Updated 5pm with PL reaction
A woman who has claimed that the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat is the owner of Panama company Egrant faces fraud charges in court.
The woman, a Russian national who resides in Sliema, used to work for Ta’ Xbiex-based Pilatus Bank as an intern, according to the bank. She was accused of defrauding the bank last year.
Her employment with the bank was terminated in March last year and the woman subsequently claimed she had not been paid money due to her.
Sources said Pilatus Bank had lodged a formal complaint at the Msida police station, denying the woman’s claim and accusing her of defrauding the company. The complaint was signed by the bank’s lawyer Joe Giglio.
The woman was accused of using company money to book holidays in Germany and Greece for her family when entrusted to make flight and accommodation arrangements for Pilatus Bank staff.
In August last year, the woman was charged in court by inspectors Jonathan Ferris and Lara Butters of theft and fraud to the detriment of her former employer, Pilatus Bank, and travel agency Enrico Travel. She has denied the charges.
Furthermore, the woman faces separate charges of having falsely accused Superintendent Denis Theuma and inspectors Jonathan Ferris and Lara Butters of having committed an offence she knew they did not commit. The charges to this second case were also filed in August last year.
Sources said that a few months ago the woman ditched her lawyer, Michael Sciriha, and sought the services of Fenech & Fenech Advocates, the firm in which Nationalist Party president Ann Fenech is a partner.
The woman, who journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has said is the source of allegations that Ms Muscat owned Egrant, volunteered to testify in front of inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja yesterday.
Ms Caruana Galizia reported the fact in a blog post yesterday evening, adding that she did so with the woman's permission.
In her original story last week, Ms Caruana Galizia alleged that documents held in a kitchen safe at Pilatus Bank purportedly showed that Egrant’s shares were held by Ms Muscat. She also alleged that Egrant held a bank account and had received a deposit of $1 million from the daughter of the Azerbaijani president.
In the wake of this story, the Prime Minister had asked the police to call in the duty magistrate and investigate the claims being made. Dr Muscat and his wife have denied the allegations.
During a news conference this morning, minister Chris Cardona and Edward Zammit Lewis accused Opposition leader Simon Busuttil of basing his judgement on a person involved in fraud.
Dr Cardona said the PN wants to win the upcoming election with a desperate, dangerous and irresponsible tactics.
'A phenomenal abuse of power' - Caruana Galizia
In a blog post, Ms Caruana Galizia said that the "Pilatus Bank/Castille inner circle" were out to "attack, frighten and destroy somebody who was brave enough to testify against them in an inquiry they called for themselves."
"The Prime Minister is using his aides and his party media to violate the confidentiality of an inquiry which he himself asked for, and to attack and try to discredit a witness," Ms Caruana Galizia wrote.
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