Despite persistent activism on civil society’s part to grant whistleblower status and protection to Maria Efimova and Jonathan Ferris, the Government has been cold and irresponsive.
Awturi explains who these people are, and why it’s so important to everyone that they get whistleblower protection.
BACKGROUND – Pilatus Bank
The bank’s former chairman, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, has been denied bail in light of his connections and resources that makes it possible he would go into hiding. He is charged with 6 counts of financial fraud, including money-laundering, in the USA with a sentence of 125 years if found guilty by a federal court in Manhattan, NY.
Ali Sadr’s intimate wedding in Venice featured Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri.
The bank was also reported to deal with politically exposed persons, including the Azeri ruling family, who reportedly wired €1 million to Michelle Muscat, and disgraced politician and alleged fraudster John Dalli, who admitted to having a bank account at Pilatus.
Maria Efimova: former employee of Pilatus Bank
Maria Efimova was previously employed as a secretary at Pilatus Bank. She was Daphne Caruana Galizia’s source when she reported that the owner of Panama company Egrant Inc was Michelle Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife.
According to information in Running Commentary, Caruana Galizia’s blog, Efimova discovered documents linking Muscat to Egrant inside a safe in the bank’s kitchen.
Following the allegations, reporters on-site at Pilatus Bank recorded Ali Sadr Hasheminejad leave the bank after 9pm with a briefcase, which could have contained vital documents.
The Police Commissioner was asked to resign after taking no action, instead enjoying a fenkata in Mġarr. Police only sealed the bank hours later.
BACKGROUND – Egrant in the Panama Papers
Egrant Inc. was the anonymous company discovered by the ICIJ in the Panama Papers leak two years ago. Karl Cini, from Nexia BT, an auditing firm, passed on information relating to its beneficiary owner via Skype.
The beneficiary owners from the other two companies, Hearnville Inc. and Tillgate Inc., belonging to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi respectively, was included in the email correspondence between Nexia BT and Mossack Fonseca.
All three companies were created in Panama – a secretive offshore tax haven – at the same time.
Jonathan Ferris: former employee of the FIAU
Following the Panama Papers and the Pilatus Bank reports, multiple FIAU reports were leaked that showed non-compliance with anti-money-laundering regulations. There were also investigations into disgrafced minister Konrad Mizzi.
Jonathan Ferris exposed the fact that the reports were buried and were reportedly never passed onto the police. As a result, the Attorney General, who chairs the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, was also asked to resign by civil society.
Ferris claims to have incriminating evidence against the highest officials in Malta, but requires whistleblower protection before revealing them to avoid charges.
Why Ferris has been denied whistleblower status
Jonathan Ferris has since received threats but has still been denied status.
Because of technicalities in the legislation, Ferris must present his evidence to the Prime Minister before being granted protection as a whistleblower. This creates the absurd situation where Ferris must reveal evidence to the same people the evidence incriminates. Such a flaw in the legislation is unlikely to be addressed, leaving Ferris with little hope that he will ever be granted the opportunity to release his information in safety.
Since then, Ferris has described the arrest of Ali Sadr as ‘the beginning of the end’.
Why Whistleblowers need protection
Good Friday marks the third attack on a journalist in Europe in 6 months. In a world dominated by corporations like Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SNL Elections and the links it has with Henley & Partners, closely tied to the Labour Party, journalists are working against very powerful enemies.
The Labour Party has access to powerful media machine, along with influence over the state broadcaster. They, along with Pilatus Bank and Henley & Partners, have sued journalists left, right, and centre, including (and especially) assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was arguably their most worthy rival and decidedly the most scrutinous thorn in their side.
Maria Efimova was slandered by the Labour Party machine and taken to court by Pilatus Bank, on a belated charge that was conveniently filed after her identity was revealed. A suspicious Europe-wide arrest warrant was issued for a petty civil charge that was later revoked by Interpol, which saw her seek political asylum across Europe. Jonathan Ferris has feared for his life and been forced to carry a firearm.
EU Parliamentarians and civil society in Malta has been putting pressure on the Maltese Government, and appeals have been made to Greek Prime Minister Tspiras to safeguard Efimova. MEP David Casa has even visited her in her cell in Greece.
Support the truth by supporting Ferris and Efimova
If we are ever to know the truth, the evidence they claim to have must be revealed within the safety of the Whistleblower Act. Otherwise, they face severe penalties for breach of contract. Once the evidence is presented, it can be corroborated or dismissed accordingly.
One thing is certain: if politicians, notably the Prime Minister, are not afraid of the truth being revealed, they should have no difficulty granting whistleblower status to Ferris and Efimova, rather than attacking them.