Malta freezes Pilatus bank’s operations after chairman’s arrest

Malta’s regulators have imposed a freeze on the Business of Pilatus after its Chairman’s arrest on charges of breaking U.S. sanctions prompted a fresh wave of criticism towards island’s authorities.

The bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was accused in an indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan of involvement in a scheme to evade U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, prosecutors have said. Some lawmakers are still to decide whether Pilatus Bank, which is registered in Malta, should keep its licence. Malta’s financial supervisors nonetheless responded by imposing controls on Pilatus that effectively freezes the bank’s business.
“The bank has been directed not to transact any business whatsoever,” the Malta Financial Service Authority said in a statement, adding this applied to “all deposits and withdrawals and any disposal of the bank’s assets.” Although, it was not clear how long the controls will stay in place.

The events unfolded after a former employee of Pilatus Maria Efimova ignited a political scandal in Malta after she became a source for the murdered journalist, surrendered herself to Greek police. She has pointed towards the areas of investigation, in particular the countries and individuals who were involved in fraudulent actions. So far, all of her leads were confirmed by the authorities, including the investigation of Michelle Muscat, wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who owned a secret company in Panama, as well as raising a name of Maygold, who was an international trustee that operated in Switzerland, responsible for further avoidance of U.S. sanctions.

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