ATHENS — Greece’s Supreme Court has rejected a second bid by Malta for the extradition of a Maria Efimova, a Russian whistleblower who helped a murdered Maltese journalist investigate money-laundering in high places.
The June 14 ruling upheld an earlier decision in April by a lower court, which had judged the Maltese extradition request bid vague and irregular and not in accordance with European Union arrest warrant procedures.
The island nation had wanted to arrest Efimova, a former bank employee for allegedly providing false evidence that could lead to another’s conviction, making false accusations to authorities and theft after her revelations led to probes of corruption at the highest-level of government, leading up to the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Efimova, 35, had helped Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a targeted car bombing on Oct. 16. Three Maltese men have been ordered to stand trial for her slaying.
Efimova surrendered to police in Athens in March, citing fears for her life. She is now free.
Efimova, 36, had revealed what she called evidence of a massive scandal at her bank that was being looked into by Galizia.
Efimova earlier 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.
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 Galizia’s case. “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,” Efimova said.
She had worked for the President of the Pilatus Bank who is now facing charges in the United States.
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 Muscat’s wife. She and her husband have denied any wrongdoing.
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.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)