Malta freezes Pilatus Bank assets after removing chairman

Before his removal by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) on Wednesday evening Iranian Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was the head of Pilatus, the bank at the heart of a corruption scandal exposed by murdered Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Malta freezes Pilatus Bank assets after removing chairman

World Bulletin / News Desk

Malta's financial services watchdog has frozen the assets of scandal-hit Pilatus Bank following the removal by the regulator of the bank's chairman just hours after his arrest in the United States for circumventing United States sanctions against Iran.

In a statement released on Wednesday night the MFSA announced that the bank "has been directed not to transact any business whatsoever irrespective of the client or the counterparty." 

It added that the measure "applies to all deposits and withdrawals and any disposal of the bank’s assets."

Nejad was arrested in the US on Tuesday for his alleged role in a scheme that secretly funnelled $115 million (93 million euros) through the US financial system to Iranian-controlled entities – circumventing US sanctions against Iran.

Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a Justice Department statement that "Nejad created a network of front companies and foreign bank accounts to mask Iranian business dealings in Venezuela and evade US sanctions."

Before she was killed in a car bomb blast in October, 53-year-old Caruana Galizia exposed accounts held at the bank by a number of top government officials as part of dogged research into alleged financial corruption by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s inner circle.

Described by Politico as a "one-woman WikiLeaks" following the revelations on her 'Running Commentary' blog, Caruana Galizia was facing a defamation lawsuit from Pilatus at the time of her death.

On Tuesday, a Greek police source told AFP that Maria Efimova, an alleged whistleblower in the Maltese corruption scandal, had handed herself over to authorities in Greece.

The subject of two EU arrest warrants, Russian national Efimova surrendered at the main police station on Athens's Syntagma Square.

Efimova -- widely believed to be one of Caruana Galizia's key sources within Pilatus -- feared for her life, Greek newspaper Kathimerini said.

Last Mod: 22 Mart 2018, 15:04
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