[WATCH] PN says AG should identify people spared prosecution in Pilatus Bank money laundering case

PN justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina accused the Attorney General and the Justice Minister of being in cahoots in covering up Pilatus Bank scandal

PN justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina (Photo: James Bianchi)
PN justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina (Photo: James Bianchi)

The Nationalist Party has called upon the Attorney General to identify the individuals who have officially been spared prosecution in connection with the Pilatus Bank inquiry.

Justice spokesperson Karol Aquilina described the AG and the Minister for Justice as "accomplices in the cover-up of the Pilatus Bank scandal."

Addressing a press conference outside the AG's offices in Valletta, Aquilina, said the Opposition expected the public prosecutor to publish a list of people to whom she had granted immunity from prosecution during her time in office.

In September, Rule of Law NGO Repubblika had exhibited authenticated copies of international and European arrest warrants issued against high-level officials at the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank. The warrants, against the bank's owner, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, its operations chief Luis Rivera, operations supervisor Mehmet Tasli; director Hamidreza Ghambari; and chief risk officer Antoniella Gauci.  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.

It was later revealed that  in October 2021, Tasli had even travelled to Malta to testify before the Criminal Court and had been allowed to leave, unmolested.

"It is unacceptable for the Attorney General to take decisions in secret through which she undoes work carried out by the inquiring magistrate in serious cases such as that involving Pilatus Bank," Aquilina said, "it is abusive."

He accused the AG of doing so by granting immunity from prosecution through the issuing of a nolle prosequi to persons accused of the crimes. The decision to issue such orders, effectively overruling the inquiring magistrate's recommendations on who to prosecute, can only be taken by the AG.

The PN is insisting that the AG had done so in cases against individuals involved in laundering "millions of euros" through Pilatus Bank. Money laundering charges are punishable by imprisonment for up to 18 years.

Aquilina pointed out that Justice Minister Jonathan Attard had recently refused to answer a parliamentary question about the number of nolle prosequi orders issued by the AG since 2013, citing the confidential nature of magisterial inquiries.

But this had not stopped previous ministers for justice from answering questions about nolle prosequi in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2018 and 2019, Aquilina said.

He added that the PN is proposing an amendment to the system whereby the AG would have to inform the justice minister whenever such an order is issued, who would then in turn, be obliged to table a copy of the nolle prosequi in parliament.