The magistrate conducting an inquiry into the Egrant story is in possession of at least one copy of a declaration of trust allegedly showing the Panama company belongs to the Prime Minister’s wife, which did not originate from Russian whistleblower Maria Efimova.
During last summer’s heated PN leadership contest, Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed that then Malta Independent editor-in-chief Pierre Portelli had given magistrate Aaron Bugeja a copy of the scanned documents of the declarations of trust for Egrant. Contacted by Lovin Malta, Portelli, now the PN’s media chief, confirmed this is indeed true. Asked if he had obtained the documents from Efimova, Caruana Galizia or former police officer and FIAU official Jonathan Ferris, Portelli said that none one of them was his source.
On 1st June, two days before the general election, Portelli said on Xtra that he had seen the mysterious declarations of trust with his own eyes. He was defending Efimova for not producing the documents during an exclusive interview she had given on The Malta Independent’s online programme Indepth. He revealed that Efimova told him that she couldn’t publish them because the Russian embassy had warned her that doing so would go against Aaron Bugeja’s advice.
Portelli now confirmed with Lovin Malta that, while he had asked Efimova for a copy of these documents during the interview, the whistleblower refused to show them to him, citing advice from the Russian embassy. Yet the then newspaper editor-in-chief still managed to see a copy of the documents on the iPad of a second source.
PN media chief Pierre Portelli
After Portelli announced on Xtra that he had seen the documents, he was summoned to Aaron Bugjea as part of his inquiry, which has been ongoing since last April.
“I told Bugeja that a source had shown me the documents and he demanded I reveal my source, citing national security laws,” Portelli. “I refused to do so, but I told him I would ask my source for a copy of the declaration of trust. My source complied and I returned to Bugeja with this copy.”
Questioned whether his decision not to publish a copy of the declaration of trust in The Malta Independent reflected his personal uncertainty of the veracity of the documents, Portelli said he thought it was more important for the magistrate to investigate it personally.
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja has been conducting an inquiry into the Egrant story since April
The copies of the declarations of trust have never been published, but Caruana Galizia said a copy of it has been “scanned and uploaded to the cloud” and published a transcript of them on her blog. In an interview with the Malta Independent last April, which the newspaper later deleted following legal threats from Pilatus Bank, Efimova said she scanned the documents after stumbling upon them by chance in a safe that had been placed in the kitchen of her then employer Pilatus Bank.
“I don’t know what I was looking for, maybe familiar names, she said. “Then I saw two declarations of trust with the name ‘Muscat’. I hadn’t been in the country long enough to know that it is quite a common name here. I recognised it because it is the Prime Minister’s name. The company name was Egrant Inc and I knew that name because it was on my list. This was still before the Panamas Papers broke, so I had no idea of the significance of it.”
Last year, Daphne Caruana Galizia described Efimova as the main source of most of her Pilatus Bank reports, including the Egrant documents.
However, the story took a twist on Sunday, when Efimova told journalist-blogger Manuel Delia that Caruana Galizia already had a copy of the Egrant declaration of trust when the two met up. This would mean that Caruana Galizia had received a copy of the declaration of trust from an unknown source and then met up with Efimova to corroborate the story.
“When we met for the first time, [Caruana Galizia] already had copies of those declarations of trust,” Efimova said. “She showed them to me and asked me whether they are true and whether I had seen them in the bank, and I told her that yes, I had seen those very same declarations.”
During the interview, Efimova confirmed she had no documentation in hand when Delia specifically asked her whether she had any documents of suspicious transactions at Pilatus Bank. However, Joseph Muscat took it as proof that Efimova was backtracking on her claim that she had proof of the Egrant declaration of trust.
Efimova was in the news again today after a Cypriot newspaper reported she had been issued with a European arrest warrant by the Cypriot police after the director of a company she used to work for until 2014 reported her for stealing from the company. Efimova questioned why she is only being charged with this crime four years later, and suggested it could be linked to the fact that the director in question, Natalia Antoniou, also works for a Limassol-based law firm where she has served a particular Azeri client.
However, Antoniou told The Cyprus Business Mail that she had filed the complaint which led to the European arrest warrant four years ago on the instructions of the ultimate beneficial owner of Efimova’s former employer.