Prosecution closes arguments in case against Pilatus owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad

United States Attorney Office is expected to close its arguments in its case against Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad on Monday, 9 March

The United States Attorney Office is expected to close its arguments in its case against Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad on Monday, 9 March.

The 39-year-old banker, whose bank in Malta ran bank accounts for members of the Azerbaijani ruling dynasty before its licence was suspended, was arrested back in February 2018 at Dulles airport, Washington D.C. and now faces six federal charges of breaching United States sanctions on Iran, money laundering and bank fraud.

Hasheminejad, son of an Iranian banker who was educated in the US and at one point obtained St Kitts & Nevis citizenship, is accused of having used the American banking system to process $115 million from a Venezuela housing project his family built, so that the money could be delivered to the Hasheminejad’s family business accounts in Switzerland and Turkey, allegedly in breach of US sanctions against Iran.

Yesterday, Sunday 8 March, US prosecutor Michael Krouse moved to preclude two expert witnesses for Hasheminejad, among them a proposed testimony from Trita Parsi on ‘de-risking’ because neither of these witnesses were qualified to discuss the concept. Parsi is former president and founder of the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit organisation “dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.”

Krouse said Parsi had never worked for a bank or in bank compliance, nor had he published any articles or conducted any scientific studies about “de-risking”. Hasheminejad;’s defence argued that Parsi’s purported expertise on “de-risking” stemmed from personal discussions with Iranian-Americans.

“Parsi has never worked for a bank or in bank compliance. Nor has Parsi published any articles or research or conducted any scientific studies about ‘de-risking’. From the defence’s expert notice, it appears that Parsi’s purported expertise on ‘de-risking’ stems from his personal discussions with Iranian-Americans. This evidence is thus purely anecdotal and wholly unreliable. The defence’s expert notice does not indicate how many individuals Parsi has interviewed and the methodology of these interviews. To the extent that the defence claims that Parsi’s anecdotal evidence is based on NIAC’s membershipm the Government notes that Parsi has ‘systematically hyped the number of its members and misrepresented its constituency’.”

Likewise, an attorney at Crowell Moring, Robert Burns, was said not to qualify as an expert on “de-risking” because he had not worked for a bank or in bank compliance.

Facing a jury made up of a 10 women and five men, the prosecution has also displayed Hasheminejad’s passports from St Kitts and Nevis, four in total. Between 2013 and 2015, Hasheminejad travelled over a 100 times, with multiple trips to Istanbul, Zurich, Dubai, London, Malta and Tehran. On several occasions since 2010, Hasheminejad declared his residence was in Dubai, Belarus, Switzerland and the United States. Federal documents show that Hasheminejad obtained his SKN citizenship in 2009 through the $250,000 investment citizenship programme.

Hasheminejad’s Pilatus bank licence was suspended by the European Central Bank after it was shuttered down by the Malta Financial Services Authority, and a joint transaction investigation with the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit was launched.

Hasheminejad was thrust into the limelight after the late Daphne Caruana Galizia alleged his bank was in possession of a declaration of trust naming Michelle Muscat, wife of the former prime minister, as the owner of a secret Panamanian company. The allegation was disproved by a magisterial inquiry that found no trace of alleged transactions and money flows to Muscat from the daughter of Azerbaijan’s ruler Ilham Aliyev. But the investigation found multiple bank accounts belonging to the ruling Azeri dynasty.

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