Updated | Simon Busuttil says Joseph Muscat’s attendance of Pilatus owner’s wedding reveals ‘a dangerous relationship’

Former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil has hit out at what he described as an intimate relationship between the Prime Minister, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and former Pilatus Bank chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad

PN good governance spokesman Simon Busuttil has accused the Prime Minister of a dangerous relationship with the Pilatus Bank owner
PN good governance spokesman Simon Busuttil has accused the Prime Minister of a dangerous relationship with the Pilatus Bank owner

Updated at 10.44pm with Labour Party statement

The attendance of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff to the Venice wedding of Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was proof of their intimate relationship, Simon Busuttil said.

The former Nationalist Party leader, who is now the party’s spokesman for good governance, said this relationship was “dangerous” because it created a clear conflict between people in power and financial interests.

“This intimate relationship shows how all the shenanigans at Pilatus Bank were carried out with Joseph Muscat’s blessing,” Busuttil said.

He was reacting 24 hours after MaltaToday and the Times of Malta revealed that Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri had attended the wedding of Hasheminejad in Venice in 2015.

Read also: Joseph Muscat confirms having attended Pilatus bank owner’s wedding

Busuttil said that while Hasheminejad faced a possible 125 years behind bars in the US, in Malta he was given “protection” by Muscat.

Hasheminejad was charged in the US for busting sanctions against Iran during a period that pre-dates the birth of Pilatus Bank in Malta.

Busuttil accused the Prime Minister of hiding his intimate relationship with Hasheminejad for three whole years when he should have publicly declared he was a personal friend of the Iranian.

“The Prime Minister remained silent until he was discovered yesterday,” Busuttil said, adding that Pilatus Bank was mentioned in every scandal linked to Panama Papers and in the leaked reports of the Financial Intelligence and Analysis Unit. 

Busuttil said the country’s reputation would continue to sink as long as Muscat remained Prime Minister.

Labour hits back

The Labour Party has justified the Prime Minister's presence at Hasheminejad's wedding, insisting that Joseph Muscat is invited to numerous similar occasions throughout the year given the position he occupies.

The party said it was Muscat who last year informed the magistrate carrying out the inquiry into the Egrant affair of his presence at the wedding.

The PL said the most important thing in all this was that Pilatus Bank was treated like any other financial institution and the actions taken by the Malta Financial Services Authority over the past few days to suspend Hasheminejad were similar to the first steps taken against Nemea Bank in the past. Nemea Bank had its licence withdrawn after irregularities were flagged in its operations.

"The Nationalist Party spoke nothing of the Nemea case because its former leader Lawrence Gonzi, not only accepted an invitation for a reception but was a director of the bank," the PL said, adding Busuttil should have asked Gonzi about the matter when they both appeared on NET TV last Sunday.

The PL insisted that KPMG's Juanita Bencini told MEPs who visited Malta that Pilatus Bank was treated like other financial institutions throughout its licencing process and that she never had any sort of communication with the Office of the Prime Minister.