The Russian whistleblower at the heart of the Egrant story has revealed she has officially filed for political asylum in an unknown EU member state.
Maria Efimova told journalist-blogger Manuel Delia she filed her application to the authorities of the country she is living in, along with a letter by a special European Parliament delegation requesting she be given whistleblower status.
Malta and Cyprus have both put out European arrest warrants against Efimova for very similar reasons; her former Maltese employer Pilatus Bank has accused her of embezzling funds and her former Cypriot employer Fragrance Distribution has accused her of robbing the firm when she last worked there four years ago. However, Efimova claims the charges amount to vengeful retribution and has cast doubt on whether international arrest warrants have even been issued against her.
The case has also been picked up by EUobserver, a Brussels-based news website which reports on EU affairs.
“As soon as I heard that a European and an international arrest warrant had been issued against me, I went to the police department of the country I am staying in now – which is an EU country – to declare that I am not hiding and that I will cooperate,” she said. “The police told me there is no arrest warrant for me in their database. I have travelled at least two or times in Europe since November and I have fortunately never been arrested, so I don’t know where this information is coming from.”
In April last year, Caruana Galizia shook Malta to the core when she wrote two blogposts saying that Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat and that it had had two bank accounts – one with Pilatus Bank and one with a Dubai bank. According to the story, Egrant’s Dubai account had received several payments – including one major one of $1 million – from a Pilatus Bank account owned by a Dubai-registered company whose ultimate beneficiary owner was Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijan’s ruler Ilham Aliyev.
Aaron Bugeja has been leading a magisterial inquiry into the Egrant case since last April
The declarations of trust allegedly proving Michelle Muscat’s ownership of Egrant have never been published, but Caruana Galizia said a copy of them has been “scanned and uploaded to the cloud”.
The story has taken a few twists in recent days. Although Caruana Galizia had described Efimova as her main source for the Pilatus Bank reports and the Egrant documents, Efimova has now said Caruana Galizia already had a copy of the declaration of trust and had wanted to meet up with the whistleblower to corroborate her information.
The existence of a second source to the Egrant story was confirmed again when PN media chief Pierre Portelli told Lovin Malta he had personally passed on a copy of the mysterious declaration of trust to Aaron Bugeja, who has been leading a magisterial inquiry since last April. Portelli confirmed with this website his source was not Efimova, Caruana Galizia or former police officer and FIAU official Jonathan Ferris.
Yesterday, MaltaToday reported that Bugeja had travelled to Ireland to consult with forensic experts over computer servers elevated from the offices of Pilatus Bank and audit firm Nexia BT.