The Short Story Of A Whistleblower Asking For Protection In Greece
Maria Efimova, the whistleblower and source of the murdered Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been set free. She turned herself in to Greek Police the night of Monday, 19 March, in an attempt to ensure her protection, as she had reasons to believe her life is in danger.
On Thursday, April 12, the Athens Court of Appeal, decided the release and the non-extradition of Maria Efimova to Malta. Efimova, 36, had recently moved to Greece from Malta seeking a place to reside with her family when she would feel more safe, after it became known that she was an important source for a local investigative journalist and blogger revealing important information about a corruption scandal.
From Malta to Crete
“Don’t go to the wedding [e.n. of Caruana-Galizia’s son], don’t get close to Galizia, you are in danger, we have information that they may try poisoning you”. According to the reports of Greek journalist Kostas Zafeiropoulos, Efimova, a former bank employee of Russian origin had been already warned by the Russian Embassy in Malta.
Efimova moved to the Greek island of Crete with her family, a few weeks before the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana-Galizia was assassinated.
Caruana Galizia was investigating corruption scandals in Malta, initiated by the leak of “Panama Papers”. Maria Efimova had been Caruana-Galizia’s source and had revealed to her that Pilatus Bank, her employer, had facilitated the transactions of Ergant Inc. — a company based in Panama, owned by Michelle Muscat, the Maltese Prime Minister’s wife.
A few days before her assassination, Caruana-Galizia, had named her source. In the beginning of autumn 2017, after having been strongly slandered in a coordinated way, Efimova decides to move to Crete. This is when Pilatus bank accuses her of embezzling a small amount of money and the Maltese police issues two arrest warrants. Those warrants were still pending by the time she decided to turn in.
From Crete to Jail
“My time has come, I am in danger” Maria Efimova reportedly wrote to the Maltese MEP, David Casa, before she decided to turn herself in the Syntagma Police Department in Athens, earlier on March.
Kostas Zafeiropoulos was the first journalist to visit her in jail right after she was imprisoned and reported on her story. Back then he had told AthensLive: “She told me she still feared for her life, especially if she was issued in Malta. In Greece she feels safer. She turned herself to the Greek Police not only out of fear but because she knew there were two arrest warrants against her and didn’t want to be hiding, even though she denies all the accusations attributed to her by the Maltese authorities. There is no doubt that she is a witness of public interest who helped uncover a large cross-border scandal. The Greek Justice should not put her life at risk. It is certain she knows even more than what she has already said”.
Maria Efimova’s case had received support from international stakeholders.
MEPs from all political groups had called on the Greek authorities “to provide Maria Efimova with protection and to not return her to Malta”. Maltese MEP David Casa and a Greek Member of the European Parliament Stelios Kouloglou both testified in the trial of Efimova on Thursday.
According to Malta’s media, the Maltese PM, Joseph Muscat denied that the Greek Court’s decision had anything to do with mistrust towards the authorities of his country and added also that the ruling “was not related to the lie said about him”.