Prime Minister Robert Abela has flat out denied claims by financial blogger Kenneth Rijock that the United States is pressuring him to grant whistleblower status to former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova and rescind her arrest warrant.
A spokesperson for Abela denounced the allegation as “totally false and unsubstantiated”, noting that the law doesn’t give the Prime Minister any power or right to decide on whether people should be granted whistleblower status or have their arrest warrant removed.
“It is indeed sad that lies and fabricated assertions uploaded on a blog by a former money launderer are published by certain news portals and almost portrayed as fact for the sole reason of sensationalism and a degree of political malice,” he said.
Rijock, a former-money-launderer-turned-FBI informant, has recently published some stunning claims about an alleged international investigation into high-profile people in Malta.
Citing sources in law enforcement, he said the FBI, Italy and two other European countries have launched investigations into alleged money laundering implicating former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Muscat has denounced these allegations, using Rijock’s past as a money launderer to cast serious doubt on his credibility.
He also took the occasion to question why Efimova is still scot free, despite a magisterial inquiry recommending she be investigated for calumny and perjury over her role in the Egrant saga.
In 2017, now-assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia famously claimed that declarations of trust inside a safe at Pilatus Bank proved that the Panama company Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat, wife of Joseph Muscat.
Her source was later revealed to be Efimova, a Russian national who used to work as the executive assistant of the bank’s chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.
Caruana Galizia wrote that the documents had been scanned and uploaded to the cloud, for security purposes, by third parties so that they cannot be destroyed by the bank.
However, a magisterial inquiry found no evidence that Egrant belonged to the Muscats and revealed glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies of Caruana Galizia and Efimova, with both people stating the other had shown them the documents.
After the magisterial inquiry was published, Efimova insisted that she did actually have the documents but didn’t hand them over to the magisterial inquiry because she was scared she would get punished for having acquired them illegally.
She said she was ready to submit important financial documents for forensic testing if she is granted whistleblower status and protection from prosecution and launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs.
Efimova raised €15,000 in January but has provided no updates on this campaign, raising suspicion among some donors that she had run away with the money.
However, she responded that she won’t publish the evidence until Malta grants her protection.
“[Muscat’s] goal is to make me publish the evidence without whistleblower status,” she said. “In such case, the evidence will be considered illegal, and I will be prosecuted. No way. I was waiting for more than three years, so I can wait a bit more.”
Malta has attempted to extradite Efimova in the past over accusations that she defrauded Pilatus Bank and made false accusations against the police officers who interrogated her over the claim. However, Greece turned down this extradition request.