Satabank was a popular choice among people doing business in Malta, as other island-based banks asked “absurd requirements for non-Maltese citizens” to open accounts, the action group’s website says.
Customers, however, were caught short in October 2018 when more than 15,000 accounts were frozen due to money-laundering concerns. As a result, corporate and personal account holders were not able to make or receive payments.
A Facebook group called Victims of Satabank was set up for those affected by the closure, to share information about the impact on customers and companies who were unable to do business in Malta or overseas, or make and receive payments.
However, some members formed an action group and announced that they had launched a website called victimsofsatabank.com to share their stories with prospective investors and businesses to convince them to avoid Malta.
The group also threatened to release an email to more than five million people across Europe about their experiences.
An ominous countdown clock dominated the website until Monday, when further information was made public.
Short of detail
The website, which was partly funded by “various advertising companies” that support the group’s endeavours, duly went live on Monday – but to little fanfare and with little detail.
In addition to providing some basic background information about the frozen accounts, the website highlights that Satabank is the third bank in Malta to close in three years: the others being Namea Bank and Pilatus Bank.
The consequences have been that some Satabank clients have had to shut their businesses, while others have had to ask friends and relatives for food.
“At the moment, all our money is in the hands of the Maltese government, and we are still waiting for [it] to be returned. We will probably spend a Christmas without being able to buy a present for our children and without being happy,” the website states.
The group highlighted that non-Maltese citizens have been particularly impacted, as other banks put in place almost insurmountable barriers to opening accounts.
Payments are being made
An update from the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), however, states that locally-based personal account holders with deposits ranging between €50 to €15,000 (£13,500, $17,000) have been contacted since 26 November about getting their money back. It has also set up a hardship fund.
From 10 December, “the bank will start contacting those who are not residing in Malta with the same amounts”, the regulator said.
Some members of the Victims of Satabank Facebook group have posted updates confirming that they have received their money back.
“In the meantime, the hardship fund will continue supporting local businesses to pay employee salaries and other critical expenses,” a spokesperson for the MFSA said.
Corporate account holders, on the other hand, will be contacted “on a staggered basis”.
We need your help
The aim of the website is to “prevent this story from being repeated to other European citizens and entrepreneurs”, the group said.
“We have therefore made sure that all the people who, in the last 12 months, have thought about working in Malta come to know about this nightmare that we are experiencing.
“We rely on the media power of the web to get the voice to as many users as possible, thus allowing the European institutions to intervene to help us.”
The website provided no details about the email that was to be sent.
International Adviser contacted members of the website, but no comment was received by the time of publication.