03 November 2004

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Bank of Valletta replies to security breach accusation

As the war of words continued to be waged between Investments Minister Austin Gatt and Opposition Leader Alfred Sant over the Malta Freeport’s spending in Brindisi Terminal Italia, Bank of Valletta yesterday replied to Austin Gatt’s accusation that a confidential letter was leaked from the Bank.
The story began on Sunday when Dr Sant announced he had in his possession a letter revealing that the Malta Freeport had invested an additional Lm4 million in the Italian company in August at a time when the company’s financial prospects appeared irrecoverably bleak. Dr Gatt, however, insists that the Lm4 million had amounted to a facility Bank of Valletta had granted to MIMCOL for refinancing Brindisi Terminal’s loan portfolio. Dr Gatt is adamant that the Lm4 million did not constitute a re-investment in the failing company.
Dr Gatt deemed the fact that the letter had made its way to the public sphere a “serious breach of bank secrecy regulations.

In a statement released yesterday, Bank of Valletta states, “…it must be determined whether the relative information originated from the Bank or not. In this respect, it must be stressed that all Bank officials are bound by their duty of professional secrecy and do not divulge confidential information except as may be allowed by law.”
A copy of the confidential letter was released to the media yesterday by Dr Alfred Sant at a press conference. The letter revealed that the Bank of Valletta was one of three potential sources of the leak, since the letter originated from the desk of Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Paul Zahra and was addressed to MIMCOL Chairman Ivan Falzon. The letter had been copied to “The Manager, Bank of Valletta plc”.
Bank of Valletta yesterday emphasised that Dr Gatt had not requested an internal investigation at the Bank but instead had “merely voiced his belief that the Bank should launch an internal investigation”.
Stopping short of announcing an all-out investigation, however, the Bank states that it always takes a serious view of any such allegations, whether made in the media or elsewhere, and is doing likewise in this case.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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