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Malta freezes Pilatus bank after Muslim chairman funneled $115 million to Iran through United States, breaking U.S. sanctions

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Earlier this week, Pilatus Bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, 38, 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.

Hasheminejad initially sought asylum in the United States in 2003, telling immigration authorities that he was “applying for asylum now because I am certain that if I return to Iran my life would be in danger.”  The financial jihadi had regularly traveled to Iran.

Hasheminejad was arrested in Virginia as he returned to his Washington home, charged with bank fraud and breaching US sanctions against Iran. He is accused of having funneled some $115 million through the United States on behalf of Iranian entities, including his family’s company Stratus, from a Venezuelan construction project to companies in Switzerland and Turkey.

His assets in Pilatus Bank in Malta have now been frozen.

In the reply to the New York southern district court, Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman revealed that the young Hasheminejad arrived in the US applying for asylum, but later became a St Kitts and Nevis citizen, and today carried with him at least four passports.

“Sadr [Hasheminejad] has repeatedly represented… that he could not flee to Iran because that would endanger [his] life. In actuality Sadr has travelled on over 20 occasions to Iran between 2010 and 2015,” the prosecutors said, displaying air ticket itineraries as proof of travel to Tehran, “voluminous and unimpeachable email communications”, business records and financial evidence. (Malta Today)

A liar and a funder of the most brutal state sponsor of terror.

A magistrate who investigated the Egrant case has established, after evaluating CCTV footage, that the owner of Pilatus Bank had been inside the bank, with his suitcases, since the early afternoon and was not carrying out large amounts of evidence as was implied in the Net News report. (25/07/18)

blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed that payments were made through Pilatus Bank between the Azeri President’s daughter and the Maltese Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat, who she claimed was the owner of Egrant Inc. The Prime Minister has denied the allegations but the Opposition leader is calling for an independent inquiry, as well as a police investigation.

On 16 October 2017, Caruana Galizia died in a car bomb attack close to her home.

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

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

John O’Donnell, Reuters, Frankfurt, August 8, 2018:

Earlier this week, the bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, 38, 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.

Sadr was arrested on Monday, according to court papers. A lawyer for Sadr has declined to comment.

That prompted criticism of the Maltese authorities for inaction, including from the children of a journalist murdered in Malta last year. Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported on corruption and accused Pilatus of money laundering.

Some lawmakers had also questioned whether Pilatus Bank, which is registered in Malta, should keep its license.

The developments prompted new protests by anti-corruption activists outside the bank’s headquarters near the capital of Valletta, who placed a washing machine on a plaque marking the opening of Pilatus Bank by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Malta’s police said the alleged sanctions busting did not involve Maltese citizens or institutions and that no transactions passed through Malta.

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.”

It was not clear how long the controls would stay in place. The bank has not responded to requests for comment.

The events unfolded after a former employee of Pilatus, who ignited a political scandal in Malta after she became a source for the murdered journalist, surrendered herself to Greek police.

Maltese prosecutors have filed a European warrant for the arrest of Maria Efimova, a Russian who left Malta for Greece last year with her family, on suspicion of fraud. A Greek police official said she had been arrested at Malta’s request.

Efimova was employed for three months in 2016 by Pilatus. Caruana Galizia named her as the source of internal bank documents which she said indicated that Michelle Muscat, wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, owned a secret company in Panama.

Immigration fraud (Malta Today)

The prosecutors accused Hasheminejad of making false statements to US immigration authorities over the years in an effort to gain asylum in the country, and that while claiming that his life would be in danger if he returned to Iran, he regularly travelled to Iran.

Hasheminejad initially sought asylum in the United States in 2003, telling immigration authorities that he was “applying for asylum now because I am certain that if I return to Iran my life would be in danger.” He described how his family had problems with the ruling regime in Iran and how he was once tortured by Iranian authorities because of his political beliefs.

In 2004, immigration authorities granted him application for asylum.

But in 2010, immigration authorities revoked the asylum because they determined that Hasheminejad’s attorney had submitted a fraudulent affidavit on his behalf. Specifically, Hasheminejad had submitted an affidavit in Farsi to his attorney that described his fear of persecution in Iran, but its translation contained significant omissions and embellishments when compared with the original Farsi affidavit.

Hasheminejad was ordered to appear at the immigration court in November 2010, but left the country voluntarily prior to that appearance. In 2012, he submitted another affidavit to immigration authorities explaining why he had not appeared in immigration court as directed, and claimed that he left the country in 2010 because he was in “dire” financial circumstances and his financial situation in the United States and Europe had “deteriorated”.

Hasheminejad also reiterated that “the only reason I filed the asylum case was because I possessed a genuine fear of return to Iran.”

But the US prosecutors said these statements were demonstrably false as emails obtained through a series of search warrants showed. Between 2010 and 2015, Hasheminejad travelled to Iran on well over 20 occasions to conduct business and visit his family. In one email, dated 21 November 2011, Hasheminejad discussed travel with his father and stated: “Ok baba, I’ve changed the tickets, and changed your appointments, and I’ll see you in Tehran tomorrow morning.” Or on 21 December 2011, he told another individual that he was currently in Venezuela but would bring materials with him “to Tehran”.

Additionally, Hasheminejad’s statements in his 2012 immigration affidavit regarding his financial circumstances were said to be “grossly exaggerated”: despite reporting that he was in dire economic circumstances as of 2010, by 2012 Hasheminejad reported to the United States Department of the Treasury that he had approximately $37 million in assets.

This was right about the time he was starting the licensing process in Malta to start Pilatus Bank.

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