Friday, April 23, 2021

Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr convicted of fraud and sanctions violation


Former Pilatus Bank chair Ali Sadr has been convicted of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, defrauding the United States and busting sanctions against Iran.

He was, however, cleared of conspiracy to commit money laundering and faces a maximum of 85 years in jail.

Sadr, 40, or Iran, was found guilty following a two-week trial of participating in a scheme to evade US sanctions and funnel more than $115 million paid under a Venezuelan construction contract through the US financial system.

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Jurors heard prosecutors explain how Sadr took steps to evade US economic sanctions and defraud US banks by concealing the role of Iranian parties in US dollar payments sent through the US banking system.

For example, in 2010, Sadr and a co-conspirator used St Kitts and Nevis passports and a United Arab Emirates address to incorporate two front companies outside of Iran to receive US dollar payments.

Sadr and others then conducted a series of international financial transactions for the benefit of Iranian parties in a manner that concealed the Iranian nexus to the payments, in violation of US economic sanctions between April 2011 and November 2013. During that time, SADR took several steps to hide the Iranian beneficiaries of these funds.

Sadr had been arrested in February 2018 and charged with participating in a scheme to evade US sanctions. The court ruled in its preliminary decision that statements of co-conspirators and most e-mails will be admissible in the trial.

Times of Malta reported in March last year that US prosecutors while silently building the money-laundering case, were granted a warrant to search his e-mails in April 2014, at a time when Pilatus Bank was in the process of obtaining a category two investment licence from Malta’s financial services watchdog.

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Pilatus Bank’s licence was revoked by the European Central Bank in November 2018, two years after it was first implicated in alleged money laundering breaches.

The bank had been at the centre of political controversy ever since a series of leaked financial intelligence reports flagged evidence of money-laundering and serious compliance shortcomings back in 2016.

It had also been alleged that the bank was used as a conduit for Azerbaijani millions making their way into Europe, while it was linked to allegations that former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle, secretly received graft payments, of which no evidence was found in a magisterial inquiry.

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