The Malta Independent 9 June 2023, Friday
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No Cypriot arrest warrant for Efimova; gives interview from Greek prison

Sunday, 1 April 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Greek newspaper Kathimerini has reported that there is no pending arrest warrant against Russian Maria Efimova, the Pilatus Bank whistleblower, in Cyprus. Cypriot authorities have attempted to lodge a Red Notice for the Russian, but Interpol's general secretariat dismissed the request saying the evidence submitted had been insufficient.

Efimova, who is being detained in a prison in Thebes after she handed herself in to Greek authorities on 20 March, explains how her name had been leaked to the press on May 2016: "A judge [magistrate] gave my name to the press. After [Daphne] Caruana Galizia's reports, I went to testify on everything I knew. I didn't join a witness protection programme, as the judge [magistrate] assured me my name would remain secret."

But when her name was made public in Malta, and considering the weight of her claims that the Prime Minister's wife owned the third secret Panamanian company set up in tandem with those of Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri, she felt more than somewhat under threat.

She decided to flee Malta, despite ongoing court proceedings, which eventually led to a warrant being issued for her arrest, with her Greek husband and their two children in June 2017.

She told the newspaper about her movements after leaving Malta: "We went to several countries before ending up on Crete in September. I was watching news in Malta. It was mainly focused on an imminent parliamentary election and I assumed that my case was slowly being forgotten. But in October Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bombing. I didn't ask for protection but I spoke with a delegation of MEPs and told them I was ready to help the investigation and find the journalist's killers."

Kathimerini reports that Efimova had been in Crete for around seven months and was preparing her CV to find a job, but her life was becoming increasingly difficult.

She said she had been told that her former boss at Pilatus Bank would soon be arrested and she was worried she could face retaliation for the information she had provided to the authorities. "There was fear that something would happen to me before the arrest, as part of the information on the bank's activities had come from me," Efimova is quoted as saying.

At that point, she decided to seek the assistance of the Greek authorities: "I immediately came to Athens to give myself up. I didn't do it on Crete, because that's where my family was."

The newspaper reports that at dawn on 20 March, she voluntarily went a police station in Syntagma, central Athens, to ask for protection. That, she told the newspaper, is when the Greek authorities found there were two pending Maltese warrants for her arrest, and she was detained.

That same day, in the United States, Pilatus chairman Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad was arrested in the US for money laundering and evading US sanctions against Iran.

Efimova adds, "I worked as the bank owner's private assistant from January to March 2016, then they fired me. In the relevant letter they sent me, they did not mention the reason for my dismissal.

"I had worked in a bank before and had experience in compliance departments. I often told them, 'What you are doing is illegal'."

She told the newspaper much of what she had explained to The Malta Independent on Sunday in an interview with Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Her problems with Pilatus, she says, began when she claimed unpaid wages, and that the then bank moved against her, accusing her of using company money without authorisation to pay for her husband and children's airline tickets to Germany and Thessaloniki, and for her father-in-law to fly from Cyprus to Malta.

According to court documents Efimova made available to the Greek newspaper, she was interrogated by two Maltese police officers on 10 August 2016. In a report she filed, she claims she was mistreated, and said one of the officers pushed her and took her mobile phone while two Pilatus Bank executives were present during the interrogation. She also said one of the police officers insulted her while the other kept saying he was convinced she was guilty.

The newspaper quoted Efimova as saying, "The policemen who interrogated me told me, 'We are friends of the bank', and they even pressured me to apologise to the bank executives they had brought to the police station.

One of the police officers who interrogated her has since quit his position with the Maltese police and Efimova now says he is willing to come to Greece to testify in her favour.

"She's in good shape, but she is emotionally upset as she's not used to detention," her lawyer Alexandros Papasteriopoulos said.

The Greek courts are scheduled to hear Malta's request for Efimova's extradition on 12 April.


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