Update 2 | Landlord says ‘Egrant’ whistleblower has moved away from Malta with family

Former employee at Pilatus Bank facing charges of fraud and false report against police, fails to attend second sitting in a row • Prime Minister ‘hopes’ woman returns to Malta to testify

The offices of Pilatus Bank in Ta' Xbiex
The offices of Pilatus Bank in Ta' Xbiex

The landlord of the former Pilatus Bank employee whose allegations launched the Egrant investigation has told a court that she has moved away from Malta with her family, after she once again failed to appear in court.

The Russian national is the subject of at least two criminal proceedings, accused in one of defrauding Pilatus Bank and in another of having made false accusations against Superintendent Denis Theuma and police inspectors Jonathan Ferris and Lara Butters.

The woman’s defence lawyer Daniel Buttigieg told the court that he has been unable to contact her since June. She had changed lawyers and had told the court that she was going to pay her previous lawyer, but had failed to do so, observed the magistrate.

The court had already ordered her arrest in the last sitting and fined her €500 after failing to turn up.

In comments sought by reporters earlier today, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said it was up to the police to determine whether the woman had left the country in a regular manner, or not.

He however went on to add that someone who has nothing to hide does not leave the country. Muscat also said that he hoped the woman returns to Malta to give evidence in all the pending court cases.

Inspector Jeffrey Scicluna testified that on 1 August he had liaised with the Sliema police station to arrest the woman at her home address. Officers found a woman cleaning and all the rooms empty. He spoke to the landlord who told him that she had recently gone abroad with her children and some days her husband followed. She owed him rent and had been in email contact with the landlord to arrange payment by internet banking, he said.

Landlord Stephen Rossi testified that he had leased the flat to the couple, who had originally been working abroad. They had made contact with him through an agency, he said and had renewed their lease agreement for a further 12 month period. The court asked whether he knew what happened to his tenants. “The last time I spoke to the man was on the 21st July, to take the water and electricity meter readings. Apparently both his wife and children had both been away for some time... He didn't tell me he was going to leave Malta, he just said that he wouldn't be staying there any more. I thought he wanted to move to a bigger place.” 

The last time the landlord had seen the woman was 3 months ago, he said. She had sent him an email on 31st July saying her family had found itself subject to intimidation and needed to leave Malta urgently. She promised to send the keys by mail and settle outstanding bills and rent amounting to €1,795.  He had received neither keys nor money to date, he added.

Inspectors Ferris and Butters had been investigating the fraud allegations filed by Pilatus Bank and had arraigned the woman under arrest.. The woman was later charged with making defamatory allegations about the police inspectors and Superintendent Dennis Theuma. 

Inspector Butters testified that the woman had filed an application to the Criminal Court in March asking for permission to go abroad and had been allowed to do so. The decree did not specify a date for travel, saying only that she was restricted to travelling to EU countries and to inform the police of her movements. The last time she had signed her bail book was 26 June, said the inspector. “I was not informed that she had not signed since then.” After enquiring with JobsPlus the inspector found that the woman had ceased to be employed as of 27 June.

The court ordered that the woman be placed on the wanted list, saying the warrant for arrest remained in force but the fine would not be liquidated as yet.  

When he later joined the government’s anti-money laundering agency (FIAU), Ferris was reportedly asked to step back from the Egrant investigations, having already investigated the woman in fraud allegations and the defamation charges filed against her. The former inspector was later dismissed from his post. He is on the record as saying he believed his sacking was intended to silence him.

The case will continue in November unless the woman is traced earlier.

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