Updated | Maria Efimova will not be extradited to Malta, Greek court rules

Maria Efimova's lawyer says the decision was based on concerns about whether Efimova would have been granted a fair trial in Malta

Maria Efimova turned herself in to Greek authorities
Maria Efimova turned herself in to Greek authorities

Pilatus Bank whistleblower Maria Efimova has been freed and she will not be extradited to Malta, following a decision by a Greek court.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Efimova's lawyer Alexandros Papastergiopoulous said the decision represented a victory for the rule of law. He said the main reason for the court's decision were concerns about whether Efimova would be granted a fair trial, as well as concerns related to her safety if she were to be returned.

"Furthermore, the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was inappropriately justified," he said, adding that the crimes did not warrant the issuing of a EAW.

While MaltaToday has not yet seen a copy of the judgment handed down by the court, several Greek media outlets have stated the EAW was not accepted because the EAWs issued by Malta were vague, and had been issued on the same day the Maltese arrest warrant was issued. They also added that the crimes did not warrant a EAW.

In a Tweet, PN MEP David Casa said the fact that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri were not brought to justice made it clear that the rule of law in Malta was not functioning.

Efimova, a former employee at Pilatus Bank, was issued with a European arrest warrant last year after she twice failed to turn up in the Maltese court to face charges of fraud filed by her former employer.

Casa was asked to testify by Efimova's legal team. Outside the Athens courtroom, Casa said he testified about the ties Pilatus Bank had with "criminal wrongdoing" in the office of the Maltese Prime Minister.

Casa said the court assessed the various reports from Malta’s anti-money laundering agency, the FIAU. The PN MEP also referred to the FIAU report in his possession, that allegedly details the involvement of minister Konrad Mizzi in criminal activity.

Efimova is currently facing two sets of criminal proceedings in Malta. She has been accused by Pilatus Bank of defrauding it of roughly €2,000 in one case, and by the police of having made false accusations against Superintendent Denis Theuma, inspector Lara Butters and Jonathan Ferris, who had interrogated her.

Both cases happened in 2016 and pre-date the public fallout of the Egrant affair.

Efimova had worked at Pilatus Bank between January and March 2016 before being laid off. She had instituted a case in the Industrial Tribunal against Pilatus for unpaid wages.

Efimova has claimed to have seen documents while working at the bank that show how the Panama company Egrant belonged to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle. She also alleged that the bank had processed a $1 million transaction from Azerbaijan to Michelle Muscat.

The Muscats deny the allegations, describing them as “the biggest political lie” to ever be told in Malta.

The Prime Minister had also asked for a magisterial inquiry to probe the claims, pledging to resign if the magistrate found any link whatsoever.

Efimova had testified in front of Magistrate Aaron Bugeja and the inquiry is ongoing.

In June 2017, Efimova left Malta and settled on Crete.

She turned herself in earlier this month, a day after US authorities arrested her former employer, Pilatus chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, on charges of breaching sanctions against Iran.

Efimova claims her life is in danger if she returns to Malta, after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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