When you have tons of money and powerful backers, like Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, the owner of the corrupt Pilatus Bank in Malta that was set up to cater to just around 100 super-rich clients, you have all you need to terrorize the media into silence. Just find a jurisdiction that is willing to entertain your lawsuit for crippling damages and you're good to go.
If it's a foreign jurisdiction that implies great financial and other hardship for the person you are suing just to defend the case, so much the better. Pilatus Bank and Ali Sadr Hasheminejad chose one of the worst jurisdictions for litigation in order to silence its critics: the United States.
Shortly after Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated, Pilatus Bank was reported to be threatening the independent media in Malta with such lawsuits, as Manuel Delia reported in his blog.
Lawyers for Pilatus Bank have fallen on the leading independent news organisations here in Malta threatening them with ruinous law suits in the United States unless they remove reams of stories on Pilatus Bank from their archives.
I am informed The Times has considered legal advice and has replaced two of its archived, now deleted, reports with a new one and tweaked some other of its archived reports.
Justin Borg Barthet has posted on Facebook a broken link to an archived story on Pilatus published by Malta Today. Malta Today’s Matthew Vella then confirmed to Justin Borg-Barthet they had removed the story following legal pressure from lawyers acting for Pilatus Bank.
I can see the point of view of these organisations. They are responsible for employees, creditors, shareholders. Their lawyers are trained and habitually defend them from law suits on a Maltese scale but when faced with an US law suit that could bring about the newspaper’s complete closure, they have to tread carefully.
Some weeks later, new reports came out that the Malta Independent were forced to purge an interview by Maria Efimova, the whisleblower who worked for Pilatus Bank and who spoke about what she saw there, including that the secret offshore company called Egrant Inc., that was widely believed to belong to Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat actually belonged to his wife Michelle Muscat. Daphne Caruana Galizia reported on this on 20 April 2017.
Those documents in the Pilatus Bank kitchen-safe are declarations of trust which show that shares in Egrant Inc are held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for “Mrs Michelle Muscat”.
The declarations of trust were provided to the bank by Brian Tonna, as a prerequisite for opening an account for Egrant Inc, for which the identity of the ultimate beneficial owner is required. Mrs Muscat’s name is also given on another document held in the bank’s safe: the account opening form for Egrant Inc.
These documents have been scanned and uploaded to the cloud, for security purposes, by third parties so that they cannot be destroyed by the bank.
The day before that, she reported how a company owned by Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijan's ruling dictator, made ‘loan payments’ to companies Hearnville Inc., owned by Minister Konrad Mizzi, Tillgate Inc., owned by Malta Government chief of staff Keith Schembri, as well as to Egrant Inc.
And the day after, on 21 April 2017, she revealed that the sister of Pilatus Bank owner made another 'loan payment' of $400,000 to Michelle Muscat's business partner, Michelle Buttigieg, who had been appointed “Malta’s tourism representative” in the United States.
It now turns out that a just two weeks after these revelations, Pilatus Bank tried to silence Daphne Caruana Galizia by appealing to the United States courts and claiming millions in damages from her, as Malta Today reports.
Court documents obtained by MaltaToday show that Sadr and Pilatus sued Caruana Galizia on 8 May in the Maricopa County superior court, in the state of Arizona, where GoDaddy.com’s headquarters are located.
The lawsuit, with an unspecified claim for damages, was filed at the time Caruana Galizia had alleged that the bank had processed a $1 million transfer from a Dubai company to the wife of the Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, at the behest of the daughter of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.
Interestingly, this lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn on 17 October 2017, the day after Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated by a car bomb, as can be seen at the link above.
The need to silence her was gone.