Riħa ta’ ħut

Bħala mexxej ta’ partit politiku jiena meqjus persuna esposta politikament (politically exposed person – PEP) skond kif tipprovdi ir-Raba’ Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropeja kontra l-ħasil tal-flus, hekk kif din ġiet trasposta fil-liġi Maltija. Anke membri tal-familja immedjata tiegħi huma kkunsidrati bl-istess mod. Politiċi oħra flimkien mal-familja tagħhom huma fl-istess qagħda.

Hu meqjus li l-persuni esposti politikament  (PEPs), minħabba l-posizzjoni li jokkupaw, huma f’riskju ikbar ta’ involviment fil-ħasil tal-flus. Ma hemm l-ebda distinzjoni bejn dawk li għandhom u jeżerċitaw il-poter eżekuttiv u dawk li ma għandhom xejn minn dan. Jiena wieħed minn tal-aħħar!  

It-talbiet għall-informazzjoni, xi minn daqqiet repetittivi u bla ħtieġa, li jiena u diversi membri tal-familja nirċievu idejquk, avolja nifhem il-ħtieġa tagħhom kieku kellhom isiru bil-galbu.   L-uffiċjali tal-bank bosta drabi juru entużjażmu esaġerat mal-ħuta ż-żgħira biex imbagħad ma jagħtu każ ta’ xejn, jew kważi, meta titfaċċa l-ħuta l-kbira.  

Mhuwiex aċċettabbli li waqt li jissorveljaw b’żelu u entużjażmu esaġerat lil dawk li huma ta’ riskju żgħir, imbagħad, lil dawk li mhux biss huma ta’ riskju imma li fil-fatt jabbużaw kontinwament, dawn jibqgħu għaddejjin qiesu qatt ma kien xejn. Dawn jirnexxielhom jiżgiċċaw għax ikollhom min jgħinhom eżatt fil-waqt u l-post meħtieġ. Verament każ tal-ħabib fis-suq li hu ferm aħjar mill-flus fis-senduq!

L-aħħar każ ippresentat il-Qorti dwar il-ħasil tal-flus jeħodna minn restorant tal-ħut sal-bank u lura. Il-mixja ta’ tiftix tal-allegat ħasil tal-flus wasslet lill-pulizija investigattiva sa restorant tal-ħut f’Marsaxlokk u ieħor ġol-Belt Valletta. Din l-investigazzjoni tidher li hi konnessa ma każ ieħor ewlieni dwar allegat ħasil tal-flus: dak konness mal-kuntrabandu tad-diesel mil-Libja.

Wieħed mill-persuni li presentment għaddej proċeduri kriminali fil-passat kien uffiċjal ta’ bank. Illum hu irtirat, kif fakkarna l-bank stess wara li dan ttella’ l-Qorti.

Il-punt importanti hu dwar il-konnessjoni li qed jingħad li kien hemm bejn ir-ristoranti tal-ħut u l-bank.  Fil-fatt, il-medja, hi u tirrapporta x-xhieda li nstemgħet waqt l-ewwel seduta tal-proċeduri kriminali, irrappurtat li l-uffiċjal prosekutur, huwa u jispjega kif żvolġiet l-investigazzjoni qal li dan l-ex-impjegat tal-bank, meta kien għadu fl-impieg bħala uffiċjal tat-taqsima tal-bank li tieħu ħsieb il-ħidma tal-kumpaniji allegatament kien ta’ għajnuna fil-ħidma tal-ħasil ta’ flus taħt investigazzjoni. Qed ikun suġġerit li din l-għajnuna serviet biex tinsatar il-ħidma ta’ dawk li allegatament kienu qed jaħslu l-flus.  

Dan l-uffiċjal tal-bank illum m’għadux impjegat mal-bank. Sadanittant ħa promozzjoni u issa qed jieħu ħsieb il-kumpaniji fejn allegatament jinħaslu l-flus.

