Maria Efimova (left) reportedly feared she was going to get dragged into the case of Sergei Skripal (right)
Maria Efimova, the Russian whistleblower at the heart of the Egrant story has turned herself in to the Athens police, Greek media are reporting.
According to Greek news site tvxs.gr, Efimova walked to a police station at Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens and gave herself in. She reportedly turned herself in amid fears that the UK media intended to link her to the recent diplomatic spat between the UK and Russia over the Salisbury nerve agent attack that left former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in critical condition.
In April last year, late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia shook Malta to the core when she wrote two blogposts saying that Egrant belonged to the Prime Minister’s wife 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. A magisterial inquiry, launched upon the request of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, has been ongoing since April of last year.
Efimova – a former Pilatus Bank employee – was originally believed to be one of Caruana Galizia’s main sources, but PN media chief Pierre Portelli later revealed the existence of a second source.
The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia has triggered a diplomatic spat between the UK and Russia
Malta and Cyprus had 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 filed for political asylum in the European country she was hiding in – now revealed to be Greece.
Efimova said she fled Malta after last year’s election because she feared for her safety and claimed an unspecified Maltese politician went as far as to subcontract a private detective to follow and speak to her father in Moscow.
“The detective first spoke to my father’s neighbours and then approached him personally to inquire whether my mother had really passed away, perhaps in an attempt to out me as a liar who had pretended my mother died to make people feel sorry for me,’ she told journalist-blogger Manuel Delia earlier this year. “My father gave me the detective’s details, and I approached his firm personally to explain the situation in Malta and to tell them not to bother my father anymore. They said they were sub-contracted by a Moscow agency, apologised and said they won’t ask any more questions. The second agency then told me they were contracted by a political person from Malta. They mentioned the name of this person but since I have no written proof, I do not think it would be correct to mention it.”
Efimova went on to say that her father was recently informed by the Russian authorities that her previous employer in Cyprus had filed a complaint against her, despite her having left the job four years ago. When she called the Cypriot police, they told her to travel to Cyprus for more information.
“It was strange that the second set of detectives approached my father, but when I did some research on the director of the company who made the complaint I found out that she works in a Cypriot financial services provider which is serving an Azeri company. Then it clicked to me that something is familiar here…”