Just a movie full of bad guys

Those who know about Ferris, and I am one of them, will not be impressed by all the antics we see or hear

The Pilatus saga is reading like the script from a Western, where the film is only dominated by bad guys and everyone ends up shooting each other dead.

At this stage, one is again reminded of the Egrant affair, for it is also connected to what might have or might not have happened inside Pilatus Bank. I guess the more I comment on the need for Magistrate Aaron Bugeja to conclude his findings, the less likely he might be ready to close the inquiry, in the sense that, Bugeja tends to react to this kind of pressure by postponing his conclusion. I have no doubt that Bugeja has long concluded his report but like most other members of the judiciary he also has his emotions to deal with, and cannot simply detach himself from the realities of the political situation. Or perhaps he is wisely deciding when the timing is right.

But yesterday a comment in the press accusing the Prime Minister of not having been credible in his words uttered after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, suggested that his declarations that he and his wife are unconnected to the Egrant affair, were a blatant lie. It repeats a claim made last year that led Malta into a snap election and right into a very ugly and bitter election campaign that landed Muscat and the Labour party the most sizeable landslide victory in the history of Maltese elections. You could say that, if someone in the Opposition was hoping a snap election would cut Muscat down to size, it returned him with even greater power.

Aaron Bugeja will soon be marking his 12 months into this inquiry and given that it is to be said he is a thorough and a meticulous man, his decision will be a game changer for many. However, this case needs closure.

At the centre of the Pilatus Bank case there is one very important protagonist: the incarcerated Pilatus chairman who now faces the gargantuan task to get himself out of the serious criminal accusation in the US of having breached the US sanctions on Iran. 

In the political arena Ali Sadr Hasheminejad will see little clemency and understanding especially at this particular moment in time when he may become a sacrificial lamb for the tough line the Trump administration has on Iran. 

There is no doubt that Pilatus Bank served to attract high-end clients just like other foreign banks in Malta which serve the same purpose and concept of making profits at all costs. And even though transparency and openness and anti-money laundering rules are being strengthened every year, many are the financial institutions that specialise in trying to camouflage the true origins of their clients’ wealth. Pilatus Bank was unknown to 99.9% of the local population before it came to the fore for servicing some PEPs, including Keith Schembri of course.

All hell broke loose with the allegation that Michelle Muscat was the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant, a claim that was vehemently denied. For some time, it was made clear that the information was relayed by the Russian national Maria Efimova, who during the course of the inquiry by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja did not provide the necessary documentation to substantiate her claims – even though the alleged document was supposed to have been uploaded ‘to the cloud’. Efimova later told MEPs she had only confirmed information that was provided by another first, mysterious source.

Efimova has two European arrest warrants from Malta because she is subject to at least two ongoing criminal proceedings; in one case accused of defrauding Pilatus Bank and in another of having made false accusations against Superintendent Denis Theuma and inspectors Jonathan Ferris and Lara Butters. Ironically, it was Ferris who investigated Efimova for fraud, who since then entered the FIAU, had his contract terminated, and is now demanding whistleblower status after alleging impropriety at Pilatus Bank and interference in his work.

Those who know Ferris, and I am one of them, will not be impressed by all the antics we see or hear. And perhaps the defamation case he instituted against me when I passed a video comment that he had investigated his own cousin in the oil scandal when this goes contrary to police protocol, would shed some light about the real Mr Ferris.

Last week Efimova gave herself up to the Greek authorities (she is married to a Greek) hours after Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was arrested by US marshals in Virginia, US. Now in journalism there are no such things as coincidences but a sequence of events. As the media woke up to the news, we learnt that Efimova was still fearing for her life and contesting the Europe arrest warrant. The truth is that a European arrest warrant is not something that can be blocked by one country and is a legal principle respected by European countries.

She will probably return to Malta. But this will change nothing from what Aaron Bugeja does know. It will only make this bizarre Western, a tad more fantastical.

***

Last week, the appeals court decided against me in the Richard Cachia Caruana defamation case. My opinion had touted the widespread belief over the years that there was an umbilical cord between Caruana Galizia’s agenda and RCC’s political agenda.

I have reservations over the judgement but my decision to take this further is something I will deal with in the coming days.

On a positive note, a man with a very pure Nationalist pedigree popped round at my office the other day and very matter of factly gave me €3,000 in cash. Just like that.

“Take this, this is for the case you lost,” he said. “They can fine you a million euros, everyone knows who RCC is and what he stood for.” It was a generous action and an uncommon one.

And on another positive note, the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to rubbish the defamation cases by Labour minister Michael Falzon PL against former PN minister Michael Falzon says more about the decisions of Maltese magistrates in libel cases overhere.

It raises the question as to whether all defamation cases should be appointed to just one magistrate. But it certainly gives us hope that not all is lost when we are in court trying to fight some vexatious defamation cases.

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