Pilatus Bank social image

The EU General Court has dismissed an application by defunct Pilatus Bank plc to regain a banking licence.

The ruling was announced on Wednesday, in response to an application filed by Pilatus which sought to annul a 2018 decision by the European Central Bank (ECB) to withdraw its licence.

This revocation came two years after allegations of suspected money laundering activity were first raised by slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The bank’s chairman and founder Ali Sad was also arrested in the US, though later found not guilty of the money-laundering charges leveraged against him after disclosure failures by US prosecutors.

In an investigation following the first allegations, Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) and officials in Malta’s Government gave the bank a clean bill of health.

However, a subsequent investigation completed last year, which begun in 2018 following a reform of the FIAU’s procedures, uncovered a “serious and systematic failure” of the bank to follow anti-money laundering laws.

The Authority cited that of particular concern was the bank’s “lax approach towards both its due diligence and enhanced due diligence obligations” and slapped it with a record fine of €4.9 million.

Pilatus, however, has repeatedly claimed it was a victim of incorrect assessment.

Maltese authorities’ takeover of the bank is also subject to an international dispute, with lawyers from Pilatus Bank’s parent company Alpene Ltd alleging a network of “corrupt Government officials” are draining the bank of its assets.

Legal filings claim that since the bank was “wrongfully” closed by regulators it has been stripped of its assets to the benefit of “Maltese officials, individuals and businesses”.

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