Xi rwol għandha l-MFSA (L-Awtorità Maltija dwar is-Servizzi Finanzjarji) f’dan kollu? Waqt li kienet għaddejja din il-biċċa xogħol l-uffiċjal ewlieni (CEO) tal-MFSA kien għaddej minn perjodu ta’ kollaborazzjoni ma’ Yorgen Fenech, li presentment għaddej proċeduri kriminali fil-Qrati Maltin bl-akkuża li kien il-moħħ wara l-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia u huwa meħtieġ ukoll li jidher fi Sqallija dwar skandlu ieħor, din id-darba dwar logħob tal-azzard illegali kif ukoll dwar tbagħbis ta’ logħob.  

X’monitoraġġ jagħmlu l-MFSA u l-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) biex jassiguraw li l-banek iwettqu sewwa l-obbligi tagħhom konnessi mal-ħasil tal-flus?

L-akkużi li ippreżentaw il-pulizija din il-ġimgħa jindikaw li dan il-moniteraġġ, jekk jeżisti, huwa dgħajjef u ineffettiv ħafna.

L-uffiċjal tal-bank issa bidel l-impieg. Minn ħidma regolatorja fil-bank issa għadda biex allegatament jieħu ħsieb il-ħasil tal-flus ġejjin mill-kuntrabandu tad-diesel Libjan. Din hi l-konklużjoni loġika li toħroġ mill-akkużi tal-Puliizja din il-ġimgħa dwar l-użu tar-ristoranti tal-ħut fil-Belt Valletta u Marsaxlokk bħala allegati għodda tal-ħasil tal-flus.

Kieku l-MFSA ul-FIAU ħadmu sewwa dan kollu ma kienx ikun possibli li jseħħ.  Hu każ ċar fejn l-industrija tal-ħasil tal-flus qed timpjega lin-nies li ġejjin mill-awtoritajiet regolatorji. Affarijiet li qed iseħħu fid-dawl tax-xemx mingħajr ħadd ma jinduna jew jagħti każ.  

L-istituzzjonijiet qed jaħdmu għax jidher li t-taħwid qed jikber bil-minuti? Wieħed jittama li l-MFSA u l-FIAU jieħdu azzjoni deċiżiva, u din id-darba b’urġenza.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 18 t’April 2021

Fishy Business

As the leader of a political party, I am considered as a politically exposed person (PEP) in line with the provisions of EU 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive as transposed into Maltese law. Even members of my immediate family are so considered. Other politicians and their families are in a similar position.

It is held that politically exposed persons (PEPs), by virtue of the position they hold present a higher risk for involvement in money-laundering. There is no practical distinction between PEPs who exercise executive authority and those who have none of it, as yours truly!

The unnecessary, at times repetitive, queries from banks which I and various members of my family receive, are at times very annoying, even though I understand their scope and need if they were to carried out appropriately.  At times however, bank officials are overzealous with small fry, and then look sideways when facing the big fish.

It is unacceptable that while monitoring of persons who pose a minor and insignificant risk for involvement in money-laundering is done (at times), with exaggerated zeal, yet those who not only pose a risk, but actually do it manage to avoid any sort of detection by having the right friends at the right places assisting them in meticulously piloting the waters.

The latest money laundering cases in court this week take us from the fish restaurant to the bank and back again. Investigating the money-laundering trail took the police investigators to Marsaxlokk and Valletta fish restaurants. This investigation is apparently linked to another major money-laundering case: the laundering of monies allegedly resulting from the Libyan diesel smuggling operation.

One of the persons arraigned is a former bank official. He is now retired, as emphasised, after the arraignment, by his former employer the bank.

The point at issue is the trail between the fish restaurant and the bank. In fact, reporting on the testimony at the first sitting in the criminal courts the media emphasised that the prosecuting officer, in explaining the background to the investigation carried out, stated that the former bank official, when still in employment as an official of the bank’s corporate banking unit, had allegedly been of assistance in the money laundering operation currently under review. It has been suggested that such assistance helped the alleged money launderers to avoid detection for quite some time.

