Watch: Satabank freeze prompts consumers’ association

An Italian lawyer explained the woes that Satabank clients are going through, as the bank’s operation remains stalled by the notice issued by the Malta Financial Services Authority. He also explained how the case with Satabank which he found “strange” prompted the formation of a consumers’ association.

Francesco Trimboli, a lawyer residing in Malta, explained that signatures are being collected in order to launch a consumers’ association, the Bank and Financial Services Users’ Association or ATUSBUF. Trimboli also explained that he is a member of the Maltese – Italian Chamber of Commerce and since the public notice, he has met with various Satabank clients. Trimboli himself is not a client of Satabank.

In his interview with Newsbook.com.mt, Trimboli spoke of the difficulties faced by the clients at Satabank. He also explained that the Association has not been yet registered and will be registered once 100 signatures were collected. However the association already has an online presence. He said that this episode with Satabank prompted him to set up an association. Furthermore, Trimboli explained that such a freeze possibly never happened in another European State.

Trimboli said that while they can understand the reasoning behind the MFSA tough stance against Satabank, the clients are bearing the brunt. However, Trimboli pointed out that despite the MFSA said that it would issue instructions in a certain period, this was creating day to day problems such as buying food, and in other cases stalling the functioning of businesses. He remarked that this was not affordable in a European country. The lawyer further explained that while the clients did not seem worried about their money, as one day they would have access to their accounts, this is causing them problems on a daily basis.

A letter to the authorities demanding prompt action

The launch of an association comes as well, with a letter addressed to the President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Ministry of Finance, the Malta Financial Services Authority, Satabank Plc (Ernest & Young), the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Banking Authority. The people signing the letter proposed an immediate action by the MFSA which would see the depositors’ bank account that are not involved in any investigation to be unfrozen. They outlined their concerns how the bank accounts were handled following the public notice issued by the MFSA.

They also quickly disclaim that they do not contest the role of the regulatory to safeguard the financial well-being. The people signing the petition said that the Authority adopting a one size fits all approach is clearly prejudicing the depositors’ rights.

However, those signing the letter, asked for prompt action to safeguard the rights of the depositors to have free access to their bank accounts citing the hardships the clients are facing, saying that this was not restricted to their business but even to access their funds for their daily needs.

Difficulties faced by non-Maltese when opening bank accounts

The letter also refers to the difficulties which non-Maltese encounter when trying to open a bank account in Malta. The letter calls for the regulator to intervene in the local banking sector to provide for the opening of bank accounts for international clients within a reasonable time.

Trimboli said that while he has an account with a local bank, he could only complain when compared to other banking systems abroad. Speaking of Satabank clients coming from countries outside the Union, he described the situation as a “nightmare”. He said that he hopes that the MFSA and the local banks facilitate the opening of a bank account. He also said that the authorities should also explore the idea that those carrying out businesses in Malta, could hold bank accounts in other EU states without requiring them to open an account.