Caruana Galizia, Efimova, Pierre Portelli discredited by Egrant magisterial inquiry

Magistrate's findings are clear: declarations of trust were falsified and witnesses contradicted each other

Election 2017: Muscat is embraced by his family before making his final electoral speech
Election 2017: Muscat is embraced by his family before making his final electoral speech

The magisterial inquiry into allegations by the late Daphne Caruana Galizia that the Prime Minister’s wife was the owner of a secret Panamanian company, has found no proof of veracity in the claims.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja’s inquiry, presented to the Attorney General on Friday evening, found that neither Michelle Muscat or Joseph Muscat or any of their relatives could be linked to the company Egrant Inc.

And it left little to the imagination: the inquiry said documents had been fabricated, signatures falsified, testimonies by the journalists and whistleblowers unreliable, and that suspicions that evidence had been whisked away in the dead of the night, totally untrue.

The clamorous allegation published by Caruana Galizia in April 2017 was based on what whistleblower Maria Efimova, a former Pilatus Bank employeed, had claimed to the journalist.

The inquiry also established that it was not true that Muscat’s wife had received $1 million from a company owned by Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev’s daughter.

The inquiry heard 477 witnesses, and employed dozens of international forensic experts to analyse the data lifted from the now shuttered Pilatus Bank.

The report concluded that:

No shares were found in the company Egrant Inc. that belonged to Michelle Muscat or could be linked to Joseph Muscat or his family members

It was not established that the Muscats, chief of staff Keith Schembri, minister Konrad Mizzi as well as former EU commissioner John Dalli “could be involved in corruption or money laundering or suspicious financial transactions” from accounts of Azerbaijani politically exposed persons, using the Pilatus banking system as alleged by Caruana Galizia in her 20 April, 2017 reports.

That the declarations of trust had been falsified by an unknown individual using information found on the Internet and the ICIJ website.

The international experts employed by the inquiry declared: “We have found nothing in the digital data to suggest that Mrs Michelle Muscat, either personally or through companies she may own, had anything to do with Egrant.”

The magistrate found that the only declarations of trust that were presented to the inquiry were copies presented by former Malta Independent director Pierre Portelli, who is today PN leader Adrian Delia’s head of communications, which experts found to have been falsified.

It turns out the signatures on them were not genuine, with experts saying: “We have not found any digital versions of the Declarations of Trust you have been given which allegedly show that shares in Egrant are held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for Mrs Michelle Muscat.”

In his inquiry, the Magistrate said that the testimonies of Caruana Galizia and Efimova were given great importance, due to the fact that they were pivotal in the allegations made in the blogger’s article.

However, the inquiry stated that there was great difficulty to reconcile the accounts given by Efimova with those given by Caruana Galiza and Pierre Portelli with regard to many of the most important aspects of the remainder of the evidence gathered.

The Magistrate remarked that there were many points on which the statements of Efimova and Caruana Galizia did not appear to correspond when examined together or separately with the rest of the obtained evidence. 

One such example includes the CCTV from the kitchen at Pilatus Bank, which Caruana Galizia stated had not been there, while on the other hand, Efimova had said that she could not remember, but according to collected evidence there was a camera marked with the number 13. 

A number of other inconsistencies arose in view of the statements of Efimova where she spoke about her first meeting with Caruana Galizia.

The inquiry uncovered major discrepancies in the statement of Caruana Galizia, who first claimed that she had a copy of the documents supposedly passed to her by Efimova, but then later stated that she knew their location although they were not in her possession.

It was also discovered that while Daphne Caruana Galizia said that the documents were shown to her by Maria Efimova, the latter rejected this before the Magistrate, alleging rather that she had been shown the declaration of trust by Daphne, who had asked her about them as well as about the bank account opening forms of Egrant.

Efimova asserted that she had never made or taken any copies nor photos of these documents from Pilatus. She had also said that Daphne Caruana Galizia never shown her the original documents, and had never told her where she had obtained the copies which Efimova had seen. In fact, in her fourth declaration she said that Caruana Galizia had never obtained the documents from her which, according to the Magistrate, was the exact opposite of what Caruana Galizia had claimed.

An additional inconsistency emerged with respect to two documents that Caruana Galizia said were in the possession of Maria Efimova: telling Inspector Ian Abdilla rgar Efimova had shown her the application for opening of the bank account of Al Sahra FZCO of Dubai; but Efimova rebutted this, saying that she saw a certain ‘Sahra FZCO’ and not those of Al Sahra, and that in fact she did not have copies of those documents.

Daphne Caruana Galizia said that she could not swear that she had seen the documents when in the previous hearing she had sworn that she had indeed seen them.

The inquiry noted that “it seemed strange that Caruana Galizia said that she saw the documents of Al Sahra when from the investigation of the inquiry it transpired that the company did not, in actual fact, exist.”

Even in her second statement, when asked by the Magistrate whether she had seen anything in writing regarding those documents, Caruana Galizia contradicted what she had stated in April and said that she could not swear to it, despite the fact that in the previous hearing she had sworn to seeing them.

She had even testified that she had seen the documents relating to Egrant, yet this was not apparent in any of the printed or digital books or records of the bank, or any of the other evidence collected. Mrs Caruana Galizia had said that it was Efimova who had shown them to her. The Magistrate said that if Caruana Galizia was hard to believe on this point, it indicated that Maria Efimova, who could have answered if those documents she had down to Caruana Galizia were genuine or not.

Maria Efimova testified that she had never held copies of these, and that she had only seen them at Pilatus Bank.

It was also brought to light that Efimova had told Pierre Portelli that she had no documents connected with Egrant.