FBI agents visiting Malta in Pilatus Bank probe
Agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation are expected in Malta as part of an ongoing investigation into the former chairman of Pilatus Bank.
Sources said FBI experts had already been in touch with several authorities in Malta to facilitate their work here.
Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, the Iranian-born banker behind the beleaguered Ta' Xbiex-based bank, is facing up to 125 years in jail in connection with charges that include money laundering and evading US sanctions on Iran. He was arrested on Monday in the US where he is known to reside.
The sources said the US investigators were being coy about the nature of their visit to Malta, which suggested they might not be willing to give away too much, not even to the Maltese authorities. It could even be a matter of trust, they noted.
Sources close to senior investigators in Malta said they were uncertain what the FBI agents hoped to learn from Malta but they believed this was an exercise in "joining dots".
A visit to Pilatus Bank's offices in Ta' Xbiex was very likely, the sources said, adding that the FBI had reached out to the Malta Financial Services Authority, the police and Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, among others.
It would also appear that while a lot of evidence against Mr Hasheminejad was compiled over the past two years or so, justifying his arrest, the FBI had still not concluded its investigation, the sources point out.
US prosecutors are alleging that Mr Hasheminejad evaded US sanctions against Iran by using a series of front companies and foreign bank accounts to move $115 million from Iranian business dealings in Venezuela bet-ween April 2011 and November 2013.
The MFSA's supervisory council met on Wednesday morning soon after news of his arrest reached Malta.
It later announced it had ordered Pilatus Bank to remove Mr Hasheminejad from all executive roles.
It also appointed a competent person to replace him and directed the bank not to dispose, liquidate and transfer or otherwise deal with clients' assets and monies.
The measures are ex-pected to remain in place until the financial services watchdog decides otherwise.
The European Banking Authority said last month it had opened a preliminary inquiry into the MFSA's supervision of the bank that has featured in a number of leaked FIAU reports.