Casa calls for EU action on Pilatus Bank threats to Maltese media houses

Nationalist MEP writes to European Commissioner demanding action on Pilatus Bank SLAPP lawsuits in United States against Maltese newspapers

Nationalist MEP David Casa
Nationalist MEP David Casa

Nationalist MEP David Casa has called on the European Commission to investigate practices by Pilatus Bank he dubbed abusive and tantamount to harassment of media houses.

In a letter addressed to Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, who is responsible for the digital single market, Casa said the intimidation of media houses with multi-million euro lawsuits in jurisdictions outside the EU was unacceptable and requiresd an EU response. 

The practice is known as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). SLAPP lawsuits are based on allegations of a civil claim for damages.

But the aim is to transform issues of public debate into private issues that are the subject of litigation, preventing groups and in this case journalists from exercising their rights and duties in informing the public about matters of public interest. 

“Pilatus Bank, a bank established in Malta, is at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal. One leaked report by Malta’s Anti-Money Laundering Agency (FIAU) shows the bank was allegedly used by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri to receive kickbacks from the sale of Maltese passports, amongst others,” Casa wrote.

“In addition, a leaked FIAU compliance report reveals that Pilatus Bank’s other clients are predominantly Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) from Azerbaijan, a non-reputable and high-risk jurisdiction. The report also reveals massive, arguably intentional, anti-money laundering violations”.

Pilatus Bank has threatened Maltese media houses with multi-million dollar lawsuits in the United States. Pilatus Bank requested the removal of content, the deletion of certain phrases and the deletion of articles from the online archives of Maltese media houses. 

But Casa said the bank has no presence in the United States. “Their aim is to intimidate media houses by threatening to cripple them financially. This is abusive. It is harassment. It is unacceptable.”

Casa said the tactic of forum shopping also in jurisdictions outside the EU by these organisations required an EU response. 

Casa also attached the relevant transcripts of the FIAU reports to his letter. “How these people still have a banking licence is beyond comprehension. The intimidation of Maltese media houses now makes taking action all the more urgent.”

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