The former bank official is no longer in the bank’s employment. In the meantime, he had taken a promotion and is now on the books of the alleged money launderer, a Director of his various companies.

What is the role of the MFSA (Malta Financial Services Authority) in all this? This operation was in motion at the time when the Chief Executive Officer of the MFSA was in cahoots with Yorgen Fenech, currently under the criminal spotlight himself, accused with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the Maltese Courts and simultaneously wanted in Sicily as part of a match fixing and illegal betting scandal.

What monitoring do the MFSA and the FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) carry out to ensure that the banks perform their money-laundering regulatory functions diligently?

This week’s police charge sheet seems to indicate that any such monitoring, if at all existent, was very weak and for all intents and purposes ineffective.

The bank official changed his job and moved on from his bank regulatory duties to allegedly managing the laundering of monies generated from the Libyan diesel smuggling operation. This is the logical conclusion drawn from the police charge sheet presented this week on the alleged use of the fish restaurants at Valletta and Marsaxlokk as money-laundering tools.

If the MFSA and FIAU had carried out their duties properly this would not have been possible. This is a clear case where the revolving door recruitment from the regulatory authorities to the money-laundering industry operated under the very noses of the regulatory authorities themselves with no one noticing or bothering about it.

Are the institutions really functioning, as the mess gets bigger every day?

Hopefully the MFSA and the FIAU take decisive action, urgently, for a change.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 18 April 2021

Bank officials and the revolving door

The money laundering criminal case instituted this morning relative to the possible use of a number of restaurants in the scam is another milestone for the Malta Police.

It is however very worrying as it shows the “revolving door” recruitment with ease which former bank officials use from their regulatory role in the bank to an operational role in the companies they should have kept a watch over. The question which begs an answer is whether the “revolving door” recruitment is payment for services rendered.

It is another lacuna which needs decisive action the soonest. Regulating “revolving door” recruitment is not just an issue for politicians.

Hopefully the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) takes decisive action urgently.

The octopus in our midst

During the past weeks we have been witnessing the exposure of a web of criminality which has infiltrated and infected all sectors of our society.  Revelations are being made public by instalments, as if a new edition of La Piovra (made in Malta) is being launched.

Information leaking from the Yorgen Fenech investigation as well as from other related investigations has revealed an intricate network which pervades practically all local institutions. Just like the octopus which with its eight long tentacles seeks to control all from far away.

We cannot say that we were not warned about this. At a point in time, it was stated that if Yorgen Fenech falls, all around him will collapse too. One instalment after the other we are realising the extent of control of the octopus.

One witness after another is confirming that the criminal gang under investigation was continuously aware of the different moves of the police investigators, in real time and with substantial notice. Those carrying out the assassination were even aware, with a three-week notice, as to when they were to be arrested. It was sufficient notice, we were told, that enabled them to plan where they would prefer the arrest to take place. They selected the potato shed at Marsa as their preference!

You would undoubtedly remember the first news instalments on Silvio Valletta, then still Deputy Commissioner of Police and in charge of the criminal investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was introduced as Uncle Silvio to Yorgen Fenech’s family. The two men (Silvio and Yorgen), one year after the assassination were on such close terms that on the 29 September 2018, they were together at Stamford Bridge enjoying a game of football: Chelsea playing against Liverpool.

It is no news that Yorgen Fenech has a sharp eye for strategic investment opportunities. He chose his portfolio with care. He invested carefully in Silvio Valletta. Silvio was after all also a member of the Board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). Such focused investments yield handsome dividends. Most probably there is still much more that we do not know yet as to the dividends actually reaped.

These are the methods of the Mafia, a term which we normally use to describe organised crime which is so organised that it infiltrates all layers of the state. The Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Deputy Police Commissioner, one Cabinet Minister, and a number of others of a lower order were depicted in the testimony to date as being in the service of organised crime. This is as serious as it gets. Whether others higher up were also in the game is still not known for certain yet.

