no one should mention any ties from me to Iran. This is only to own Pilatus and the bank in Malta”.
Linet Estiroti is also mentioned in a leaked FIAU report as having received communication from Nexia BT’s Karl Cini to set up a Pilatus Bank account for Cheng Chen, one of the negotiators in the €320 million part-sale of Enemalta to Shanghai Electric.
According to the 2015 e-mail correspondence, Mr Chen was expecting to receive €1 million in the account. No such transactions ever took place.