The seventh part of Godfrey Leone Ganado’s review of the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry:
On page 1404 of the report, in the introduction to what I would classify as the basis for the terms of reference which have not been published, reference is made to the Article written by Daphne Caruana Galizia on her Running Commentary and published on 20 April 2017 at 19.59.
The following are the events happening as we say in Maltese ‘kumbinazzjoni’:
- On 20 April 2017 minutes after the post was published, the Prime Minister in a swiftly called press conference, said that his lawyers would be requesting the Commissioner of Police to investigate the allegations made in the Article.
- At 20.12, the Prime Minister, through his legal representatives, requested the Commissioner of Police to investigate allegations made by Daphne Caruana Galizia in the article.
- We do not know what time the request to the Commissioner of Police was made, however we also know that on the same day at 21.15, the Chairman and owner of Pilatus Bank, Ali Sadr, was traced on the Bank’s CCTV footage leaving the bank with the risk manager Antonella Gauci, through the bank’s back door carrying two suitcases, a large one and a smaller one.
- The next day the Prime Minister went on Xarabank for a debate with the Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil and told him “either someone has fed you false information or you’re the one faking the information”.
- Egrant Inc was liquidated on 6 April 2017 and on 19 May 2017 Karl Cini was requesting from the legal services department of Mossack Fonseca in Panama, a declaration signed by the original subscribers to the two shares of Egrant Inc, stating that Jacqueline Alexander had not signed a declaration of Trust in favour of Michelle Muscat Tanti. For more on this read the 6th article in this series.
On page 1414 point 12, the report states that on 20 April 2017, Ali Sadr was on flight 1276 from Frankfurt to Malta and his flight ticket was booked under the name of Sadr Hashemi Nejad Ali. He was traced on the airport CCTV footage walking out of the Malta airport at 11.40 am and on the Pilatus Bank CCTV footage, entering the bank at around 12.45pm and leaving the bank at around 21.15.
It is very clear from the above that Ali Sadr arrived in Malta and at the Pilatus Bank, a few hours before Daphne Caruana Galizia uploaded her article, and before the Prime Minister held the press conference at 19.45 announcing ‘the greatest lie in Malta’s political history’ and that he was opening an inquiry on the ownership of Egrant Inc.
The report continues on point 12 page 1414 that the investigating team was in possession of, and had seen, CCTV footage showing Ali Sadr entering the bank and the boardroom and remaining there up to 21.15. It is not clear whether Ali Sadr remained all the time in the boardroom, although the information detailed in the report seems to confirm that he did. This is because the report sets out to prove that all the documents taken out by Ali Sadr from his suitcase were all placed in it once again before leaving.
However the report states that at 19.24, director Luis Felipe Rivera, the Chief Operating Officer of the bank walked into the boardroom and left him a paper, which Ali Sadr practically ignored, but placed it in the suitcase before leaving the bank.
On page 1416 point 13, it is stated that the pilot of a Vistajet plane that left for Baku that night testified “there were no passengers or cargo on the flight apart from the crew and suit cases with the crew’s personal effects’.
The Chief Operating Officer is the person responsible for all the operations of the Bank and therefore the person normally responsible for initiating, approving and signing documents relating to the day-to-day operations and also, the officer responsible for the safekeeping of documents. Louis Felipe Rivera was also responsible for IT (information technology) within Pilatus Bank.
A Declaration of Trust is a one page document, and therefore the paper handed over by the COO could easily have been the Declaration of Trust attributing ownership to Michelle Muscat Tanti.
A Declaration of Trust is a document in which one states that he is holding the shares in the company in the name of the beneficiary, which in the case of Egrant Inc was alleged to be the Prime Minister’s wife.
The CCTV footage of Ali Sadr in the Boardroom, seems focused on proving beyond doubt that his movements were monitored and that the suitcases were monitored all the time to prove that no additional documents to those that were already in the suitcases when he arrived, were placed in the suitcase/s, except for that one sheet of paper given by the COO to Ali Sadr.
It is very unusual to have a CCTV system monitoring a Boardroom as board meetings are private and no one outside the Board should have an interest in watching the movements of the Directors attending board meetings, which in principle, are confidential meetings both with regards to details as well as persons attending.
The only known instances of having board rooms monitored by CCTV, is when there could be physical threats to the directors, and the bank’s security department is tasked to monitor entrance and exit into boardrooms. This situation is nowadays bypassed by having a digital code for one to access.
It must also be stated that in a bank like Pilatus, having a client profile replete with highly Politically Exposed Persons, not one client would accept to be captured directly or indirectly by a CCTV camera.
If Ali Sadr did not leave the boardroom, one may question whether in a span of 8 hours how he did not have to leave the room to attend to a nature call.
The fact that Ali Sadr was monitored, does not necessarily mean that a member or members of the staff could not access documents, including the ones in the kitchen safe, to transfer them out to the car which would eventually see him to the airport. Any such documents could have easily replaced the ones that were already in the suitcases. One may ask whether staff movements, into and out of the office as well as within the office throughout the full day of 20 April and possibly also the day before, were recorded on the CCTV and reviewed by the investigating team.
The investigating team could have also reviewed movements into and out of the bank by persons other than employees, like for example, Karl Cini and Keith Schembri.
The report does not mention whether Ali Sadr had a specific reason for flying out to Malta for a few hours. It is the norm that expatriate Chairmen and Board Directors fly to Malta to attend at Scheduled Board Meetings, the Annual Board Meeting for the approval of the audited financial statements and any additional board meeting to approve matters which cannot wait till the scheduled date of a board meeting.
We do know however that no Board meeting was held on 20 April 2017.
Ali Sadr was spotted walking out of the airport at 11.40 am and walking into the bank at 12.45pm. What happened during that one hour gap? Surely, it takes less than an hour for the trip from Luqa to Ta’ Xbiex during off-peak hours.
The report states that “it was registered that he entered the Pilatus Bank offices with (two) bags … and he placed the bags behind him to the side”. It goes on “he is seen taking out a tablet, a mobile phone, some documents and stationery from the bag”. Why is there first a reference to two bags and then only to one? What happened to the other bag? Is there any chance the other bag was transformed into somebody else’s personal effects?
More than ‘the greatest lie in Malta’s political history,’ we seem to be witnessing ‘the first mammoth cover up story in Malta’s political history’.
A link to part 1 of this series is here.
A link to part 2 of this series is here.
A link to part 3 of this series is here.
A link to part 4 of this series is here.
A link to part 5 of this series is here.