Ali Sadr Hasheminejad has been arrested on charges of evading US sanctions
The chairman of the Malta-based Pilatus Bank has been arrested by the United States authorities on charges that he evaded US sanctions on Iran by funnelling over $115 million from Venezuela through US banks.
Reuters reported that Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, whose family owns the Iranian conglomerate Stratus Group, was arrested on Monday and charged in a Manhattan federal court with illegally moving the money through the US as part of a $476 million deal to build 7,000 housing units in Venezuela. The project stemmed from agreements that Iran and Venezuela entered into in 2004 and 2005 that called for cooperation between the two governments in constructing housing units in the South American nation. US prosecutors say Sadr belonged to a committee overseeing the project’s execution and that he took steps to evade US economic sanctions by concealing the role of Iran and Iranian parties in payment sent through the US banking system, “As alleged, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad created a network of front companies and foreign bank accounts to mask Iranian business dealings in Venezuela and evade U.S. sanctions,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
The Ta’ Xbiex offices of Pilatus Bank
The Venezuelan energy company made $115 million in payments to IIHC using entities in Switzerland and Turkey to conceal the Iranian connection to the funds, prosecutors said. Sadr faces six counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Sadr’s arrest comes only hours after former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova turned herself in to Greek police – reportedly amid fears that the British media intended to link her to a recent diplomatic spat between the UK and Russia over the Salisbury nerve agent attack that left former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in critical condition. In April last year, Efimova told late journalist Daphne Caurna Galizia that she had found declarations of trust at Pilatus Bank which showed that the secret Panama company Egrant belonged to the Maltese Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat and that it had two bank accounts – one with Pilatus Bank and another with a Dubai bank.
Egrant whistleblower Maria Efimova
According to the story, Egrant’s Dubai account had received several payments – including one major one of $1 million – from a Pilatus Bank account owned by a Dubai-registered company whose ultimate beneficiary owner was Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijan’s ruler Ilham Aliyev. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat denounced the story as the “biggest political lie in Malta’s history” and ordered a magisterial inquiry into the report, which is still ongoing. Two months ago, PN MEP David Casa said he has passed on evidence to the European Central Bank which shows Pilatus Bank was intentionally set up as a money-laundering vehicle.