Gafà says Pilatus prosecutions are AG’s remit, as PN, Repubblika call out ‘pathetic’ excuse

“There’s a distinction between investigating officers and the prosecution,” Gafà said on 103 Heart . “Police conduct their investigations but it is then the Attorney General that decides whether to prosecute or not”

Angelo Gafà
Angelo Gafà

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina and civil society NGO Repubblika have called out what they said was an attempt by the Commissioner of Police to “shift all blame” onto the Attorney General’s office over charges that were not filed against Pilatus Bank officials.

Interviewed by Andrew Azzopardi on Radio 103 Heart on Saturday, Commissioner of Police Angelo Gafà defended the police’s work on the Pilatus Bank saga, saying that any prosecution of its banking officials on possible money laundering charges was now remit of the Attorney General, Victoria Buttigieg.

“There’s a distinction between investigating officers and the prosecution,” he said. “Police conduct their investigations but it is then the Attorney General that decides whether to prosecute or not.”

Authenticated copies of the international and European arrest warrants issued against high-level officials at the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank in court show that these were signed on 24 February 2021 by Magistrate Ian Farrugia, three months after having finalised the €7.5 million Pilatus Bank inquiry in December 2020. However, the warrants were executed in early 2022.

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; operations chief Luis Rivera, now living in Texas; operations supervisor Mehmet Tasli; director Hamidreza Ghambari; and chief risk officer Antoniella Gauci, a Maltese national.

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. 

“Angelo Gafà, Alexandra Mamo and Victoria Buttigieg ended up blaming each other for this obscenity,” Repubblika said, accusing the police chief of attempting to derail justice in the money laundering case.

Repubblika president Robert Aquilina maintains that the Attorney General has quashed charges against two banking officials. “It is now too late for Gafà to blame others. He is complicit in an attempt not to carry out justice on this criminal case. We know very well what his responsibility is, as we know what the responsibilities of Alexandra Mamo and Victoria Buttigieg are.”

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina said Gafà’s interview confirmed that the AG and even Justice Minister Jonathan Attard were complicit in “covering up” the Pilatus Bank scandal. “The Police Commissioner has placed all the responsibility into the Attorney General’s lap because he knows what wrong decisions she made about this case. It is clear that the Attorney General with the complicity of the Minister of Justice is doing her best to cover up the Pilatus bank scandal,” Aquilina said.

He added that the AG Victoria Buttigieg had granted a pardon by issuing a ‘nolle prosequi’ to two people involved in the Pilatus scandal but that Attard had refused to provide details of the nolle prosequi instruments issued by the AG over the past years. “The Nationalist Party expects the Attorney General to make public statements of the names of these two persons and to give a full and detailed account of the decisions taken in relation to this case.”

Aquilina also minister Jonathan Attard had to ensure that the institutions were properly working properly and not remain idle when they were consistently failing.

Joseph Muscat still under investigation

Gafà also confirmed that former disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was still being criminally investigated over the Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals deal.

Although he refused to go into the merits of the case, Gafà said that “it is a known fact that there is an ongoing magisterial inquiry.”

In January, Muscat’s home in Burmarrad was searched by police, as part of a corruption probe into the Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals deal.

It had been revealed back in November that Muscat received €60,000 from Accutor AG, a company that in turn received millions from Steward Healthcare when it took over the contract of the three state hospitals.

On the Electrogas power station contract, Gafà said the contract had already been approved by the Auditor General in 2018, who did not find any criminal wrongdoing.