It is not known when the whole truth will be uncovered even though periodically we learn about an additional small bit .

This has been possible because successive governments have been allergic to good governance. The abundance of institutions set up throughout the years have been staffed with a multitude of weak men and women who have generally not been capable of standing up to the exercise of raw power. In the moment of truth, because they were weak, they gave way and allowed the octopus to move unhindered.

The published information, including confidential chats on WhatsApp, with senior officers of the Malta Gaming Authority, the Malta Financial Services Authority, the Planning Authority and others, is another worrying indicator as to how the authorities set up to defend society have been seriously undermined and compromised.

The road ahead is very difficult to navigate.  Undoubtedly, much more is yet unknown. The octopus is still in control.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 21st March 2021

Bomba tal-ħin jisimha Pilatus

Il-kwistjoni tal-bank Pilatus Bank għandha l-potenzjal li tkun il-kawża ta’ ħsara li tmur lil hinn minn dik lir-reputazzjoni tal-pajjiż.

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa kien żvelat li ċ-Chairman tal-Bank Pilatus Ali Sadr Hasheminejad bħala riżultat ta’ investigazzjonijiet li kienu ilhom għaddejjin madwar sitt snin kien arrestat fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika u akkużat li pprova jdur mas-sanzjonijiet Amerikani kontra l-Iran billi uża banek Amerikani ħalli jittrasferixxi miljuni ta’ dollari mill-Venezwela b’mod li ħeba l-konnessjoni Iranjana.

Ġejna infurmati li dawn l-akkużi, jekk ippruvati, jistgħu jwasslu sa massimu ta’ 125 sena l-ħabs.

F’temp ta’ ftit siegħat, nhar il-Ħamis, hekk kif ħarġet l-aħbar, l-Awtoritá Maltija tas-Servizzi Finanzjarji (MFSA) neħħiet lil Ali Sadr Hasheminejad mit-tmexxija tal-bank Pilatus, inkluż li ssospendiet d-drittijiet kollha tiegħu fuq il-bank u mbagħad ipproċediet biex ħatret amministratur bl-inkarigu li jmexxi l-bank u jieħu ħsieb l-assi kollha tiegħu. Dan sar wara li MFSA tat direzzjoni li l-bank ma kellux jiddisponi minn, jillikwida, jittrasferixxi jew b’xi mod imiss l-assi u l-flus tal-klijenti tal-bank.

Issa sirna nafu ukoll li x-xahar li għadda l-Awtoritá Ewropeja dwar il-Banek (European Banking Authority) kienet ordnat li tinbeda investigazzjoni preliminari dwar is-supervizjoni tal-bank Pilatus mill-Awtoritá Maltija tas-Servizzi Finanzjarja u b’mod partikolari dwar il-verifiki li kellhom isiru in konnessjoni mal-kapital inizzjali ta’ €8 miljuni li Ali Sadr Hasheminejad uża biex waqqaf il-bank.

Damu ftit jaħsbuha!

Bosta minna jiftakru lil Ali Sadr Hasheminejad ħiereġ mill-uffiċini ta’ Pilatus f’Ta’ Xbiex tard fil-għaxija, jum fost l-oħrajn, bil-kameras tat-TV jiġru warajh u bil-gurnalisti jfajjru l-mistoqsijiet. Kienu qed jistaqsu jekk fil-bagalji li kellu kienx hemm xi dokumenti tal-bank konnessi mal-kontroversja dwar min kienu is-sidien ta’ Egrant inkella dwar it-trasferimenti ta’ flejjes minn uħud mill-kontijiet tal-bank.

