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Greek court rejects extradition of Russian whistleblower to Malta

A court in Greece rejected two Maltese requests to extradite Russian whistleblower Maria Efimova to Malta on Thursday. Efimova was the whistleblower who reportedly helped Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigation into high-level corruption in Malta. Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bombing in October 2017.

Judges in Athens said the charges against Maria Efimova were vague.

Appeals Council prosecutor Evgenia Kyvelou explained that the two European arrest warrants of the Maltese court authorities should have been dated after the national ones, but were done in reverse order. She added that the charges they cited were vague and generalising “with lesser offences” that did not merit the issuance of European arrest warrants.

Witnesses for the defense included Greek and Maltese Eurodeputies, respectively, Stelios Kouloglou and David Casa, members of the Europarliament Committee that investigated the case of the Panama Papaers, which Casa said involved the director of the Maltese prime minister’s office.

Efimova was set free and moved to a secret location for reasons of her own safety.

the court ruling was hailed by the two MEPs.

On Friday, a prosecutor appealed the decision to not extradite Efimova to Malta.

Maria Evimova surrendered to Greek police in March fearing for her life. She had fled with her family to Crete last June.

Efimova was working at Malta’s Pilatus Bank when she reportedly gave Caruana Galizia incriminating documents about Michelle Muscat, the wife of Malta’s prime minister.

The documents indicated Muscat had received €1 million ($1.2 million) in a Panama bank account from a company linked to Azerbaijan’s ruling family.

Caruana Galizia also cited Efimova as the source of documents that showed Michelle Muscat had owned a secret company in Panama.

Michelle and her husband, Joseph Muscat, have dismissed the allegations.

Malta filed a European Arrest Warrant for Efimova after she fled the country with her family in June.

Malta cited Efimova’s refusal to show up to court to face charges of providing fabricated evidence, making false claims against police and defrauding Pilatus Bank for the warrant.

A group of 36 European lawmakers signed a letter in March calling on Greece to refuse the extradition request.

Reacting to court ruling, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the decision did not reflect a lack of trust in Malta. He also pointed out that the extradition request was made by the Maltese courts, independently of the government.

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons said the decision was an indictment of Malta’s collapsing rule of law.

Three men are currently on trial for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, but they are considered to be just the executors of orders.

 

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