Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was a pillar in Joseph Muscat’s and Keith Schembri’s corrupt game plan that they rolled out in 2013 when they first came to power.
Ali Sadr filed an application to open a Maltese bank a few months after Labour came to power. He was granted the license a short number of months after that. His business opened in January 2014 and within a short period of time it became the clearing house for the dirty money belonging to a small number of individuals many of them directly related to the tyrant of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
The laundering of money embezzled by the governing family of Azerbaijan through a European Union bank is a very special service. It came on line a few weeks after Joseph Muscat visited Ilham Aliyev together with Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri – since retired from public life – and Kurt Farrugia, now CEO of the foreign direct investment agency Malta Enterprise.
The same small group of leading politicians in Joseph Muscat’s circle ensured that Malta procures fuel from Azerbaijan at prices higher than those obtainable on the market. The Auditor General had determined that Konrad Mizzi’s intervention in the negotiations was irregular but determining.
The intervention of these politicians also ensured that the Azerbaijani state profited handsomely from trading gas used in the new Electrogas power station owned by a consortium headed by Yorgen Fenech, since charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who discovered all the facts listed in this summary.
It is unlikely however that the easy profits made by Azerbaijani state-owned companies in selling oil and gas to Malta at stupidly expensive prices was the reward being sought by Ilham Aliyev when negotiating with Joseph Muscat.
Instead the ability of two of his children to use a Maltese bank to pass hundreds of millions of dollars on to their worldwide buying spree in places like the UAE and the UK would have been a likelier incentive.
The activities of Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad through Malta’s Pilatus Bank were suspicious to anyone looking. Keith Schembri, the prime minister’s chief of staff, intervened regularly and actively to encourage regulators and law enforcement agencies to look away from Pilatus Bank and not to interfere in its activities.
He struck up a direct relationship with Ali Sadr that can only be described as a friendship. They were frequently seen together at the lunch hour. Keith Schembri, in one of his rare but always sardonic and patronising replies to a press question, said he was always on the lookout for business opportunities.
He found one in Ali Sadr. Keith Schembri was one of Ali Sadr’s very few Maltese customers. It is reasonable to suspect he tried to drag one of his regular associates into the deal – John Dalli – who dipped his toes in Pilatus Bank probably out of politeness but went no deeper.
Keith Schembri instead used Pilatus Bank to transact some serious money. Together with the ever-present Brian Tonna he had tens of thousands deposited there from sources never fully explained. He stands accused of using Pilatus Bank to clear bribes and kickbacks. An inquiry into that accusation has been ongoing for three years and there’s still no end in sight. You’d have to wonder what the magistrates are looking for.
Another inquiry into Ali Sadr’s business has been completed. It cleared Joseph Muscat and his wife of using the bank to receive kickbacks from the Aliyevs which they then deposited using a Panama vehicle, Egrant, discovered in the Panama Papers.
The inquiry cleared Joseph Muscat but a reading of the full inquiry, published months after its conclusions, raises more questions than any answers it gave.
Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was a close friend of Joseph Muscat’s factotum Keith Schembri. Keith Schembri actively intervened with the financial intelligence agency and other law enforcement agencies to let Ali Sadr make his millions undisturbed by the attentions of audits, spot checks and such state-induced nuisance.
Ali Sadr was clearly grateful. Perhaps nothing represents his gratitude better than the fact that he flew Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri, with spouses, to his wedding in Florence in 2015.
The Egrant inquiry relied on the actions of this grateful crook to clear Joseph Muscat. We are expected to accept that he was acting entirely innocently when he walked out carrying two big bags from the backdoor of his bank, hours after Daphne Caruana Galizia said his bank held physical evidence that Michelle Muscat owned Egrant.
Look, we can say it now. He’s been convicted by a jury in New York where none of the jurors can be accused of wanting the PN to win an election in Malta or to be fans of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The man is a fraud. His defence team’s claim that Ali Sadr is “pure of heart” has been thrown out.
And yet here we are supposed to continue to believe that this multi-millionaire convicted fraudster operating in the shadow of the Iranian tyranny was carrying his own dirty underwear that fateful night.
There was another ridiculous defence that was thrown out in this trial. Ali Sadr carried a Saint Kitts & Nevis passport to hide his Iranian identity. His defence argued he did this in self-defence from the oppressive regime of his country of origin. Rubbish, of course. His father is still based in Iran and believed to be the richest man in that country. And Ali Sadr visited him there even as he argued that if he were forced into Iran he faced arrest and torture.
He used the Saint Kitts & Nevis passport as a tool to help him in his fraud conspiracy. Covering up his nationality helped him cover up his true intent.
His cover was supplied by Christian Kaelin of Henley & Partners, that other pillar in Joseph Muscat’s and Keith Schembri’s grand scheme that came on line in 2013. This is no amazing coincidence. These people belonged to the same conspiracy to use banana republics like Malta had become in 2013 for their international crimes.
For whatever individual motivations acquirers of passports might have, Henley & Partners sell citizenship to people who acquire it like a thief acquires a product advertised as a large and ventilated beanie hat but is really just an ordinary balaclava.
For saying just that Christian Kaelin threatened Daphne Caruana Galizia with a ruinous SLAPP suit filed in another country. He didn’t live up to his threat but his special client Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad did so instead filing a lawsuit against her in Arizona seeking to “recover” the seemingly arbitrary figure of US$40 million.
The US justice system has served Ali Sadr in ways he definitely did not expect when he filed that suit.
While we wait for Ali Sadr’s sentencing over a month from now and the outcome of his likely appeal we can feel some satisfaction that one of the major co-conspirators in the dismantling of our country’s reputation in the eyes of the world, not to mention the eviscerating brutality they reserved for the one journalist who was onto them, is facing some sort of justice.
But it’s bitter-sweet satisfaction. Ali Sadr is being held to account for the money he made illegally before he came to Malta and struck a deal with Joseph Muscat on how to launder and re-invest here the profits he made from his crimes. His time here was a huge component of the evidence the US investigators and prosecutors needed to get their man for the crimes he had committed against them.
But there are mountains of evidence they collected and that was not relevant to the case they had against Ali Sadr. That evidence would answer our own questions about the crimes Ali Sadr and his co-conspirators perpetrated against us, against our laws, against our country, against our reputation and against our basic freedoms.
We’ve never been told if the Maltese authorities have asked their US counterparts for any help in prosecuting Ali Sadr for crimes committed here. Think about it. No one, not a single person, was charged with even a single crime committed with, through or at Pilatus Bank. And yet it’s been shuttered. Why? It certainly did not run out of money. Which leaves the alternative that it was closed down because it was doing something wrong. But a bank is not a brass plate. If something was being done wrongly someone was doing it. And they were breaking Maltese laws when they were doing it.
Why can’t we get justice?
Because though Ali Sadr is facing decades in a US federal prison, Keith Schembri is still out to lunch. Christian Kaelin is still selling Maltese passports. Konrad Mizzi is still laughing. Kurt Farrugia is still the boss of a big government agency dealing with huge financial transactions.
And Joseph Muscat is still untouchable.