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As Husband Released From Arrest, Maria Efimova Explains What Happened To €15,000 She Raised

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Maria Efimova has insisted that the €15,000 she raised earlier this year to apply for whistleblower status in Malta is all accounted for, with the vast majority of the funds spent on a forensic examination of documents related to Egrant in her possession.

Now residing in Greece, Efimova told Lovin Malta that this forensic analysis cost around €13,000, which included costs for the expert to travel to Panama so as to verify certain information.

As for the remaining €2,000, Efimova said she has left them in reserve in case she needs funds for a future whistleblower status acquisition process.

She said she has invoices in her possession to prove what she’s saying but that she needs to obtain permission from the forensic analysts before publishing it.

“The forensic analysts proved the documents in my possession are authentic and I’m now awaiting Malta to grant me whistleblower status. I contacted a designated government authority last February about this but I haven’t received a response.”

“If I publish these documents without whistleblower protection, there’s a risk I could get charged for acquiring the evidence illegally. I don’t see why Malta doesn’t give me whistleblower status so we can close this case, I don’t see what’s so difficult.”

“It’s not like I’ve come out of nowhere. I’ve already proved I have knowledge about Pilatus Bank and many I things I said about the bank have been proven right.”

Efimova used to work as the executive assistant of Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, the chairman of the now-defunct Pilatus Bank, and had famously tipped off Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that Michelle Muscat, the wife of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, was allegedly the owner of the mysterious Panamanian company Egrant.

However, a magisterial inquiry published after Caruana Galizia’s assassination found no evidence that Egrant belonged to the Muscats and recommended that Efimova be charged with perjury over her testimony to the magistrate.

Efimova has said magistrate (now judge) Aaron Bugeja had basically forced her into a corner when he warned her that any illegally-obtained evidence she presented would be deemed ineligible and would result in her own prosecution.

Bugeja also found forged signatures on copies of alleged declarations of trust that were handed to him by Pierre Portelli, back then the editor of the Malta Independent, but Portelli has said he was handed these documents by a source who wasn’t Efimova, Caruana Galizia or Ferris.

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Efimova and her husband have faced four European Arrest Warrants in recent years.

The first was issued by Malta on charges of misappropriating €2,000 from Pilatus Bank and making false accusations against three police officers, including Jonathan Ferris, who has since also started seeking whistleblower status.

However, the Greek courts ruled that Malta’s request to extradite Efimova was vague and the alleged crime wasn’t serious enough to merit her extradition to the island.

Cyprus in 2018 issued another arrest warrant against Efimova over allegations that she had stolen up to €40,000 from the Cypriot offices of a Russian cosmetics firm where she had worked four years prior.

Efimova said she was registered as the sole employee at the Cypriot office and that her job mainly involved going through the mail and sending important letters to Russia.

“I wasn’t involved in management and never administered any money,” she said.

Greece never extradited Efimova to Cyprus and this case was flagged by the Council of Europe as a case of state abuse against a whistleblower.

Last week, police confirmed that they had issued another European Arrest Warrant against Efimova so that she could answer to charges of alleged perjury in her testimony to the Egrant inquiry.

Efimova said she hasn’t yet been notified of this warrant but that she fully intends to challenge it legally if and when she does receive it, noting that her lawyer told her perjury isn’t reason enough for her to be extradited from Greece to Malta.

Then yesterday Efimova’s husband Pantelis Varnava was arrested by Greek police on the back of another European Arrest Warrant issued by Cyprus in connection with the same alleged case of misappropriation of funds that Efimova had faced a few years ago.

Efimova herself wasn’t arrested and she’s puzzled at how her husband got dragged into this issue, arguing that he never worked with the Russian cosmetics company in question or had any kind of relationship with any of the company’s directors.

He has since been released and Efimova said Greek police intend to formally inform Cyprus that they have no intention of extraditing him.

Efimova strongly believes that Malta and Cyprus are conspiring behind the scenes to undermine her so as to send a warning message to other whistleblowers.

“They just want to destroy our family to show people how bad it is to become a whistleblower and reveal what they’re doing,” she said. “It’s a threat not to talk.”

Cover photo: Maria Efimova and her husband during a 2019 interview with PN MP David Thake

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