Repubblika publishes arrest warrants against Pilatus Bank top brass

Repubbika submits authenticated copies of international and European arrest warrants for high-ranking Pilatus Bank officials signed by a magistrate last year that were never executed by the Malta police

Repubblika's Robert Aquilina placed authenticated copies of the arrest warrants for Pilatus Bank officials at the Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial in Valletta
Repubblika's Robert Aquilina placed authenticated copies of the arrest warrants for Pilatus Bank officials at the Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial in Valletta

Repubblika has presented in court authenticated copies of the international and European arrest warrants issued against high-level officials at the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank.

Robert Aquilina, Repubblika president, presented the copies on Friday in the case the rule of law NGO has instituted against the Attorney General. The case is being heard by Judge Christian Falzon Scerri.

Together with the warrants, Aquilina presented the crimes for which all the officials were to be charged with. These included money laundering and criminal association.

The warrants were signed on 24 February 2021 by Magistrate Ian Farrugia, three months after finalising the €7.5 million Pilatus Bank inquiry in December 2020. However, the warrants have not yet been executed.

The arrest warrants are for Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, who is believed to be living in the United States of America after his arrest and later acquittal on sanctions-busting charges; Pilatus Bank operations chief Luis Rivera, now living in Texas; operations supervisor Mehmet Tasli; director Hamidreza Ghambari; and chief risk officer Antoniella Gauci. 

Police have so far only initiated action against Pilatus Bank as a financial entity, and former legal officer Claude Anna Sant Fournier, both charged with money laundering. 

In Friday’s court sitting, an assistant registrar in the criminal court confirmed that Mehmet Tasli came to Malta on 20 October 2021 and testified in court. This happened months after the arrest warrants were signed by the inquiring magistrate. He was allowed to leave Malta that same day. 

After Repubblika’s Robert Aquilina presented the warrants in court, lawyer Fiorella Fenech Vella questioned how he got his hands on these confidential documents, and asked him whether he considers himself a journalist. 

Aquilina insisted that he will not reveal how he got the documents in order to protect his source. He also elaborated that he is a notary by profession, but occasionally writes opinion pieces in local news portals. 

In a press conference after the sitting, Aquilina said the documents were passed onto him in the last few hours.

He went on to lay a copy of the arrest warrants at the Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial outside the court for the public to see.

Aquilina added that Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg was supposed to testify in court on Friday, but asked to be excused as she is abroad.

Apart from this, Buttigieg asked that the court issue a sentence on the preliminary exceptions before she is brought to testify.

The court rejected this request, stating that the case is serious and warrants that all the evidence be exhibited before issuing any sentence.

Repubblika has instituted challenge proceedings against the AG and police commissioner to force them to act on the findings of the Pilatus Bank inquiry by charging other people indicated by the inquiring magistrate.

The case continues.

Repubblika was represented by lawyer Jason Azzopardi. The case was presided over by Mr Justice Christian Falzon Scerri.