“I wanted out completely” – ex MFSA Chairman

FILE PHOTO: People gather at the Great Siege Square calling for the resignation of Joseph Muscat following the arrest of one of the country's most prominent businessmen as part of the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The public inquiry on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued this afternoon. Former Police Commissioner Michael Cassar and Former MFSA Chairman Joe Bannister testified in court.

  • Former Police Commissioner Cassar returns to the witness stand
  • Michael Cassar testifies behind closed doors
  • Ex-MFSA Chairman says if reports were handed to FIAU or police he wasn’t privy to them
  • Joe Bannister did not just want to resign from MFSA but wanted to retire
  • Bannister says he ‘wanted to be out completely’
16:16 This live blog ends here. Thank you for following.
Amy Borg
16:14 Former MFSA Chairman ends his testimony. Ms Marianne Scicluna will be asked to testify on Monday 3rd February.
Amy Borg
16:12 Judge Lofaro mentions to Bannister that the Pilatus Bank Chairman Ali Sadr is in jail in the US. Bannister said that he has no idea where Ali Sadr is.
Amy Borg
16:09 Bannister says he recalls a name mentioned earlier by one of the judges. He recalls the name Mario Felice who used to work in the banking sector within the MFSA. He said that Felice was superintendent at MFSA who had resigned during that period.
Amy Borg
16:05 The Inquiry board says that presently whoever takes the stand, to testify in this inquiry, their reply is that the inquiry board should ask not them but whoever was responsible. Joe Bannister said that from his end he guarantees that under his watch MFSA did its job diligently. " If reports were handed to the FIAU or the police, I wasn't privy to those reports" – said Bannister.
Amy Borg
16:03 Judge Abigail Lofaro asked him if presently he is a government consultant to which Bannister replied that due to family issued he asked to retire rather than just resign from MFSA. "I wanted to be out completely" – said Pros. Joe Bannister.
Amy Borg
16:00 He is asked if as Chairman of the MFSA used to consult with the Prime Minister. He said that he did not consult frequently. The consultation was more based on international affairs such as the effect of Brexit. Said he never reported directly to the then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, regarding Pilatus Bank.
Amy Borg
15:59 With the stories being published by different media outlets, he had made contact with Juanita Bencini from KPMG.
Amy Borg
15:55 Asked by one of the judges, if MFSA investigated the emerging allegations of money laundering, Bannister said that he is not aware of the details but is sure investigations were underway and that he had faith in the MFSA staff. Asked if he used to monitor the investigations, Bannister replied that it was not permitted to him by law to do so.
Amy Borg
15:54 "I had suggested to the government that FIAU should fall under the responsibility of MFSA but the request was turned down" said Joe Bannister.
Amy Borg
15:52 Ha also mentions that the MFSA representative on the FIAU board was Dr Anton Bartolo who was also the Chairman of Moneyval.
Amy Borg
15:51 Joe Bannister is asked if Keith Schembri, Sai Mizzi, Konrad Mizzi, Brian Tonna and Nexia BT were ever recognised at business introducers, he said no.
Amy Borg
15:49 It was after the sanctions imposed on the director of Pilatus Bank, by the United States of America, that the MFSA had to revoke the licence of Pilatus Bank. Bannister continued saying that at that time, investigations in Malta were still underway.
Amy Borg
15:47 Bannister clarified that it was the supervisory council that revoked the licence of Pilatus Bank and not the board.
Amy Borg
15:46 Former MFSA Chairman mentioned how a certain person wrote to the supervisory council of MFSA asking for protection and he assumed responsibility for this.
Amy Borg
15:45 Bannister said that reports on Pilatus Bank were to be addressed to the supervisory council of MFSA.
Amy Borg
15:43 He said that what he means is that as MFSA they monitored the situation but what reports were formulated and what reports were sent to the FIAU, he was not aware of.
Amy Borg
15:42 The inquiry board asks if MFSA investigated the serious allegations published by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Amy Borg
15:38 Lawyer Borg Cardona starts mentioning Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Nexia BT etc. in relation to the scandal Panama Papers. He askes Bannister if MFSA ever did anything to safeguard Malta's reputation. To this Bannister replied that no one was licenced by the MFSA but they had to monitor them. He continued explaining that whenever they received reports or had some sort of suspicion of malpractice they always reported it to the FIAU.
Amy Borg
15:37 Asked whether Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna ever attended meetings with them, Bannister replied, no.
Amy Borg
15:36 "KPMG used to do all the work. They brought Pilatus Bank to Malta" – said Joe Bannister.
Amy Borg
15:34 He mentioned a certain Dr Andre Camilleri who had asked him for an advanced due diligence report and asked Bannister to go to a certain security company. The name of this company cannot be made public.
Amy Borg
15:30 Former MFSA Chairman continued explaining that the process of pre-licensing was reviewed by him. As part of the process regulators such as KPMG, are asked to access the institution to confirm if it is credible or not. In the case of Pilatus Bank, the promoter was KPMG, according to Bannister.
Amy Borg
15:28 Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona asks Bannister to explain how did the MFSA board take decisions. Bannister replied that the board did not report directly to him. The board reported only when enforcement needed to be exerted and when such decision needed to be made public.
Amy Borg
15:26 He continued explaining that under Article 10 of the Law there should be a separation of power between the board of the MFSA and the Chairman.
Amy Borg
15:25 Bannister was asked if he ever received reports from the FIAU on Pilatus Bank. He said no.
Amy Borg
15:22 Bannister said that he occupied the post as MFSA Chairman as from 1995 till his contract was terminated in 1997. Was appointed again in 1999 and occupied the post as MFSA Chairman till March 2018.
Amy Borg
15:21 Joe Bannister summoned to take the stand.
Amy Borg
15:06 Next to take the stand is Joe Bannister, former MFSA Chairman. Ex-Police Commissioner still giving his testimony behind closed doors. Journalists are waiting outside the courtroom.
Amy Borg
14:58 Cassar had said that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, FIAU, had more power to obtain information than the police force.
Amy Borg
14:56 During his testimony earlier this month, Michael Cassar said that he did not resign because of investigation/s while claiming that he never, as police commissioner, experienced interference in investigations.
Amy Borg
14:52 Michael Cassar had resigned from his post in April 2016. Cassar said the reason behind his resignation was due to health reasons. He was the third police commissioner appointed under Labour government.
Amy Borg
14:49 Former police commissioner, Cassar, still giving his testimony behind closed doors.
Amy Borg
14:45 On the 9th of January, the former police commissioner gave his testimony regarding his resignation. He was not willing to share the reasons in public about his resignation.
Amy Borg
14:37 Cassar is to testify behind closed doors. Members of the assassinated journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, are present.
Amy Borg
14:35 Michael Cassar had already testified in court on 9th January 2020 but requested to testify again to elaborate on a particular issue. He had
Amy Borg
14:10 Former Police Commissioner Michael Cassar started to testify in court.
Amy Borg