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[WATCH] Online publication claims Russian meddling, PM says he is aware of allegation

Specialist website IntelligenceOnline.com may have added a new twist to the Maltese elections: Russian interference

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
24 May 2017, 9:52am
Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat addresses pa press conference with PL MP Silvio Parnis and candidate Rosianne Cutajar
Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat addresses pa press conference with PL MP Silvio Parnis and candidate Rosianne Cutajar
Online publication claims Russian meddling, PM says he is aware of allegation
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is saying he is aware of information from foreign intelligence services, of alleged Russian meddling in Malta’s election, after reacting to news carried in specialist publication IntelligenceOnline.com [paywall] which claimed British and American agencies were “concerned about possible interference in the Maltese election process.”

Muscat said he could not state, as claimed in the report, whether the whistleblower in the Egrant allegations, a Russian national, was connected to these claims.

“All I know is that we were told to expect retribution for our role in hastening the visa waiver programme for Ukraine and after we stopped the refuelling of a Russian warship on the way to Syria,” Muscat said.

“This information came to us from foreign agencies, not from the Malta Security Services.”

According to the IntelligenceOnline.com, a French publication founded in 1980 by Indigo Publications that covers the intelligence sector, British and American intelligence agencies, “with MI6 and CIA at the forefront” were concerned about possible Russian interference in the Maltese election process.

“The allegations were made by a Russian accountant, Maria E., who long worked in Cyprus and is now in Malta, where she previously served with Pilatus Bank,” the report said referring to the Egrant allegations.

There was no clear connection stated between the Egrant allegations and Russian influence, but the publication namedropped Alex Zaslavsky, saying the whistleblower works for a St Julian’s eMoney payment firm, that belongs to Zaslavsky. MaltaToday could not confirm whether Zaslavsky, listed as an American citizen with a California domicile according to the Maltese company registry, shares the same address with the whistleblower as claimed in IntelligenceOnline.com.

According to IntelligenceOnline.com, “some officials perceive it as a move to destabilise Malta’s pro-Western prime minister that comes from on high in the Kremlin, especially because it has occurred at a time when Muscat has been openly opposed to Moscow,” it said referring to Malta’s refusal to allow Russian  vessels like the RFS Dubra sailing to Syria to stop over and refuel on the island. That stirred Moscow’s fury as it deemed such refuelling vital. The Russian foreign ministry had condemned Malta’s decision saying in a statement that the island had “fallen victim to an information war led by the West”.

Muscat also said that Opposition leader Simon Busuttil was finding it difficult to take responsibility for the fact that he had called a protest over allegations by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia that the prime minister’s wife was the owner of Panamanian company Egrant.

“I understand that Busuttil trusts the magistrate, so I don’t think he should have a problem accepting my challenge that if anything links me with these allegations I resign, and he resigns if the allegation is not true.

“I won’t speculate about the work left for the magistrate, but I understand that the magistrate is seeking verification with other jurisdictions in the USA, the Emirates, Panama, and Azerbaijan.”

Muscat also said his chief of staff Keith Schembri will have to carry his own responsibilities if the inquiries into his business affairs and suspected kickbacks become the subject of a criminal investigation.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.