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Watch: Pilatus Bank denies Muscat links as chairman declines to comment on Azeri ties

Bank, Nexia BT welcome magisterial inquiry

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

Updated at 1.30pm - Added video, bank chairman statements

Pilatus Bank has denied that it has any form of banking relationship with the Prime Minister, his wife or any other members of his family. 

In a statement, the bank said that no member of the Muscat family "is or was ever a client of our bank" or that it ever held, in the past or present, "any document belonging or pertaining to, for the benefit of, and/or signed by Dr Joseph Muscat and/or Mrs Michelle Muscat and/or members of his family".

No transfers were ever made to or from accounts held in Dr Muscat's name, that of his wife or any of his family members, it added.

READ: Inquiry begins as police show up at bank's offices

Pilatus Bank said it had no dealings with companies carrying the names Hearnville, Tillgate and Egrant, accounts in those names and transfers to or from accounts registered in their names.  

The Ta' Xbiex-based bank made headlines yesterday after Daphne Caruana Galizia, writing on her personal blog, alleged that documents proving that the Prime Minister's wife was the owner of Panama company Egrant were stored at Pilatus' offices. 

Camera crews subsequently filmed two individuals, one of whom was the bank's chairman, leaving the bank's Ta' Xbiex offices while carrying luggage and a briefcase. 

In its statement, the bank said that the bags were the chairman's personal luggage as he had attended a scheduled board meeting immediately after arriving on a flight from Washington DC.

"This is a fact that can easily be verified and confirmed through CCTV footage that will show the chairman entering the bank’s premises with the same luggage and briefcase shown on the TV clip on leaving the bank," it said in its statement. 

"The mere suggestion that any documents were removed from the bank’s premises is simply fiction, and a complete distortion of fact."

Media reports and video footage broadcast yesterday were "evidently calculated to damage the bank’s integrity, reputation and good name and that of its chairman personally," it said. 

It welcomed the launch of a magisterial inquiry as a positive step and said it would be cooperating fully to ensure that the facts are properly established. 

The investigation is being led by duty magistrate Aaron Bugeja.

Bank chairman refuses to comment on Aliyevs' business

Pilatus Bank chairman Seyed Ali Sadr refused to comment on any business dealings the bank may have with the ruling Aliyev family of Azerbaijan.

Asked what sort of bank would do business with the Aliyevs given the corruption and money laundering risk, Mr Sadr he would not comment about clients the bank may or may not have.

When it was pointed out that Pilatus denied doing business with the Muscat family, Mr Sadr again refused to comment.

“There is a press release, you can all refer to that,” Mr Sadr said.

Asked again how the bank could do business with the Aliyevs, Mr Sadr said “we cannot mention anything in a press release”.

“We cannot confirm or deny anything”, Mr Sadr said.

The bank chairman said his role was not an executive one, therefore he did not know what clients the bank has.

When it was pointed out that a bank chairman would be aware of such high-profile clients, Mr Sadr said it was not his prerogative to confirm or deny anything.

Mr Sadr said the question about the Aliyevs was a rhetorical one, which as a banker, he could not answer.

 

Nexia BT welcomes investigation

Later in the morning, Nexia BT also welcomed the investigation.

It said:

"The firm is convinced that the investigation will establish, once and for all, that the substantive allegations made against us will be disproved."

Nexia BT said it was certain the investigation would establish that:

(i) Egrant Inc. was set up as a shelf company and remained such throughout its existence;

(ii) Egrant Inc. had no beneficial owner other than Brian Tonna throughout its existence;

(iii) Throughout its existence, Egrant Inc. never held any bank accounts, anywhere in the world, never held any assets, including monies, and never traded.

It said it would co-operate fully with the authorities and continue to fulfil its duties in terms of the law and applicable ethical standards, as it had done throughout the 25 years of its existence.

It thanked staff and clients for their trust and support in the face of this attack on their professionalism and integrity.

 

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