Ir-Repubblika tal-Azerbajġan ilha ftit turi interss f’kooperazzjoni ma’ Malta. Ta’ interess f’dan is-sens kienet stqarrija ta’ 127 kelma li ħarġet lejn tmiem Diċembru tal-2014 li ħabbret li kien ġie iffirmat ftehim bejn Konrad Mizzi, dakinnhar Ministru tal-Enerġija ta’ Malta u l-kontro-parti tiegħu Natiq Aliyev kif ukoll ftehim ieħor mal-kumpanija statali taż-żejt tar-Repubblika tal-Azerbajġan (SOCAR). La l-istampa Maltja ma kienet hemm u l-anqas ma kien hemm uffiċjali pubbliċi jassistu lid-delegazzjoni Maltija mmexxija mill-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat. Dakinhar kulħadd kien staqsa “għaliex ?”

F’dan l-isfond ma nafx liema hu dak il-pajjiż li jista’ jżomm ir-reputazzjoni tiegħu intatta!
Bħalissa għaddejjin diversi investigazzjonijiet, lkoll bil-pass ta’ nemla. F’xi ħin, nittama li mhux il-bogħod, kapaċi naraw il-biċċiet jingħaqdu fi stampa waħda li tkun ċara u li tinftiehem minn kulħadd.

Kull investgazzjoni mitmuma, kull rapport konkluż, tnaqqas it-tul tal-miċċa ta’ din il-bomba tal-ħin. Nittama biss li meta din il-bomba tal-ħin tieħu teqred biss lil dawk li ħolquha jew lil dawk li qagħdu jitbissmu lil dawk li ħolquha. Sfortunatament il-ħsara tinfirex.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 25 ta’ Marzu 2018

 

It-tieġ ta’ Venezja u l-ħasil tal-flus

 

Diversi qed jistaqsu għalfejn dan l-għaġeb kollu dwar min attenda għat-tieġ li sar Venezja fejn iżżewweġ dak li sa ftit ġranet ilu kien iċ-Chairman u s-sid tal-bank Pilatus, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.

Kull wieħed minna għandu l-obbligu li joqgħod attent biex dak li jagħmel fil-ħajja privata tiegħu jew tagħha ma jirriflettix ħażin fuq il-ħidma pubblika tiegħu jew tagħha. Biex inkun ċar, meta ngħid il-ħidma pubblika mhux qed nillimita ruħi għall-politiċi.

Sfortunatament għal bosta sar qiesu xejn m’hu xejn.

L-arrest fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika ta’ Ali Sadr Hasheminejad sar il-ġimgħa l-oħra. Kien arrest dwar ksur tal-liġijiet Amerikani fuq is-sanzjonijiet kontra l-Iran.

Imma kien ix-xahar l-ieħor li l-European Banking Authority fetħet inkjesta preliminari dwar is-sorveljanza li l-MFSA għamlet fuq il-bank Pilatus u b’mod partikolari dwar id-due diligence meħtiega biex ikun stabilit is-sors tat-€8 miljuni kapital inizzjali biex fetaħ il-bank.

L-issue tal-ħasil tal-flus ilha tissemma xhur sħaħ fil-konfront tal-bank Pilatus.

Il-mistoqsija allura li teħtieġ tweġiba hi dwar jekk kienx hemm preżenti għal dan it-tieġ f’Venezja persuni li x-xogħol tagħhom ta’ kuljum jikkonċerna s-sorveljanza kontra l-ħasil tal-flus.

Biex inkun l-iktar ċar possibli ħa nikkwota ir-rapport ta’ Lovin Malta li ġie ippubblikat il-bieraħ il-Ħadd 25 ta’ Marzu 2018. Jgħid hekk :
“Also present at Ali Sadr’s wedding was Juanita Bencini, a consultant at KPMG – the auditors of Pilatus Bank. Bencini is President of the Institute of the Financial Services Practitioners and chairs the IFSP’s Prevention of Money Laundering And Funding Of Terrorism committee. She is also board member of the government’s finance promotional arm FinanceMalta and chairs the anti-money laundering committee of the Malta Institute of Accountants.

She was accompanied to the wedding by her husband Austin Bencini, who sits on the board of directors of Allied Newspapers – which owns The Times of Malta.”

