15 Jan 2021
The Maltese financial regulator has replaced the person appointed to run Pilatus Bank, after the bank’s shareholders filed American judicial proceedings against Lawrence Connell.
Connell was appointed in March 2018 to take over Pilatus as its ‘competent person’ after the arrest of Pilatus owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad in Washington D.C. that year. Hasheminejad, a naturalised American and St Kitts & Nevis citizen, has since been acquitted of charges of money laundering and breaching US sanctions in Iran.
But the bank wants Connell to provide it with all the information in his hand since being installed by the MFSA, so that Pilatus can file proceedings against the European Central Bank, which cancelled its bank licence after Hasheminejad’s arrest in February 2018.
On Wednesday, the MFSA said Connell had resigned from his role as competent person with immediate effect. Robert Ancilleri has been selected to occupy the role of competent person.
Robert Ancilleri is an auditor by profession and runs his own practice providing accounting, business, and regulatory advisory services. He previously served as the Chief Accounting Officer at HSBC Malta, and was previously part of the setting-up team of Banif Bank. Ancilleri is a director of three entities listed on the Malta Stock Exchange.
In December, Pilatus was denied a request to summon Connell, whose information is required to assess the level of damages, that Pilatus will request from the European Central Bank, in a yet-to-be-instituted court case.
In December 2020, Justice Joseph A. DiClerico denied the request for ‘discovery’ from New Hampshire resident Lawrence Connell.
The revocation of the Malta-based private bank, controversial for its close association to members of the Azerbaijani ruling dynasty, came in March 2018 when owner Hasheminejad was arrested in the U.S.A. But in an unprecedented turn of events, after first being found guilty by the New York court, the United States District Attorney filed a nolle prosequi, effectively throwing the sponge over a grievous error in withholding evidence from the Hasheminejad defence team. The courts have since expunged the guilty verdict.
By Matthew Vella, Malta Today, 14 January 2021
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