#Togo #Scandale Francis Pérez PEFACO viré de la Bourse de Malte avec Bank of Valleta BOV ! Le comparse de Bolloré et de la mafia corse dans le viseur des enquêteurs ! #Blanchiment #Malta #Afrique #LydiaLudic #MachinesAsous
Updated | Bank of Valletta must refund €3.4 million to investors who lost savings in La Valette property fund
Bank of Valletta has to refund the full capital and interest of lost savings from the La Valette property fund, the arbiter for financial services has declared
The financial services arbiter has put an end to the La Valette property fund saga, ordering Bank of Valletta to refund millions in lost savings with interest, due to alleged misselling.
The decision by the arbiter, a post created by the Labour administration after 2013, is for the payment of €3.4 million plus legal interest of 8% from the date of complaint, to some 500 aggrieved investors.
Bank of Valletta announced in a company statement that it was still reviewing the details of the decision and the board of directors will be discussing the matter and deciding on the appropriate actions to take in the best interests of the Bank.
The complaints were submitted by stockbroker Paul Bonello of Finco Treasury Management and law firm Refalo Zammit Pace in July 2016, with the decision having been overdue since 2017.
The investors had complained that the 75c share offer by BOV in 2011, offered just weeks before sanctions were issued, was insufficient. A further 25c share compensation ordered by the MFSA was also considered insufficient.
In a statement issued later in the day, Finco Treasury Management said the arbiter had analysed every single underlying fund in which the La Valette Multi-Manager Property Fund had invested in, where investment restrictions had been broken. The restrictions on ‘gearing’ concerned limits on how much could be invested in funds with debts larger than 100% of their net asset value.
“It was the fund manager Valletta Fund Management’s job, to see that the investment restrictions in the prospectus were not broken. The arbiter confirmed the complainants’ the that the fund invested in nine underlying funds in breach of restrictions on gearing.”
Finco said that the nine funds incurred losses of €33 million up until 2011, and accused BOV of issuing custodian reports where it insisted that no breaches of investment restrictions had taken place, “misleading investors for year since 2006”.
Finco added that the arbiter was critical in his decision of the way the structure offering the LVMMPF operated: all related parties had different conflicts of interest, since VFM was a BOV subsidiary.
“The arbiter said that BOV’s ‘take it or leave it offer prohibited the complainants from negotiating the terms of the contract they were about to sign,” Finco said, quoting the decision.
The company said the arbiter was convinced that BOV’s 75c offer was a breach of consumer rules, and that BOV’s actions were not just, equal or reasonable.
Quoting the arbiter’s decision, it said “the majority of clients were elderly investors who had expected to be entering a safe investment with operators who knew more than they knew, and who would observe the prospectus rules they themselves issued, with self-imposed restrictions they had to observe. This did not happen as observed by both the MFSA and the arbiter.”
The complaint relates to the long-running dispute investors have had with BOV after they had lost their savings when they had purchased shares in the supposedly low-risk La Valette property fund for up to €1.1650 per share plus initial charge. The Malta Financial Services Authority fined BOV six times between 2011 and 2012 for misselling the fund to inexperienced investors and for breaching its own investment restrictions – particularly when it invested €17 million in the now-defunct Belgravia European Property Fund.
Around 2,300 investors accepted the bank’s subsequent compensation of 75c per share on condition that that they waive legal action against the bank should the MFSA find it had breached property fund conditions.
Others, represented by Finco, demanded that BOV repay them based on the value of the shares at the time of investment and were indeed eventually compensated in full. However, BOV ignored the MFSA’s subsequent demand to bring compensation up in full for the other 2,300 who had accepted its original offer.
De-listing of Pefaco raises another question mark for MFSA
Company has ‘legal proceedings underway’
Pefaco has been de-listed from the Malta Stock Exchange, months after its trading was suspended. It was also fined €60,000.
The Malta Financial Services Authority had first flagged the fact that the company was in breach of the rules in April 2017, as it had failed to published its financial reports for the year ended December 31, 2016 but the company failed to publish any of the subsequent ones.
Grupo Pefaco was established under Spanish law 20 years ago, and is present in 13 countries on three continents.
Its subsidiary Pefaco International is registered in Malta and has shares listed on the Malta Stock Exchange.
The MFSA also said on its website that Pefaco International « failed to publish a Company Announcement containing information on legal proceedings in which the company is involved », but gave no further details.
