Judge refuses AG's and inspector's requests not to testify on Pilatus Bank nolle prosequi

A judge had ordered the Attorney General and an FCID Inspector to appear in court and give background and context behind the requests for international and European Arrest Warrants against Pilatus Bank officials

Pilatus Bank (File photo)
Pilatus Bank (File photo)

A judge has rejected applications filed by a police inspector from the Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID) and the Attorney General who had asked the court not to compel them to testify in a case over the police’s failure to prosecute senior officials at Pilatus Bank.

Repubblika, through its lawyer Jason Azzopardi, is alleging that AG Victoria Buttigieg had issued what is known as a nolle prosequi - an order not to prosecute- vis a vis Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, its operations supervisor Luis Rivera, the bank’s director Ghambari Hamidreza and bank official Mehmet Tasli. 

On October 10, Mr. Justice Christian Falzon Scerri had upheld Repubblika’s request to order police inspector Pauline D’Amato to testify and exhibit all instructions, as well as any correspondence exchanged between the FCID and the Attorney General’s Office regarding claims that Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg had issued an order not to prosecute senior Pilatus Bank officials.

The court had ordered the FCID Inspector to appear in court to give background and context behind the requests for international and European Arrest Warrants that she had filed before inquiring magistrate Ian Farrugia in February 2021. The court ordered her to exhibit copies of the international or European Arrest Warrants during next month’s sitting.

READ ALSO: Pilatus Bank officials go scot-free in exchange for testimony

The judge also ordered the inspector to give the court a first-hand account of the action taken by the FCID from December 2020 to June 2022, following the conclusion of the magisterial inquiry into the bank.

He had commanded that a copy of the application and the resulting decree, ordering her to attend, be handed to the inspector in person.

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg and police inspector Pauline D’Amato had filed applications late in the afternoon on November 4, asking the court to revoke the 10 October decree.

The judge pointed out that he had not ordered the application to be served on Repubblika’s lawyer because it was filed too close to the sitting, which is scheduled for November 8. “Truly, when one notes that the summons had been issued on 10 October 2022, Inspector D’Amato should have thought to file this application earlier and not at the last minute,” said Falzon Scerri.

In the applications, the AG and FCID inspector had argued that the Criminal Code laid down that nobody could request that a copy of such documents be exhibited in court without the permission of the Attorney General.

“Although this is all true, however, common sense dictates that these sections of the law do not apply when it is the actions of the Attorney General herself which are being investigated…it is therefore obvious that this section cannot be invoked to stop this court from performing its duties,” ruled the court.

Neither did the argument that the requested arrest warrants could only be exhibited with the permission of a court of criminal jurisdiction hold water, said the judge, pointing out that this part of the law did not apply as there were no criminal proceedings underway, because the Attorney General had not prosecuted.

The second basis for their objection to testifying was the claim that international arbitration proceedings before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes were underway.

But the judge noted that no order or decision restraining him from continuing with this case had been exhibited. “Therefore, unless a formal and authentic copy of a decision granted by an international judicial organ, ordering the halting of these proceedings, this court cannot stop this case.”

Rejecting both arguments, the court confirmed its order that they both testify in tomorrow’s sitting.