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MaltaToday 13 July 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 13 JULY 2022 2 NEWS Over 7,000 suspicious transaction reports filed with FIAU in 2021 NICOLE MEILAK THE police corps is in the pro- cess of issuing arrest warrants against persons in connection with its investigation into the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank, ac- cording to Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa. Gafa told The Malta Independ- ent on Tuesday that police have reached a stage in their inves- tigations where they can issue arrest warrants, although the bank and its money-laundering reporting officer were already charged last year. MaltaToday reported last Jan- uary that the international ar- rest warrants for Pilatus Bank owners and top brass had not yet been executed, despite being signed by a magistrate in March 2021 on the back. of a 600,000 page inquiry into the bank. The IAWs remain pending ev- er since Magistrate Ian Farrugia signed them, three months after finalising the €7.5 million in- quiry in December 2020. The arrest warrants are for Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sa- dr Hasheminejad, who is be- lieved to be living in the Unit- ed States of America after his arrest and later acquittal on sanctions-busting charges; Pi- latus Bank operations chief Luis Rivera, now living in Tex- as; operations supervisor Meh- met Tasli; director Hamidreza Ghambari; and chief risk officer Antoniella Gauci. Pilatus Bank was implicated in the Egrant affair, when the late journalist Daphne Caruana Gal- izia claimed that the bank had processed a $1 million payment from the Aliyevs of Azerbaijan to the wife of former prime min- ister Joseph Muscat. The allegation was disproven by a Maltese magisterial inquiry along with other allegations she made about Pilatus Bank, but by then the banks' other dealings for Azerbaijan had come under the lens of financial investiga- tors. The bank's operations became the subject of at least two mag- isterial inquiries, the Egrant inquiry; and a complaint filed by the former PN leader Simon Busuttil on money paid by Nexia BT partner Brian Tonna to the PM's chief of staff Keith Schem- bri shortly after receiving pay- ment from Russian clients who had acquired Maltese citizen- ship under the IIP. Rule-of-law NGO Repubbli- ka had filed an appeal in Court against the Police Commissioner last month over inaction against top Pilatus Bank officials. In reaction to Gafa's statement, the NGO said it was shocking to hear the Commissioner say that the police is still working to issue the international arrest warrants in this case. "This step is being taken too late and is being done because the Commissioner is being forced to do his duty by civil so- ciety. All this is unacceptable," Repubblika said. "When we meet [the Police Commissioner and Attorney General] in Court we will soon show in black and white their collusion to protect criminals. We will make sure that the insti- tutions function, whether they want to or not." Police statement Issuing a reaction over reports on the Commissioner's state- ment, the police insisted Gafa did not say the mandate was yet to be issued, "as was interpreted" in the media. "When Commissioner Ga- fa said 'we are in that stage', he was referring to the stage of an international mandate, which is a tool used by investigators in a process which involves foreign jurisdictions, and so can be a lengthy process," the statement read. "He did not say the man- date is yet to be issued, as was interpreted." Police in process of issuing international arrest warrants in Pilatus Bank case - Gafa Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa OVER 7,000 supicious transac- tion reports were filed with the Financial Intelligence Analy- sis Unit (FIAU) in 2021, up my around 40% compared to the previous year. The FIAU's annual report shows increased reporting on suspicious transactions and fi- nancial activity. Such reports are received by the anti-money laundering agency from banks, legal professionals, gaming com- panies, casinos, or real estate agencies, when large amounts of money and their source cannot be accounted for. There has been a notable in- crease in suspicious transaction and activity reporting. In 2021, 7,218 reports were filed with the unit, up by 39% from 2020 when 5,175 reports were filed. Similar to recent years, remote gaming companies were respon- sible for over half of reports last year, with 4,822 reports in 2021. Credit institutions and Virtu- al Financial Asset providers ac- counted for 12% and 6% of sub- mitted reports respectively. In 82% of suspicious reports, the subject of the report was a natural person. In all o ther cases the report was submitted on an organisation or entity. 22% of the natural persons sub- ject to a suspicious report were from the United States, while 13% were Maltese. Meanwhile 36% of the organisations about which a report was received were Maltese. Reasons for suspicion In 38% of reports filed to the FI- AU, the primary reason for sus- picion was an unknown source of wealth and funding, or a refusal on the person's side to provide information or documentation on their source of wealth. The second most common reason for suspicion was unex- plained or inconsistent transac- tion activity in a customer profile, such as a sudden large volume of deposits not in line with the cus- tomer's known profile. In 20% of cases, the subject of the report would have featured in adverse media sources. When companies or institu- tions submit a suspicious trans- action report, a predicate offence is also reported. But in 57% of reports, the pred- icate offence could not be estab- lished immediately. Instead, the person filing the report would identify the suspicious activity or transaction and report it to the FIAU. However, the most report- ed predicate offence was fraud, comprising 31% of submitted reports. Tax crimes were the second most common report at 16%. International cooperation Part of the FIAU's intelligence responsibilities includes re- questing cooperation and infor- mation to or from other finan- cial intelligence units in other countries. In 2021, the FIAU sent 928 re- quests, and received 290. Help was mostly requested from Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Lithuania and Swit- zerland. Meanwhile, financial intelligence units in Italy, Ger- many, France, Lithuania and Finland were the top five senders that requested assistance from the FIAU. The FIAU sent over 7,000 spon- taneous intelligence reports, while only receiving 152 reports. 11% of reports were sent to the US, while 29% of the reports re- ceived by the FIAU were from Germany.

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