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Not to be trusted

It was among the worst indictments of the government one could ever imagine and it came from a Greek court, not the usual suspects, activists for the rule of law in this country.

The reasons why a Greek court decided to free Pilatus Bank whistleblower Maria Efimova and not have her extradited to Malta, were three, one more damning than the other.

The court said it was concerned for her safety if she were to return, a clear thumbs down to the country’s police and security services.

The court also expressed concern that she would not be granted a fair trial, a slap in the face for the country’s justice system.

And, third, the court could not even see the reasons why a European arrest warrant had been issued against Ms Efimova. A court in a fellow European Union country has refused to send a woman to Malta because it does not trust its institutions. It does not see the rule of law at work here.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat can say whatever he wants to play the matter down but this is all his government’s doing. His administration has undermined this country’s institutions to the point that a Greek court has said this country is not to be trusted.

There was always the feeling that the government tried its best to please Pilatus Bank to the point of stalking Ms Efimova. As it turns out, the Pilatus Bank chairman is behind bars facing serious charges in the US while she has been freed by a Greek court.

But the most serious of all is that Ms Efimova is a whistleblower, not one recognised by the Maltese government, of course, but a whistleblower nonetheless, who alleged that the Prime Minister’s wife is the owner of the elusive company Egrant Inc in Panama, an allegation they deny.

Dr Muscat has staked his whole political career on a magisterial inquiry into the allegations that were first made in a blog by murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The inquiry is still not concluded.

All that we know, since it was opened before the last election, is that Ms Efimova was not the sole whistleblower and was not Ms Caruana Galizia’s main source. That means there was another witness and if the investigating magistrate finds something tangible in the claim that $1 million were passed from Azerbaijan to Egrant’s account at Pilatus Bank it could open a whole can of worms.

That could, in turn, create serious problems for the Prime Minister, who says he will not stand for election again. He has had enormous electoral successes, has shattered the Opposition party and achieved impressive economic progress, even if was often at the expense of the country’s heritage and environment. Yet, all along, his administration has been plagued by bad governance and partisanship of the worst kind. It has undermined everything.

The brutal murder of Ms Caruana Galizia, one of his most severe critics, was the culmination of the governmental dysfunction. She immortalised the situation in her final words: “The situation is getting desperate.”

Now, six months down the line since her murder, those words are ominously beginning to sound like a reference to the government.

Ms Efimova’s acquittal in Greece must be giving the Prime Minister and some of his men sleepless nights.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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