April 13, 2018 / 1:23 PM / 3 months ago

Greek prosecutor appeals ruling against returning whistleblower to Malta

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek prosecutor appealed on Friday against the rejection of a Maltese request to extradite a whistleblower who supplied documents to murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

FILE PHOTO: Civil society activists demonstrate outside the Greek Embassy, calling on the Greek government to grant political asylum to Maria Efimova, a Pilatus Bank employee who ignited a political scandal in Malta when she became a source for investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was murdered last year, in Ta' Xbiex, Malta March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Malta has issued a European arrest warrant for 36-year-old Russian Maria Efimova, who stirred a political scandal over allegations of wrongdoing at Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank.

Efimova, who left Malta last year with her family, turned herself in to Greek police last month. She was arrested under the warrant for alleged misappropriation of funds, accusations that she denies.

A court ruled on Thursday against extraditing Efimova to Malta and ordered her release. Following the prosecutor’s appeal, Greece’s top court is expected to hear the case, judiciary sources said on Friday.

Efimova was employed for three months in 2016 by Pilatus Bank [PILAT.UL]. Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption blogger, identified her as the source of internal bank documents. These, the journalist said before her death, indicated that Michelle Muscat, wife of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, owned a secret company in Panama.

The Muscats have both denied the accusations.

A group of 36 European parliament members signed a letter following Efimova’s arrest, calling for her not to be extradited to Malta.

Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 in an attack that shocked Malta. Three men have been charged with killing her but police have yet to give a motive.

Pilatus Bank has accused Efimova of embezzlement. Efimova denies all charges and has counter-sued the bank for failing to pay her salary.

Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; Writing by Renee Maltezou; editing by David Stamp

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