Ikun interessanti ħafna jekk inkunu nafu x’taħseb l-MFSA dwar dan. U kif qegħdin fiha l-korpi professjonali tal-accountants u l-awdituri jistgħu jilluminawna ftit ukoll!

L-etika professjonali fejn hi?

 

A time-bomb called Pilatus

The Pilatus Bank saga has the potential to develop into much more than damage to the country’s reputation. 

Earlier this week it was revealed that Pilatus Chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was, as a result of investigations spanning the past six years, arrested in the United States on charges that he evaded US-Iran sanctions by moving millions of dollars from Venezuela through US banks using a network of banks in order to conceal the Iranian connection.

We were informed that if the charges are proven a maximum sentence of 125 years behind bars is at stake.

Over a number of hours  on Thursday, the MFSA removed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad from the Pilatus Chairmanship, stripped him of all authority over the bank – including the suspension of his voting rights – and then proceeded to appoint an administrator to take charge of the bank and its assets. It further directed the bank “not to dispose, liquidate, transfer or otherwise deal with clients’ assets and monies”.

At the same time, the media informed us that last month the European Banking Authority ordered a preliminary inquiry into the Malta Financial Services Authority’s supervision of Pilatus Bank. In particular, this should be dealing with the due diligence checks of the €8 million initial capital which Ali Sadr Hasheminejad used to set up the bank. Is it not about time that such an inquiry is held?

Most of us do remember Ali Sadr Hasheminejad leaving Pilatus offices in Ta’ Xbiex late one evening last year, moving heavy luggage towards his parked car. He was being filmed by a television crew and questioned as to whether he was removing any bank documents from the bank’s vaults in the wake of the Egrant ownership allegations as well as in view of leaked information as to the ownership of a number of accounts held at Pilatus Bank and the transfers carried out to and from such accounts.

The involvement of the Azerbaijani dynasty in a number of matters adds further spice to the developing stories.

Coincidentally, the Azerbaijani Republic is interested in cooperation with tiny Malta. Of interest in this respect is a 127-word statement issued late in December 2014 announcing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Dr Konrad Mizzi, at the time Malta’s Energy Minister, and his counterpart Natiq Aliyev, as well as a further Memorandum with the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR). The Maltese press did not cover the event and,  moreover, no Maltese civil servants were present to assist the Maltese delegation led by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Everyone had queried this at the time.

This is part of the background which, even if its individual bits were unrelated, is sufficient to blow to smithereens any country’s reputation.

Various investigations are currently in the pipeline, albeit moving at a snail’s pace. At some point in time, hopefully not too distant, we may be able to see which parts of the jigsaw puzzle fit together.

Each investigation concluded, and each report published, shortens the fuse of this time-bomb. It can only be hoped that when this time-bomb goes off it will only destroy those who created it – or who watched its development in awe. Unfortunately, the collateral damage will, inevitably, be substantial.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 25th March 2018

Min hu bħal Pilatu?

Li Pilatu jkun fl-aħbarijiet lejliet kull Ġimgħa l-Kbira hu normali.

L-akkużi gravi fi New York kontra ċ-Chairman tal-Bank Pilatus Ali Sadr Hasheminejad kienu ilhom ikunu investigati sa mill-2013. Id-delitti finanzjarji fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika jidher li jeħduhom bis-serjetá. It-tmexmix tal-fenek probabbilment jitħalla għal wara s-sentenza.

Waqt li fl-Istati Uniti kien qed ikun investigat iċ-Chairman tal-Bank Pilatus f’Malta l-MFSA kienet qed tagħmel due diligence dwar l-istess bank. Mid-dehra l-MFSA kienet sodisfatta b’dak li rriżultala tant li fl-2014 ħarġet il-liċenzja tal-Bank.

Ilna nistaqsu dwar kif dan il-Bank ħa l-liċenzja. Għax hu diffiċli biex tifhem kif inhu possibli li fl-Istati Uniti l-Bank ikun taħt il-lenti u qed jiġi investigat u f’pajjiż ieħor fl-istess ħin jinfetħulu l-bibien beraħ u jingħata l-liċenzja.