The Financial Times reported two years ago that French prosecutors are investigating whether the Bolloré Group – which already operates 17 ports in Africa – was helped by the chairman of Grupo Pefaco, Francis Perez (the CEO of the Maltese subsidiary), to get concessions for ports in Guinea and Togo.
BOV leaks: Bank ignores money laundering and terrorism laws to accept Libyan business
Sunday, 1 May 2016, 10:30Last update: about 3 years ago
Bank of Valletta has been accepting business from Libyan nationals without carrying out the necessary customer due diligence legally required of financial institutions, documents leaked to The Malta Independent on Sundayshow.
The bank had, in the process, knowingly been in breach of its legal obligations under the prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations according to documentation in the possession of this newspaper.
This breach had also been intentionally concealed from the relevant Maltese authorities. Not only was the bank’s flouting of the law in return for Libyan business concealed from the authorities, but the bank’s officials, according to sensitive documents leaked to this newspaper, had informed the authorities that all proper due diligence was, in fact, being applied across the board when this was not the case.
This newspaper also holds documentation showing how the bank went to little or no effort to seek information on the source of the Libyan funds being deposited at Bank of Valletta, a critical step of due diligence for identifying suspicious transactions related to money laundering, politically exposed people or the funding of terrorism.
Libya has become a hotbed for terrorist activity in the vacuum left behind by the ouster of former dictator Moammar Gaddafi. There are also billions of euros in Libyan state wealth that have been leaking out of the country over recent years.
This newspaper this week asked Bank of Valletta for information on the type of due diligence it applies when a foreign national opens a bank account; whether any irregularities along such lines have been reported within the bank; and whether a director or other high-ranking official of the bank is able to waive standard due diligence procedures for the opening of an account.
The bank replied with the following terse statement: “As with all account opening procedures, Bank of Valletta follows normal due diligence procedures as required by law and financial regulation.”
While the documentation in this newspaper’s possession directly implicates the bank itself in ignoring its due diligence requirements in return for welcoming Libyan funds over a number of years, the bank had insisted last August with this newspaper that it had begun strengthening its procedures on the opening of accounts by foreign nationals back in December 2013.
But documentation held by this newspaper shows that such action had little or no effect.
The bank’s announcement that it was strengthening its due diligence procedures had come in the immediate wake of the Joe Sammut scandal, in which the former Labour Party treasurer is facing court proceedings for having run a scam to open bogus companies for Libyan nationals, which qualified them for Maltese residency.
The information held by this newspaper also shows that the waiving of normal due diligence procedures was not limited to the Joe Sammut affair.
In its comments last August the bank stressed the role of intermediaries such as Mr Sammut (photo above). The documentation held by this newspaper, however, implicates the bank directly in turning a blind eye to customer due diligence.
Last August the bank said that while it could comment on its relationship with particular customers, it was incorrect to imply that BOV knowingly aided and abetted any intermediary to open accounts for illegitimate purposes.
The bank said that in December 2013, its board of directors commissioned an unnamed “anti-money laundering expert with international experience” to examine the bank’s processes when opening accounts for foreign individuals and corporates.
This expert was also asked to determine whether proper and effective anti-money laundering checks were built in the system that BOV had been using for several years.
In his report the unnamed expert made a number of recommendations to strengthen the opening of accounts process for foreign individuals and companies. The bank said its board had discussed these recommendations in March 2014 and had instructed the executive management to implement them as soon as possible.
(Bank of Valletta chairman John Cassar White)
It is understood, however, that the Maltese authorities were far from placated by such actions and that even after the March 2014 recommendations, concern had been flagged over the bank’s continued flouting of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulations.
The bank said that among the more important recommendations from the unnamed expert were the articulation of the ‘Customers’ Acceptance Policy’ and the undertaking of a new and thorough due diligence exercise of all intermediaries to determine whether they were considered suitable to introduce new business to the bank. The bank’s executive management conducted this detailed due diligence exercise on all intermediaries that introduced business to the bank.
As a result of this extensive exercise, a number of financial intermediaries, some of whom had been introducing new clients to the bank for over a decade, were considered as not having had the correct set-up or anti-money laundering processes in place. In March 2015 the bank informed these intermediaries that it would no longer accept introductions from them to open accounts for foreign residents or companies.
The bank said it takes its anti-money laundering obligations seriously and is in constant touch with banking regulators, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the police to ensure that only bona fide clients have access to banking facilities.