Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi confirm meeting Pilatus owner

Answering a parliamentary question on Monday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi confirmed having met Pilatus owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad

A protest placard outside Pilatus Bank
A protest placard outside Pilatus Bank

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has confirmed meeting arrested Pilatus bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad twice since 2013.

Responding to a parliamentary question on Monday evening, Muscat said that he hosted Hasheminejad twice in what he described as meetings held ‘regularly’ by the Prime Minister for investors.

But Muscat said it was not possible to keep a record of all the persons who he met and the details of each meeting.

Muscat was asked by Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina to list all the meetings he had with Hasheminejad since 2013 and the reason for the meetings.

Earlier this month, Muscat admitted attending the wedding of Hasheminejad in Venice in 2015 along with his wife Michelle. The wedding had also been attended by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Answering a similar question, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi confirmed that he, too, met with Hasheminejad. But Mizzi was less specific on the number of meetings held.

In his reply, the minister implied that he met with Hasheminejad during “corporate presentations”.

Mizzi reiterated that it was not possible to keep a record of all the details pertaining to meetings he has had.

Arrested in the US

Hasheminejad was arrested in the US last March and accused of busting American sanctions against Iran. Pilatus bank is not mentioned in the indictment but since Hasheminejad’s arrest, the Malta Financial Services Authority stopped him from holding any position of influence at the bank.

The MFSA also froze the bank’s assets, including client deposits, and appointed an administrator to oversee day-to-day operations.

Read also: How Pilatus banker Ali Sadr Hasheminejad played hide-and-seek with the Americans

The private bank obtained a licence in 2014 and its clients are mainly politically exposed persons, including the children of Azeri government officials and several Maltese close to the government.

Pilatus has been at the centre of controversy since last year, when Daphne Caruana Galizia alleged that the Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat was the owner of Panama company Egrant that held a bank account at Pilatus.

Based on the information given to her by Pilatus whistleblower Maria Efimova, the journalist had alleged that Michelle Muscat received a deposit of $1 million through Pilatus, from the daughter of the Azerbaijani president.

The Muscats vehemently deny the claims with the Prime Minister describing them as the "biggest political lie" to be told in Malta. The Prime Minister had also asked for a magisterial inquiry that is ongoing.