ATHENS - Greece’s highest court on June 14 will decided whether Russian whistleblower Maria Efimova, a key source to a murdered Maltese journalist investigating wrongdoing, can be extradited to face charges in that country.
Malta wants Greece to execute European arrest warrants against Efimova for allegedly providing false evidence, making false accusations to authorities, and appropriation of funds.
Efimova, 36, had revealed what she called evidence of a massive scandal at her bank , leading up to the Prime Minister’s office that was being looked into by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bombing on Oct. 16, 2017. Three Maltese men have been ordered to stand trial for her murder.
Efimova told the court she feared she would be killed if she’s forced to return. She had fled to Cyprus with her family before turning herself into police in Greece, seeking protection. She said she’s the only living witness who can provide evidence of corruption at the highest level in Malta, a European Union country with a notorious reputation for scandal.
“Daphne is no longer here. The only witness will be me. This is why it is possible they don’t want me to exist,” she said, Kathimerini reported.
Last month, the Athens Appeal Council rejected the extradition request and ordered that she be released from temporary detention. State prosecutor Antonis Liogas referred the case to the Supreme Court where the final decision will be taken.
Efimova was employed for three months in 2016 by the Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank. Her first contact with Caruana Galizia was by email in October 2016 and their co-operation started in February 2017.
Efimova told the newspaper Kathimerini in an interview how fearful she was after investigative Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October, 2107.
Efimova had worked for the President of the Pilatus Bank who is now facing charges in the United States. “It was I who first sent an e-mail to Daphne. I had read her articles on the activities of Pilatus Bank. She had some information and I decided to help her. Before I left Pilatus, I had gathered evidence on its illegal activities,” Efimvoa said.
According to the journalist’s research, Pilatus Bank is alleged to have been the broker for shady transactions by the company Egrant Inc. that reportedly belonged to the spouse of Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Muscat and his wife have denied the accusations.
Efimova told Kathimerini her name was leaked to the press on May 2016. “A judge gave my name to the press. After Caruana’s reports, I went to testify on everything I knew. I didn’t join a witness protection program, but the judge assured me my name would remain secret,” she said.
She decided with her Greek husband and their two children to leave Malta on June 2017.
“We went to several countries before ending up on Crete in September. I was watching news in Malta. It was mainly focused on an imminent parliamentary election and I assumed that my case was slowly being forgotten. But in October Caruana was murdered in a car bombing. I didn’t ask for protection but I spoke with a delegation of MEPs and told them I am ready to help the investigation and find the journalist’s killers,” she said.
“There was fear that something would happen to me before the arrest, as part of the information on the bank’s activities had come from me,” she said.
“She’s in good shape, but she is emotionally upset as she’s not used to detention,” her lawyer Alexandros Papasteriopoulos said in April.