Former Pilatus Bank officials decide not to testify in money laundering proceedings

Court points out suspicious transactions were ‘administrative matters’

File photo
File photo

Former Pilatus Bank risk manager Antoniella Gauci and operations supervisor Mehmet Tasli decided not to testify in proceedings on Monday.

Money laundering proceedings against the bank and another former top official continued, as a decision by the Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg not to prosecute them are still pending.

Earlier in November, a judge refused a request by Pilatus Bank’s former risk manager, Antoniella Gauci, to be included as a party to Repubblika’s case against the Attorney General, over the failure to prosecute senior officials at the now shuttered bank.

In the case, heard by Mr. Justice Christian Falzon Scerri, Repubblika has alleged that last year, Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg had issued a nolle prosequi, (an order not to prosecute). Gauci a mere 4 months after the public prosecutor received a 600,000-page report relating to the inquiry into the bank, which recommended prosecuting a number of officials at the now-shuttered bank, one of them being Gauci.

Gauci and Tasli were summoned by the defence in ongoing proceedings today, where the now-shuttered bank and its former anti-money laundering reporting officer Claude-Ann Sant Fournier are accused of money laundering.

Charges against Sant Fournier were issued against her and Pilatus Bank following a €7.5 million magisterial inquiry.

The defence has been insisting other former top officials be called to testify, questioning why these third-parties are still being investigated but not charged.

The bank’s former risk manager was present in court with her lawyer Roberto Montaldo on Monday. But the testimony she has been seeking did not materialise.

Montaldo informed Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech that the Attorney General’s nolle prosequi decision was being challenged by rule of law NGO Repubblika.

The group is claiming the decision not to prosecute was null and invalid since it ran counter to directions issued by the magistrate conducting the inquiry into suspected financial crimes at the bank.

The lawyer explained Gauci had requested she intervene in Repubblika’s proceedings, but her request was turned down by the judge presiding over the case, prompting the lawyer to file another application asking for leave to appeal the judge’s refusal.

In light of that situation, the nolle prosequi in her regard was not definitive, Montaldo argued. Therefore, when called to the witness stand, Gauci opted not to testify.

Sant Fournier’s lawyers, Stefano Filletti and Kathleen Calleja Grima, reserved the right to summon her again at a later stage.

“She is only more than too willing to testify”, Gauci’s lawyer said.

Mehmet Tasli joins the sitting

Joining the sitting via video conference, Mehmet Tasli once again argued that the nolle prosequi was being “attacked” by the NGO, and did not testify.

Once again faced with that argument, the defence requested a clarification from the prosecution. AG lawyer Kevin Valletta, who was stepping in as prosecutor on the day, said that “at present there were no proceedings against Tasli and Gauci.”

“Was that [nolle prosequi] decision taken?” the magistrate asked.

“In terms of article 569(6) [of the Criminal Code] that decision was taken by the AG,” answered Valletta.

“Tasli was investigated, he made sworn statements and testified at the inquiry. He always informed police when he came to Malta. We were informed through media of the nolle prosequi in his regard,” lawyer, Giannella de Marco said.


“He did not testify in this inquiry,” rebutted Calleja Grima.

“I’m only being informed today,” remarked the Magistrate, pointing out that all international arrest warrants issued by a magistrate were still in force and no AG could stop them.

The court explained they are not European Arrest Warrants.

Inspector takes the witness stand

Inspector Pauline D’Amato, one of the investigating officers in the case was next to take the witness stand. She explained she was not involved in the inquiry, and was only involved afterwards.

D’Amato confirmed receiving a “thick document” which had been drawn up by UK firm Duff and Phelps, tasked by the inquiring magistrate to scan all bank documents and electronic equipment.

She also confirmed receiving a copy of the timeline drawn up by the inquiring magistrate. D’Amato had also received final recommendations in charges to be issued against a number of individuals.

Asked by Calleja Grima whether she had access to the testimonies given in the inquiry, the witness replied in the negative.

“Did you ask for those?” the defence lawyer asked the inspector, pointing out that transcripts of those testimonies were available to the Police Commissioner.

“No,” replied the inspector. “I never saw what those testimonies were and never asked for them.”

The lawyer pressed on whether new evidence between police bail and charges to justify her being prosecuted had come up.

She explained that a few hours before the arraignment, charges were issued by two Attorney General lawyers, who had told police that they sought advice from the AG, and charges were to be issued in her personal capacity.

The defence stressed Duff and Phelps had made a disclaimer that “they heard no one, no testimonies.”

“That report made constant reference to ‘bank operations’,” said Calleja Grima.

The witness also replied in the negative when asked whether there had been any investigations into Sant Fournier’s personal operations.

Pressed further to explain what investigations had been carried out with respect to third parties, the inspector hesitated, explaining that she “could not talk about other persons” and that there were “pending investigations.”

“Inquiry into CSF’s involvement in the bank….” Did you investigate? Beyond the inquiry and financial investigation re CSF, the inspector was asked. “I did nothing further”

The witness said the inquiry report had pointed out a list of suspicious transactions, with the magistrate pointing out that these transactions were administrative errors.

“We consulted the AG. Obviously, we saw the report, read it together, discussed and reached the conclusion of issuing charges for money laundering. We took her [. She answered no question and gave us nothing else to go by,” explained the inspector.

Sant Fournier’s lawyers said that while they had no issue with the nolle prosequi issued in respect of Gauci, they questioned why criminal charges had been issued against their client who held a similar position at the bank.