AG rejects claims it helped Egrant whistleblower 'vanish'

Lengthy statement lays out court proceedings concerning Efimova

Attorney General Peter Grech. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Attorney General Peter Grech. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Attorney General's office has strenuously denied that it indirectly helped a whistleblower "vanish" by not putting up a fight to her court requests to be granted travel rights.  

In a lengthy statement, the AG's office said that claims on social media that it had facilitated the woman's disappearance were untrue. 

Former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova is at the centre of the Egrant scandal which rocked Malta earlier this year. According to blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, Mrs Efimova saw documents which named the Prime Minister's wife as the ultimate beneficial owner of Panama company Egrant. Michelle Muscat strongly denies the claim and has filed court proceedings. 

Mrs Efimova, who testified before inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja last April, was also embroiled in a court case with her former employer over misappropriation of funds and fraud. Pilatus Bank alleges that the woman used company funds to go abroad with her family. 

She has failed to appear for two court sittings related to that case, with prosecutors telling the court that she and her family had left their Sliema apartment and were nowhere to be found.  

In its statement, the AG's office pushed against former police inspector Jonathan Ferris without mentioning him by name, saying his claims that he had always objected to Mrs Efimova receiving bail were untrue.

AG statement

The AG's office said that when Mrs Efimova was first arraigned in August 2016, the prosecution, including "the former police officer who is now being quoted as saying he always objected to her being released on bail" , had not objected to bail on the condition that she deposits her Russian passport and internal Russian passport [a mandatory identification document for all Russians]  with the court, pay a personal deposit of €8,500 and sign the bail book at her local police station. 

Just one week later, the court imposed a €9,500 effective deposit and €15,000 personal deposit as preconditions for Mrs Efimova to be allowed to travel overseas. 

READ: Muscat to file libel suit following Egrant claims

A week after that, she asked the court to reduce those sums. The AG's office said it objected, but the court had accepted her request, reducing the effective deposit to €5,000 and removing the €15,000 personal deposit requirement altogether.

On March 29, Mrs Efimova had filed a request to go overseas for work purposes. Her employer, she told the court, had offices in Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic.  

She had asked the court to release her Russian passport and internal passport as well as Maltese residence card, requested that she be allowed to do so on the basis of the €8,500 deposit she had forked out in August when she was granted bail, and handed the court a copy of a work contract showing that she had been employed with the company since May 9, 2016. 

This time, the AG's office did not object, the office conceded, provided that Mrs Efimova's passport was restricted to travel to Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic, that she pay a €2,000 deposit and that she contact police within 12 hours of her return to Malta.

The court granted the woman permission to travel within the EU provided she pay a €2,000 deposit.   

On April 19 - one day before Egrant claims were made public - she filed a court application asking the court to also return her internal Russian passport and Maltese residence card. 

The AG's Office said it did not object provided that she returned her Russian passport and that her Maltese residence card was limited to travel within Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic. 

The court, however, rejected Mrs Efimova's request, and the woman's Russian passport, internal passport and Maltese residence card remain with the court, the AG's Office said.

"This shows that claims that the Office of the Attorney General facilitated the accused's disappearance in some way is without basis and makes no sense," the statement concluded. 

'Rule of law is no more' - PN

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat only defended whistleblowers when it suited him, rewarding them when they revealed information linked to former PN ministers but intimidating those with information that threatened him. 

"There is no doubt that the Egrant whistleblower was persecuted by Muscat," the PN said. "The rule of law in our country has ended and the law is no longer equal for all."