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Interpol Rejected Cyprus Warrant for Russian Whistleblower in Malta Case

March 26, 2018

The lawyer for a Russian woman who was a primary source for a murdered Maltese investigative journalist looking into high-level corruption said Cypriot authorities were unable to persuade Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant, rejecting the request as political.

Maria Efimova had worked at Pilatus Bank In Malta and had been a confidential source for Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a massive car bomb in October, 2017. Efimova said she had seen evidence of transactions amounting to $1 million from Azerbaijan’s ruling clan to an account held by Michelle Muscat, the wife of Malta’s Prime Minister, via the company Ergant, noted in the so-called Panama Papers.

Efimova, who turned herself in to police in Greece, fled Malta last year, a few months before Galizia’s killing and after the journalist had revealed her as a source.

Malta has issued an international arrest warrant against Efimova, the paper said, though previous reports have suggested that she was wanted on embezzlement charges on Cyprus, where she is living with her husband and their two children.

Efimova’s Greek lawyer Alexandros Papasteriopoulos told the Cyprus Mail that “Cypriot authorities in the past attempted to turn an arrest warrant against Efimova into a European warrant which the directorate general of Interpol blocked as it regarded its justification as too political”.

“It was not made international, not because the Cypriot side hadn’t asked for it, but because it was regarded by Interpol that there was a problem,” he said.

Efimova, currently detained at the Korydallos prison in Athens, worked at Malta’s Pilatus Bank for three months last year.

Efimova, a mother of two, also said that she had left Malta two months before the assassination of Caruana Galizia fearing for her safety and that of her family. She also denied having committed any offenses in Cyprus and said that the complaint filed against her aimed at damaging her credibility, the paper said.

Interpol declined to comment to questions forwarded by the Cyprus Business Mail and referred to those authorities investigating the matter.

Papasteriopoulos said Efimova is not eligible for asylum in Greece as she is not facing political prosecution in Russia, her country of origin.

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