The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

Egrant: No tangible evidence yet on PM’s pre-election claim of Russian involvement – police sources

Rachel Attard Sunday, 12 August 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

There is no tangible evidence as yet on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s claim that there was Russian ‘involvement’ in the Egrant affair, police sources have told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

In May of last year, right in the middle of the electoral campaign, the Prime Minster had said he was informed by two ‘allied security services’ that the whole Egrant whistleblower story had been invented to pay him back for not allowing a Russian warship to enter Malta to refuel on its way to Syria during the height of hostilities in the war-torn country.

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However, police sources have now told this newsroom that so far the Malta Security Services have not called on the police to start an investigation.

That is because, presumably, they do not have sufficient proof to justify such a call.

Yet there remains one key witness who could shed some light on the matter, Egrant whistleblower Maria Efimova, who is still to be questioned by the Maltese police.

Earlier this week, this newsroom broke the story that Efimova is expected to be charged with perjury and slander in Malta. A former employee of Pilatus Bank, she allegedly leaked information to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia regarding Egrant and its ownership. The journalist had alleged that the Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat, owned a Panamanian company, which was set up in tandem with those belonging to Minister Konrad Mizzi and Office of the Prime Minister chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The magisterial inquiry, however, found no evidence to support the Egrant claim. It also found that the signatures on documents given to the inquiring magistrate had been forged.

Sources close to the police told this newsroom that they are currently going through the voluminous inquiry conducted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja on the allegations Efimova made. Earlier this week, former FIAU manager Jonathan Ferris was questioned for three hours at Police Headquarters about the testimony he gave to the inquiry.

Opposition leader Adrian Delia said last Thursday that Nationalist Party Media Head Pierre Portelli was also called in for questioning by the police. Portelli had also given his testimony to Magistrate Bugeja during the inquiry.

 

OPM reaction

This newsroom sent a number of questions to the Office of the Prime Minster (OPM) on the Russian involvement alleged by the Prime Minster, questions which were completely avoided.

They were: After your statement more than a year ago, do you have more information about this? Do you still stand by what you said then? In the past year, did you have diplomatic talks related to this? If yes, with whom? Did this issue feature in the Egrant Inquiry? Did Magistrate Aaron Bugeja ask you about it?

All the OPM had to say in reply was: “Investigators should be allowed to carry out their duties in determining how the Egrant calumny was orchestrated and who the masterminds behind the forged documents leading to this political frame-up were.

“There is one clear and unequivocal result of the Magisterial Inquiry: the Prime Minister and his family never had any link, connection or relation with Egrant as falsely alleged by a number of bloggers, journalists and politicians. The only documents presented as evidence were confirmed to have been falsified.

“The question that stands is: in whose interest was this fabrication orchestrated? The Prime Minister will let the independent institutions deliver justice in an autonomous manner with respect to the rule of law.”

 

Muscat’s original Russian payback claim

During one of the pre-election press conferences in May last year (video above), the Prime Minister was asked by a MaltaToday journalist to respond to an article on the Intelligence Online website, which claimed that, “The MI6 and the CIA are highly concerned by what the Russian couple has been up to in Malta. Some officials perceive it as a move to destabilise Malta’s pro-western Prime Minister comes from the Kremlin especially because it occurred at a time when Muscat was openly opposed to Moscow.” The article itself goes on to claim that MI6 and the CIA were concerned about possible Russian interference in the election process.

Muscat replied that he was informed by two allied security services that the Egrant whistleblower story was invented to pay him back for not allowing a Russian ship to enter Malta on its way to the Syria conflict for refuelling.

He said that Malta had received such information from two allied intelligence agencies. However, he added that he did not have evidence that the people inventing the Egrant story were connected to the Russian secret services. 

The Prime Minister had added another claim at the time: that the government was informed that the attitude of the Maltese Presidency’s acceleration of the EU visa waiver programme for Ukraine had irritated certain people and that there was going to be some form of retaliation. Muscat stressed that it was not the Maltese Security Services that discovered this information, but, rather, the two allied security services.

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