Court warns prosecutors not to bury Pilatus Bank case as over 200 boxes of evidence exhibited

Defence suggests prosecutors charged Pilatus Bank MLRO Claude Anne Sant Fournier "because they wanted to be seen to be doing something"

Prosecutors for the office of the Attorney General have been warned not to bury the evidence against a Pilatus Bank official by exhibiting reams of unnecessary, and in some cases, irrelevant, documentation and witness testimony.

When the compilation of evidence against the bank and its former MLRO Claude Anne Sant Fournier continued on Monday, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech repeatedly told the prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General to be careful not to duplicate evidence already collected during the magisterial inquiry and from witnesses who had already testified.

After summoning a number of witnesses from audit firm Deloitte to testify about various aspects of their client onboarding process and exhibit related documentation this morning, the prosecution was reminded that it was not Deloitte who was being charged.

The magistrate said she was obliged to warn the prosecution to be careful not to bury their case under endless documentation. “I’m not seeing anything that is relevant to the charges so far,” remarked the magistrate with reference to the witnesses who testified today. “Don’t bury the evidence. This also applies when it comes to the jury stage.”

Lawyer Stefano Filletti, defence counsel to Sant Fournier, objected after a Deloitte representative gave testimony about correspondence relating to the onboarding of Ali Sadr as a client, which he said was “clearly irrelevant” to the charges.

“So much so, that neither the dates nor the facts of the testimony are related to the charges,” Filletti argued, telling the court that Deloitte’s client onboarding process “hardly has relevance to that which is being accused, that is, alleged money laundering.” 

Filletti reminded the court that the compilation proceedings had been pending since last September, which were started as a result of an inquiry and investigation that had been ongoing for years. “It is not right that the case be buried, when the accused’s lives have completely stopped. The truth is that when you have a charge of alleged money laundering, nobody will employ you and nobody will want any type of business or commercial relationship with you.”

He pointed out that there were over 200 boxes of evidence and a number of hard disks already exhibited in the acts of this case. “With all due respect, if the proof is not included in that evidence…then we have a serious problem as to how investigations are carried out,” he remarked.

The lawyer made reference to the charges to which Sant Fournier was answering, which accuse her of having, together with others, committed acts of money laundering. “So far, this evidence viva voce, not only has not been made, but as it happens, copious reference had been made to a third-party employee which the prosecution chose not to take action against.” 

It was also clear from information in the public domain that no other bank official had been arraigned in relation to the allegations, Filletti added. “Rather, the Commissioner of Police has now publicly declared that the police have the obligation to continue to investigate when it has new evidence. He is referring to the Pilatus investigation recently undertaken after challenge proceedings filed by third parties.”

The accused had a right to be told why criminal proceedings were only filed against her, when the magisterial inquiry into the allegations had identified a number of the persons who should answer for crimes.

“The defence reminds that, in order to arrive here, years of investigations took place, with an inquiry which ended up costing the taxpayer over €7.5 million.”

The court pointed out that its hands were bound by the 2015 amendments to the law, adding that the court had no option but to accept new evidence submitted by the AG. But the court did ask why, after such an exhaustive inquiry, the prosecution was still trying to obtain even more information.

Not for the first time in these proceedings, Magistrate Frendo Dimech urged the AG representatives to restrict their evidence to that which was relevant to the substance of the case. “[The relevant evidence] is being buried and that causes more problems. We have heard a witness testify for an hour on documents which are already in the acts.”

“We needed him to confirm them,” AG prosecutor Marthese Grech replied.

Filletti interjected, telling the court that the defence suspected that the prosecution were still investigating, as almost every sitting new witnesses were being identified. “They arraigned Claude Anne because they wanted to be seen to be doing something. Wouldn’t it have been better to investigate once and do it properly? We don’t even know where we’re going here,” remarked the lawyer.

The court agreed that the case was being prolonged unnecessarily, reminding the prosecution that “we have people here who are under a freezing order.”

“It is heresy to arraign someone without having identified all the witnesses,” remarked the magistrate.

The case continues tomorrow morning.

Prosecutors Marthese Grech and Ramon Bonett Sladden appeared for the office of the Attorney General in today’s sitting. Police inspectors Claire Borg and Pauline Bonello are prosecuting.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti appeared as defence counsel.