Efimova tweets: Your mother/wife/daughter should be blown up first

I cannot be objective, Efimova says, not until someone in my immediate family is killed. This, it would seem, is the yardstick of objectivity for a “whistleblower”

Maria Efimova's tweet
Maria Efimova's tweet

Only the other day, the Russian national Maria Efimova tweeted to me over an opinion I had written. In this tweet, after suggesting that it was a reasoned and interesting piece, she said: “To be objective on a matter, your mother/wife/daughter should be blown up first.”

So just imagine had we been talking about someone else. Not an Efimova or a Saviour Balzan. I have no doubt that some motley group and well-paid MEP would now be up in arms protesting and posting comments about the vilification of a journalist. They would seek out the favour of the international press to show what a hell-hole Malta is, and giving the impression that nobody decent exists in Malta anymore.

I cannot be objective, Efimova says, not until someone in my immediate family is killed. This, it would seem, is the yardstick of objectivity for a “whistleblower” whose career at the lower end of the trading and financial services has been somewhat ennobled into a moral crusade of sorts. What kind of false equivalence and moral emptiness is that?

Efimova’s role as a source into the Egrant affair has been the subject of much controversy.

She alleged that Michelle Muscat is linked to Egrant, one of the three Panamanian companies set up by Nexia BT; and yet, from what we know about the inquiry led by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, there has been no proof to back up this assertion. Worse still, it is clear that some of the papers produced are fakes and all relevant researches have proven nothing.

Efimova burst into the scene after being sacked by Pilatus Bank and charged in court for misappropriation of funds, apart from being charged with falsely accusing a police officer. Before that she had been the subject of Cypriot charges for alleged embezzlement of funds following a complaint by the Limassol-based I.D.F. Fragrance Distribution, a Russian-owned company which employed Efimova in the past. The arrest warrant was also issued against her husband. Then Efimova started work at Pilatus Bank, and after working there for only some weeks, reportedly used the bank’s funds to sponsor her family holiday. Her decision not to turn up in a Maltese court and leave the island to face charges of falsely accusing her arresting officers, left the magistrate no option but to issue an arrest warrant for her.

Efimova was embraced unquestioningly by Daphne Caruana Galizia and she was also welcomed by Pierre Portelli, who back then was director of content at The Malta Independent and now serves as Adrian Delia’s right-hand man; giving him very good advice on the way forward. But more significantly, she was saluted by then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who based his entire political strategy and, of course election strategy, on her allegations, even though he knew that he had no hard proof.

It was a gamble he was willing to take, and he lost that gamble. Today he gambols around as if he was never wrong in his assessment, posing as the Joan of Arc of Maltese politics.

Efimova was obviously hailed by David Casa, who is in desperate need to keep up his militancy if he wants to keep his seat in Brussels. When Efimova spoke to MEPs during their rule-of-law mission, she said she had not been the primary source on Egrant. They sensed that she was not exactly the deep throat they had expected, but did not want to pour cold water into the cauldron of scandal that bubbled during their Malta visit.

I cannot be objective, Efimova says, not until someone in my immediate family is killed. This, it would seem, is the yardstick of objectivity for a “whistleblower”

In her tweets Efimova, in an apparent break from her crusade, shows herself sunbathing on a lawn somewhere in Cyprus. She talks about the tension and stress, understandably not that which she has caused to others. Coming from someone who has sown so much chaos and confusion in her path, it says quite a lot. I wonder what will happen when people (even those who had no compunction being part of the financial services world that Efimova wanted to get to know better of) will finally realise what the truth is.

What will they say? Will they talk of a plot? A cover-up? I would not be in any way surprised. Until then I will have to keep my mouth shut. What objectivity can I possibly have if, as Efimova reasoned to me, I have not yet had my mother/wife/daughter blown up first? It sounds like first-class logic, the kind where one publishes without the facts, abuses political opponents and their relatives, or gets paid to write against certain people.

***

A story in the Times on an Italian NGO’s report suggesting that Malta could be overtaken by the Mafia caught my attention. For the wrong reasons.

Italian journalism can be superficial and shallow, with opinion freely bandied about inside news reports. Although this report was not from some newspaper. But it was one which the Times made a meal out of, relishing in depicting Malta as some kind of provincial town down the Italian heel. Here is one of the paragraphs from that report in Italian, which obviously does not feature in the narrative.

“[Mario] Gennaro poteva contare su circa una ventina di società collegate al marchio commerciale Betuniq, a sua volta controllato dalla Uniq Group Limited il cui principale azionista è la Gvm Holdings, fiduciaria controllata da David Gonzi, avvocato e figlio dell’ex premier Lawrence Gonzi. Un perfetto sistema di scatole cinesi. L’ennesima prova dell’intreccio perverso fra politica e malaffare.”

Now for those with primary school Italian it is clear that one of the last comments in this Italian report (already published countless times in Maltese newspapers) refers to the role of Lawrence Gonzi’s son in setting up remote gaming companies whose directors were connected to the Mafia. According to the Italians, this is just more proof of the intricate and perverse link between politics and criminality.

Now let me, of all people, come to the rescue of David Gonzi. I am sure that David, whom I knew briefly when he was younger, had nothing to do with the Mafia, or that his father, whom I might have not appreciated as a politician, used his position to promote such ‘fantastical’ links.

But, and a big but, what seemingly is good for the goose is not good for the gander. And the Times of Malta is very careful in latching on to this rehashed news report to advance the ‘mafia state’ narrative. In my opinion, it is a short-sighted strategy, for it lacks a deeper evaluation of the allegations and rests easily on the facile soundbite.

Rewind to May 2017 and recall when MaltaToday asked an innocent question to Joseph Muscat on what had been published in a report by the French intelligence publication Maghreb Confidential. On this, the Italian NGO’s rehash report wrote: “Altri fatti dimostrano che è in corso intorno all’Isola un intenso scontro fra intelligence di varia appartenenza. Alla vigilia delle elezioni dello scorso anno, che hanno riconfermato Joseph Muscat premier, la CIA e l’MI6 avvertono il Governo di una possibile intromissione russa per pilotare la consultazione elettorale.”

Here the Italian NGO reports what had been reported, namely that CIA and M16 had allegedly suggested that the Russians were intervening in the Maltese national election.

You can see where this is going: the NGO’s report has collated all newspaper reports dealing with organised crime in Malta like some 10-year-old and his Panani sticker album. Some of those stories were broken by MaltaToday and the EIC’s MaltaFiles.

What tickled the Times’ fancy was the final paragraph: “L’attitudine che numerosi gruppi stranieri hanno di scegliere Malta per le loro operazioni che in alcuni casi mirano ad aggirare le sanzioni internazionali rappresentano inoltre un fattore di rischio da non sottovalutare. Una situazione di rischio potenziale in uno stato facente parte della Ue non è tollerabile. Il report ha lo scopo di risvegliare le coscienze prima che sia troppo tardi.”

Which basically states that Malta is on the brink of a takeover by foreign criminal gangs.

I very much doubt this reading is rooted in reality. At this point Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio comes to mind: a fitting novel for the pandemonium that is some Italian journalism and how it gets copied and pasted to advance the agendas of febrile minds.

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