MeRA25 and DiEM25 to pressure the Greek Government to grant asylum to Maria Efimova, the whistleblower at the centre of a corruption scandal involving high-level officials in Malta.
Just when she thought the persecution was over, Maria Efimova, the Russian whistleblower who helped expose corrupt ties between organised crime and Malta’s political establishment, came to realise that the nightmare was back. Last Monday, November 16, Efimova’s husband was arrested in Crete following a request from Cyprus’ authorities.
Efimova is a former employee of Pilatus Bank, who in 2017 was the source of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The journalist revealed an intricate web of corruption and money laundering schemes in Malta based on the information contained in the “Panama Papers” scandal, and implicating high-level officials in the country, including its prime minister Joseph Muscat. Caruana Galizia, a mother of three, was murdered in late 2017, when her car was blown up just metres from her home.
At first, Efimova acted as an anonymous source for Caruana Galizia, but when her identity was revealed, she fled the country with her husband and two children and sought refuge in Greece.Earlier this week, as her husband Pantelis Varnava was released pending a court hearing, Efimova approached MeRA25 party leader and DiEM25 founder Yanis Varoufakis. “At this point, going public, sharing my story with the world, is all I have left to protect myself and my family. Like an insurance policy in case something was to happen to us,” Efimova said.
Varoufakis expressed serious concerns over Efimova’s safety. “The source who helped expose a money laundering and corruption scheme involving Malta’s former prime minister is now under fierce attack by Malta, Cyprus and a corporate, murderous establishment willing to do anything to silence her. We will fight to protect her, just as we do with other champions of transparency and freedom of information like Julian Assange”, said Varoufakis.
“By going against my husband on made-up charges they are just trying to exert pressure on me,” said Efimova. “This is another twist in the plot.” The charges relate to when she and Varnava lived in Cyprus in 2013. Varnava, she notes, never even worked at the company he is being accused of stealing from.
Efimova already won a battle against the Maltese government when it sought her extradition back in 2018 and a Greek court overturned the request.
Since her husband’s arrest, Efimova has been receiving threats via Facebook. One such message reads: “Come back to Malta or else we are going to find you one way or another. You have dues to pay here, you frickin liar!” She filed a police report and reported the threatening posts to Facebook; the social network has not responded.
Largely due to Caruana Galizia’s investigation and Efimova’s critical contribution to it, Pilatus Bank had its license revoked by the European Central Bank in 2018.
Renata Ávila, a member of DiEM25´s Coordinating Collective and legal adviser to Julian Assange denounced Efimova’s situation as yet another case of an assault on whistleblowers around the world: “This is an urgent call for the European Union to accelerate its implementation of the Whistleblowing Directive. The level of violence and corruption truth tellers face and the failure of our institutions to protect them cannot continue. Maria Efimova’s case is another test for Europe’s courage; it is the opportunity to act as a community, act beyond borders, and live up to its commitment to effectively protect and guarantee whistleblowers’ safety and their right to a life free from fear of persecution and retaliation. Maria and all whistleblowers make democracy in Europe stronger.”
Efimova said that she is in possession of unreleased information and evidence related to Caruana Galizia’s investigation of illegal transactions.
Varoufakis announced that MeRA25, the political party of DiEM25 in Greece, will soon file a request in the Hellenic Parliament for Efimova to be granted political asylum, as well as a legislative initiative to enhance Greece’s whistleblower protection laws.
But Efimova expects this situation to worsen, and to become even more dangerous for her and her family. In addition, she has recently learned about a new case being filed against her for perjury in Malta. The continued arrest warrants are putting her family under severe financial stress. “Legal costs are mounting, and we will soon be financially destroyed,” she said.
“This is part of their vindictive strategy: to silence me.”
DiEM25 is a pan-European political movement with over 120,000 members. Since its inception in 2016, DiEM25 has campaigned for transparency, freedom of the press and protection for whistleblowers.
It is proud to count WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange among its founding members. MeRA25, its political party in Greece, entered parliament in the 2019 legislative election. For more information about DiEM25’s work and campaigns, visit this page.
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