MFSA stops e-payments platform belonging to Hungarian businessman

Panama Papers had unearthed questionable due diligence of Hungarian businessman’s bank in Caribbean tax haven

Otto Hujber
Otto Hujber

The financial regulator has restricted the licence of a payments institution owned by a Hungarian businessman whose Caribbean bank’s due diligence procedures had come under the spotlight of the Panama Papers.

The Malta Financial Services Authority restricted the licence of Money Plus Card Payment Institution Ltd, and ordered all its officials and connected persons to immediately cease any business activity.

The institution will have to obtain the MFSA’s written approval before affecting any transactions for salaries and essential services.
The MFSA could also remove the company’s licence.

Money Plus Card, and its related companies Shop By Reward and Prifolio Investments, are all owned by the company Prifolio Holdings, a company whose ultimate beneficial owner is Hungarian businessman Otto Hujber, also the owner of Loyal Bank of the St Vincent & Grenadines.

Money Plus Card was licensed in 2016 as an online payment institution, to provide payment accounts using a digital platform. It is registered at a Valletta law office.

Hujber was one of Hungary’s most influential businessmen in the 1990s when he was also acting as the chairman of the then ruling Socialist Party’s (MSZP) business division.

In 1997 he founded Loyal Bank in the tax haven of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, together with an office in Budapest.

According to the Panama Papers, the bank had been servicing some 60,000 customers, Hungarians, Russians and Japanese. It built a substantial business relationship with Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the offshore world unearthed by the Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca recommended Loyal Bank to customers because the bank allowed customers to send scanned documents via email instead of reporting physically to their Saint Vincent office.

The leaked documents raised questions about the bank’s due diligence procedures.

A memo of a meeting between the representatives of Loyal Bank and Mossack Fonseca suggests that Loyal Bank did not require companies opening bank accounts to reveal their “beneficial owners” – the people who actually own or benefit from a company, and whose names are often hidden in offshore registrations. Loyal Bank had denied this allegation, saying Mossack Fonseca had misinterpreted the words of their representative in the memo.

Slovakia’s and Gibraltar’s financial authorities had issued warnings against Loyal Bank, accusing the bank of unauthorised financial activities. The warnings were later withdrawn after Loyal Bank provided explanations for its activities.

Hujber is also listed as a director in the Maltese company Global Netprint (formerly Power Plant Advisory), whose ownership is vested in a company registered at the address of his Loyal Bank.

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