BNP Paribas ‘anti-semitism’ row: Malta judge says bank can appeal summons

Top brass from BNP Paribas will be allowed to appeal a court decree to testify in Malta in a case filed against them by British financer Jacob Agam

Vertical owner Jacob Agam has filed a lawsuit against BNP Paribas CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé (inset)
Vertical owner Jacob Agam has filed a lawsuit against BNP Paribas CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé (inset)

A judge hearing a million-euro case filed against French bank BNP Paribas by a Malta-based investment house, has granted the bank special permission to appeal a decree in which he had ordered its CEO to testify.

The decree was handed down by Mr Justice Joseph Zammit Mckeon in the lawsuit filed by Vertical Group Holding, a Maltese investment house and its founder and chairman, the Malta-based, British businessman Jacob Agam, against BNP Paribas, its chairman Jean Lemierre and CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé.

Agam has accused BNP’s top brass of terminating Vertical’s loan facilities without justification and attempting to seize properties belonging to his family in Malta. Agam is alleging that the action was “inspired by anti-Semitism and hate.”

BNP however say Agam, 66, and his sister Ruth, 69, are trying to get out of honouring their financial obligations to BNP, by preventing it from seeking repayment of monies loaned to the siblings’ companies, using the argument that BNP’s merger with its Singapore arm was invalid since it took place without consent sought from the French finance minister.

In the decree handed down this morning, the court noted that in June 2020, the plaintiffs had presented two summons issued to Bonnafé and Lemierre, who both reside in France, to testify the following month. Although the summons were approved, in July 2020 BNP Paribas requested the court to revoke the two summons , insisting that the applicable procedure had not been followed. On 11 August, 2020, the court rejected the request, and BNP Paribas then asked for permission to appeal.

Mr Justice Zammit McKeon highlighted the fact that there was no appeal at law from an interlocutory decree of this nature, which dealt with the admissibility of evidence.

However, the judge said it would be “better and more just” were the merits of its August decree be decided upon by the Court of Appeal before a definitive judgment is handed down.

With this in mind, the court upheld BNP Paribas’ request for special permission to appeal the decree handed down in August.

The case continues in May. Lawyer Pio Valletta is appearing for Vertical Group, while lawyers Prof Ian Refalo, Edward Debono, Carl Grech, Gabrielle Scicluna, and John Refalo are defending BNP Paribas.