L-MFSA għandha ħafna x’tispjega.

Hu meħtieġ li l-MFSA stess tkun investigata biex ikun stabilit x’irriżulta waqt il-proċess tad-due diligence u jekk kienx hemm min għalaq għajnejh. Fi ftit kliem: d-due diligence sar bis-serjetá jew le?

L-istejjer li ilna nisimgħu dwar il-Bank Pilatus matul dawn l-aħħar xhur misshom ilhom li wasslu għal azzjoni drastika. Meta illum l-MFSA damet ġurnata sħiħa tiddelibera dwar x’ser tagħmel kont nistenna li tkun sospiża l-liċenzja tal-Bank inkella li l-MFSA taħtar amministrazzjoni temporanja u indipendenti għall-bank biex ikunu assigurat li jekk hemm xi provi li jistgħu jixħtu d-dawl fuq dak li għaddej, dawn ikunu ppreservati.

Għax ngħiduha kif inhi, li bank ikollu lill-Gvern tal-Azerbajan bħala klijent ewlieni tiegħu kellha tiftah għajnejn kulħadd li hemm xi ħaġa mhux f’postha. Għax il-Gvern tal-Azerbajan hu magħruf bħala wieħed mill-iktar Gvernijiet korrotti fid-dinja.

Kif ngħidu, ma min rajtek, xebbaħtek.

Xi ħadd qed jaħsel idejh bħal Pilatu.

Meta Pilatu ħasel idejh

L-istorja dwar il-Bank ta Pilatu jidher li hi ħafna iktar kumplessa milli naħsbu. L-informazzjoni ħierġa ftit ftit u nimmaġina li hemm ħafna iktar xtoħroġ, apparti l-ħafna li qatt mhu ser jara d-dawl tax-xemx.

Tgħallimna li Pilatu ħasel idejh.

Il-Bank ta Pilatu wasal sa hawn għax kien hawn min ħasel idejh u ħeles mis-serjetá. Il-Bank mhux ser jagħti informazzjoni pubblika dwar il-klijenti tiegħu. Imma anke l-iktar ħarsa ħafifa lejn il-lista żgħira tal-klijenti tal-bank magħrufa sissa twassal inevitabilment għal xokk kbir.

Qed jingħad li l-bank hu effettivament il-Bank tal-Azerbaijġan, l-iktar pajjiż korrott fid-dinja. Possibli li l-Awtoritá dwar is-Servizzi Finanzjarji qatt ma kellha l-iċken suspett dwar dan? Anke l-fatt li Bank ta dan ix-xorta jingħata liċenzja, fiha innifisha tqanqal suspetti kbar li t-tmexxija tal-Awtoritá dwar is-Servizzi Finanzjarji ma tafx xinhi tagħmel, jew, agħar minn hekk taf iżżejjed xinhi tagħmel.

Ilkoll niftakru l-kritika qawwija li kien hemm minn Evarist Bartolo dwar iċ-Chairman tal-Awtoritá għas-Servizzi Finanzjarji l-Professur J. Bannister xi xhur ilu. Illum wieħed jifhem ftit iktar għalfejn kien iddefendieh ħafna l-Onor Prim Ministru liċ-Chairman.

Dan kollu isaħħah l-argument li bosta ilhom jagħmlu, li l-kawża tal-problemi kollha tagħna huma l-istituzzjonijiet fMalta li huma kompromessi: kemm bil-mod li jinħatru kif ukoll bil-persuni li jinħatru biex imexxuhom.

Għax f’Malta ħafna affarijiet jiddependu fuq li Pilatu jaħsel idejh. Għax jekk u meta Pilatu ma jaħsilx idejh, iżda jiddeċiedi li jagħmel xogħolu, jibdew il-problemi għal ħafna nies.

