Claims stem from ignorance or mudslinging – MFSA head
Joseph Bannister, the chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority, insisted that his role within international companies was always public knowledge and denied claims that he awarded contracts to foreign business partners.
He rejected the allegation of conflict of interest made by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo in Parliament.
“How can I not deny these allegations? I don’t give contracts but they are approved by the Board (of Governors) and not by me.
“These allegations were either made because they don’t know what they’re talking about or they are simply mudslinging,” Prof. Bannister told The Times when contacted.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Bartolo demanded an inquiry into how Prof. Bannister was a partner in a Cayman Islands company with one of the consultants he had appointed at the MFSA.
He claimed that since 2008 the MFSA paid more than €3 million in consultancy fees for services awarded by direct order in breach of public procedures.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said that Prof. Bannister, whom he had spoken to, denied the allegations of conflict of interest and would be writing to the Prime Minister about his position. Mr Fenech said whether an investigation will be carried out depended on the contents of the letter.
In a letter sent to The Times yesterday, Mr Bartolo provided more details about his claims made in Parliament and challenged Prof. Bannister to deny them.
Mr Bartolo said Prof. Bannister was a director of Cayman Islands company Kairos Fund Limited and was appointed jointly with Peter Astleford, “a partner and co-head of the financial services group of Dechert”. He said the MFSA awarded direct contract consultancies worth €463,047 to Dechert.
Mr Bartolo also claimed the MFSA awarded €361,297 in direct contracts to the person “who was responsible for regulatory surveillance as a UK Financial Services Authority director of Northern Rock Bank but who had been found at fault of systematic failure of duty and had his employment terminated in 2008”.
Prof. Bannister yesterday said his involvement as an independent director of non-Maltese international companies was listed in his biography. His international involvement had been used by both the MFSA and various practitioners to solve complex problems in the funds sector.
He was a non-executive director of Kairos Fund and was not a partner of Mr Astleford, who resigned from the fund in 2007.
Prof. Bannister insisted he had “no business association” with Mr Astleford who was the senior partner at Dechert – one of the leading financial services legal firms in Europe.
There was no connection between Kairos and Dechert. The latter had a long professional association with the MFSA, having helped the MFSA develop and refine the Professional Investor Fund and the Special Funds Act, which has been developed into the Retirement Pensions Act.
It recently assisted the MFSA in discussions with the UK tax authorities on the tax transparency of the Maltese Limited Partnership.
“Dechert has no contract but acts as an international legal adviser and we pay them according to usage,” he said adding that the €463,047 mentioned by Mr Bartolo referred to amounts paid, in London rates, since 2008.
As for the person mentioned in connection with regulatory surveillance in the UK, he was asked to provide training on risk-based supervision based on his CV. He was currently delivering supervision programmes at the Central Bank of Ireland, Canada, South Africa and Indonesia and was a consultant with the Central Bank of Ireland.
The law allowed direct orders in cases that dealt with research and development in the public interest as was the supervision of finan-cial services, he said, adding he was working on the letter to the Prime Minister.