Pilatus banker’s guilty verdict will be null and void, US prosecutors tell lawyers

US prosecutors tell Hasheminejad lawyers they will dismiss case with prejudice, making explicit guilty verdict is null and void

Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad
Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad

The tide has turned for Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, after the United States government told his lawyers it will be dismissing its case against the Pilatus Bank owner with prejudice.

United States federal prosecutors last week said they were withdrawing a criminal case against Hasheminejad, who was convicted of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran earlier this year.

Now they have confirmed with Hasheminejad’s lawyers for a proposed order to confirm the dismissal is with prejudice, “making explicit that the verdict is vacated and is null and void.”

In a filing on 5 June in a Manhattan federal court, prosecutors asked a judge for permission to drop the case, a rare move, citing the likelihood of continued litigation over suppression of evidence. Given the resources that would be required to address all the evidentiary issues, continuing to pursue the case “would not be in the interest of justice,” they said.

But lawyers for Hasheminehad on Sunday said they had obtained confirmation from the South District New York prosecutors on the course ahead.

“Ali Sadr welcomes the government’s decision to drop this misguided prosecution and wholeheartedly agrees that it is in the interest of justice for the Court to dismiss this case,” they told InnerCityPress.

“However, a nolle prosequi - a common-law action superseded by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure - is not the proper mechanism to do so. Among other reasons, allowing the government to proceed in this manner might be viewed as permitting the unlawfully obtained guilty verdict to stand, which could conceivably have adverse immigration consequences for Sadr in addition to perpetuating the reputational harm he has already suffered.

“The government’s nolle prosequi submission, stating it unilaterally will not proceed further, also might not be deemed a dismissal of the case with prejudice. The government has confirmed, in a June 5, 2020 phone call and a June 6, 2020 exchange of emails, that it intended to dismiss the case with prejudice. Accordingly, Sadr is submitting a proposed order confirming that the dismissal is with prejudice, and making explicit that the verdict is vacated and is null and void.”

Hasheminejad was then accused of evading US economic sanctions by concealing the role of Iranian parties in US dollar payments sent through the US banking system, from the construction of housing units in Venezuela. 

Hasheminejad ran a private bank in Malta, which he had licensed in 2013, and which largely dealt with millions in reserves owned by the Azerbaijani ruling family and oligarchs.

His bank was implicated in the Egrant affair, when the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed the bank had processed a $1 million payment from the Aliyevs of Azerbaijan to the wife of former prime minister Joseph Muscat. The allegation was disproven by a Maltese magisterial inquiry along with other allegations she made about Pilatus Bank, but by then the banks’ other dealings for Azerbaijan had come under the lens of financial investigators. When Hasheminejad was arrested in Dulles airport in the United States in February 2018, the Maltese financial regulator shut down the bank and started an investigation.

The family of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia said Malta should request the extradition of Hasheminejad. “It is now more important than ever that he is prosecuted in Malta, since he has destroyed Malta’s reputation in the process of using the country as a base for facilitating criminal activity, via Pilatus Bank. For this reason, the Government of Malta must request his extradition immediately,” the Daphne Foundation said in a statement.

The call was echoed by civil society NGO Repubblika, and the Nationalist Party.