 

The financing of Fawlty Towers

Townsquare.Fawlty Tower

The saga of the Mrieħel and the Townsquare towers is now entering a new phase, with the planning appeal stopwatch due to start ticking shortly –  most probably towards the end of the month. It is known that, so far, Sliema Local Council and a number of environmental NGOs will be appealing against the 4 August decision of the Planning Authority to approve the “Fawlty Towers” at Mrieħel and Townsquare Sliema .

Financing of the projects is next. The banks cannot increase their already substantial exposure to loans that are dependent on building speculation. Consequently, the developers will inevitably have to seek the involvement of private citizens and, possibly, institutional investors. Most probably, the process for financing the projects has already commenced; it will involve the issuing of bonds to the public and will normally be sponsored by a bank and a stock-broking agency.

The bank or banks and stockbrokers sponsoring the bond issue will have to ensure that the bonds are subject to an “appropriateness and suitability testing” subject to such direction as the Malta Financial Services Authority  may consider necessary and suitable. Also, in the light of past local unpleasant experiences, the Authority will undoubtedly be guided by the need to ensure  that prospective investors fully understand the inherent risks of the proposed investments.  It will also ensure that detailed information is published in the form of a suitable prospectus in which the small print is both legible and understandable.

Those who finance the high-rise projects should shoulder responsibility for their impact together with the Planning Authority and the developers. They will potentially make it happen, so they should carry the can. It is important to get this message through: those who will invest in the Gasan and Tumas bonds intended to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  should receive more than a monetary return on their investment. The moment they sign up they will also assume co-responsibility – with the developers, the Planning Authority, the bank or banks and the sponsoring stockbrokers – for this projected development .

Word is going around on the need to boycott the services and products placed on the market by the Gasan and Tumas Groups. Journalist Jürgen Balzan, writing in Malta Today described these services and products as being wide-ranging (hotels, car-dealerships, gaming, finance and property) which easily impact on the daily life of a substantial number of Maltese citizens. However, such a boycott’s only link with  the “Fawlty  Towers”  would be through the owners.  It would be preferable for a boycott to have a direct link with the offensive action.  In this context, the forthcoming bond issue to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  presents itself as a suitable opportunity.

A boycott is a non-violent instrument of protest that is perfectly legitimate in a democratic society. The boycotting of the forthcoming bond issue would send a clear message that people will not be complicit in further ruining the  urban fabric of Sliema and ensure that development at Imrieħel is such that the historic landscape is fully respected.

A social impact assessment, if properly carried out, would have revealed the apprehensions of the residents in particular the residents on the Tignè peninsula. But, unfortunately, as stated by Sliema Green Local Councillor Michael Briguglio, the existing policy-making process tends to consider such studies as an irritant rather than as a tool for holistic management and community participation.

We have had some recent converts on the desirability of social impact assessments, such as Professor Alex Torpiano, Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta. Prof. Torpiano, in an opinion piece published by the Malta Independent this week, stressed that spatial planning in Malta needs a social-economic dimension. Unfortunately, I do not recollect the professor himself practising these beliefs as the leading architect in the MIDI and Cambridge projects on the Tignè peninsula,  a stone’s throw from Townsquare!

Investing in this bond issue is not another private decision: it will have an enormous impact on the community.

Responsibility for this ever-increasing environmental mess has to be shouldered by quite a few persons in Malta. Even the banks have a very basic responsibility – and not one to be shouldered just by the Directors: the shareholders should also take an interest before decisions are taken and not post-factum.

I understand that the Directors of APS Bank have already taken note of the recent  statements regarding the environment by  Archbishop Charles Scicluna. As such, it stands to reason that APS will (I hope) not be in any way associated with the financing process for the “Fawlty  Towers”.  However, there is no news as yet from the other banks, primarily from the major ones – ie Bank of Valletta and HSBC.

This is a defining moment in environmental action in Malta. It is time for those that matter to stand up to be counted – and the sooner the better.

published by the Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 August 2016