Egrant | Inconsistencies magistrate flagged over Caruana Galizia and Efimova

Magistrate Aaron Bugjea flagged inconsistencies in the testimony of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Pierre Portelli and Maria Efimova in the Egrant Inquiry

The following are some of the inconsistencies flagged by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja in the testimony of Daphne Caruana Galizia (DCG), Pierre Portelli (PP) and Maria Efimova (ME)

1.  Michael Satariano and the $1 million transaction

Satariano was an assistant manager at Nexia BT between April 2015 and May 2016. In one of her blogs, Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed that Satariano (she did not name him but said she had his name) had been chasing Pilatus Bank incessantly over an alleged transaction of $1 million from Azerbaijan-owned company Sahra FZCO to Egrant Inc., which was taking its time after it raised questions with the US correspondent bank.

Caruana Galizia also alleged that Satariano was involved in the setting up of Egrant in 2013 and had consigned the bank account opening forms for Egrant, Tillgate and Hearnville to Pilatus Bank.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja

What they told the magistrate

DCG: Maria Efimova told her that Satariano had been pestering Pilatus Bank over the $1 million transaction to Egrant Inc. and was the man who delivered the bank account opening forms for the three Panama companies.

ME: Caruana Galizia must have mixed things up and that is not what she had told her. Efimova said it was Caruana Galizia who asked her about the $1 million transaction and not the other way around. Efimova gives differing versions of the transaction and how it happened.

What the magistrate found

Satariano had been pestering Pilatus Bank but this was unrelated to Egrant. The Nexia employee was asking about the case of Italian clients by the name Corrado and Fiore, and the companies Privilege Ltd and Exiat Holdings Ltd. The magistrate also found that Satariano could not been involved in the setting up of Egrant back in 2013 because he was not even employed with Nexia at the time. Egrant, Tillgate and Hearnville never had accounts at Pilatus Bank. The magistrate also concluded that the article in which Caruana Galizia alleged that $1 million were transferred to Egrant was based on the wrong interpretation of “misguided information” pertaining to an FIAU compliance report of Pilatus in May 2016. There was never any such transaction between the Dubai-based company and Egrant, Tillgate and Hearnville. Indeed, the three Panama companies did not have accounts at Pilatus.

Maria Efimova
Maria Efimova

2.  Efimova and Caruana Galizia meetings

Efimova was unclear when she first met Caruana Galizia, giving different versions to the magistrate and an Italian newspaper.

What Efimova told the magistrate

First testimony: She met Caruana Galizia three or four times. The first meeting took place in March 2017 at Efimova’s house.

Second testimony: The first meeting took place sometime after Easter of 2017.

Third testimony: The first meeting took place in March, or sometime before or after Easter of 2017.

What the magistrate found

Easter in 2017 came in April, not March, and in a subsequent interview Efimova gave the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, she said the first meeting took place in September or October 2016, some six months after she was sacked from Pilatus Bank.

3.  The declarations of trust

These were supposed to be the crucial documents showing that Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat and which according to what Caruana Galizia wrote in her blog, had been scanned and uploaded to “the cloud” for safe keeping sometime in 2016.

Daphne Caruana Galizia
Daphne Caruana Galizia

What they told the magistrate

DCG 1: On 27 April, she told the inquiry that she had a copy of the documents.

DCG 2: On 31 May, Caruana Galizia clarified her first testimony by saying that she knew where the documents were but these were not in her possession. She put down the apparent inconsistency to the fact that in April, nobody knew who the ‘whistleblower’ was. Caruana Galizia insisted that she saw printouts of the declarations of trust held by Maria Efimova and not just digital copies. Caruana Galizia said Efimova had scans/soft copies and printouts of the documents. Caruana Galizia said Efimova told her that she had scanned the documents and uploaded them to her personal cloud but did not take them out from the Pilatus safe.

PP: He had reached an agreement with Efimova to give him a copy of the declarations of trust after she would have accessed her iCloud account using a VPN (software that masks the user’s identity and location when accessing the internet). Efimova never gave him the documents. He said that Caruana Galizia and Efimova both told him that they had passed on these documents to the inquiring magistrate. Portelli does not say from where he got the declarations of trust that he passed on to the magistrate.

ME 1: It was Caruana Galizia who showed her the declarations of trust for Egrant and Sahra FZCO. Caruana Galizia never told her from where she got copies of the declarations of trust. Efimova said she never took any copies or photos of these documents when she worked at Pilatus Bank.

ME 2: In her fourth testimony Efimova said she had seen the bank account opening forms for Egrant, Tillgate and Hearnville in March 2016 and saw them in a batch with other documents she was reviewing. She said the declarations of trust did not have a letterhead.

What the magistrate found

The testimony of Caruana Galizia and Portelli tallied in that Efimova must have had access to a digital copy of the documents if they were on her iCloud.

However, Efimova’s version was diametrically opposed to Caruana Galizia’s when she said that it was the journalist who showed her documents and not the other way around. Forensic searches at Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank, information from the Panama Papers cache and testimony of Pilatus Bank employees confirmed that the bank account opening forms for Egrant, Tillgate and Hearnville never existed. The companies did not have bank accounts at Pilatus and Egrant was never owned by the Muscats.

The inquiring magistrate was never given or shown any documents by either Caruana Galizia or Efimova, contrary to what Pierre Portelli claimed to have been told.

Efimova’s testimony that the documents she saw at the bank did not have a letterhead, contradicted the transcripts Caruana Galizia produced on her blog and the documents Portelli eventually handed the magistrate. The documents turned out to be false, with forged signatures.