ATHENS – A Russian whistleblower who reportedly was the source of information on secret bank accounts in Malta to assassinated investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, turned herself in to Greek police on March 19, saying she feared for her life, Kathimerini said.
Maria Efimova had worked at Pilatus Bank In Malta and had been a confidential source for the journalist 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 Ergant Inc.
Efimova 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.
Greek Socialist MEP Ana Gomes urged Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to ensure police protection for Efimova and her family. “Danger is real,” the MEP, who led a rule of law delegation to Malta last January, wrote on Twitter.
Efimova fled the island in June after informing the courts about alleged intimidation attempts against her family in Russia and is facing fraud charges in Malta on the basis of a criminal complaint filed by her former bank, said The Times of Malta.
A European and international arrest warrant was issued by the Maltese courts shortly after she left the island. Cypriot media reported in January that Cyprus, trying to shake a reputation for money-laundering, had also put out an arrest warrant, linked to a case that dated back to 2014.
In December police arrested 10 Maltese nationals in connection with the murder. International experts, including from the FBI, are helping in the investigation.
Prime Minister Muscat and his wife Michelle have denied the allegations against them, denying that $1 million was transferred to her from Egrant, a secret offshore firm in Panama.
Caruana Galizia reported on Malta for the Panama Papers investigation into offshore accounts which conceal secret payments to politicians and other powerful figures.
The Cypriot warrant followed a similar embezzlement claim by Cyprus-based Fragrance Distribution, where she worked before moving to Malta. She also denies that allegation, the investigative journalism website OCCRP reported.
The car bombing prompted the European Parliament to investigate the rule of law and freedom of speech in Malta.
An official from the Office of the Prime Minister told the people who paid their respects on March to Galizia to “get a life”.
In a post on Facebook, OPM official Neville Gafa, who is a close associate of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, drew comparisons between the “negative few” who attended hers five-month memorial event and the “reality” of thousands of revellers celebrating St Patrick’s Day, the Times of Malta reported.
“Spot the difference; the few negative vs reality. #Getalife,” Gafa wrote in the post, which included side-by-side photos of the memorial event in Valletta and St Patrick’s Day revellers the next day.
The photos of those in St Julian’s on Saturday night were used by a number of government officials to make a point about the slain journalist’ last words in her final blog post.
“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” Ms Caruana Galizia wrote in the post hours before she was blown up in her car.