PN's home affairs shadow minister Joe Giglio said he has "serious reservations" over the credibility of whistleblower Maria Efimova, stressing she is "a person who manipulates facts".
In an interview with Andrew Azzopardi on 103 Malta's Heart FM, Giglio said that when he heard the stories about Efimova and her claims, he had "serious doubts" because he had proof her allegations on missing payments from Pilatus Bank were not true.
"Efimova was a person who manipulates facts. I also did not believe what she was saying about inspectors Denis Theuma, Lara Butters and others, because I knew these people.
"I still have serious doubts," Giglio said, when pressed further about Efimova's claims. He said this belief is backed by the inquiry by then-magistrate Aaron Bugeja.
A lawyer by profession, Giglio had, for a short period, served as the now-defunct bank's legal advisor. While working on the case, Giglio said he had come in possession of evidence that he said showed Efimova was not being truthful and he had text messages to proof this.
Giglio said he dropped Pilatus as clients after Prime Minister Robert Abela, who was still just a Labour candidate at the time, linked his name to the 2017 election because of his work with Pilatus.
Efimova was the person who claimed that secret company Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat, the wife of former prime minister Joseph Muscat. She passed on information on the claims to murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
An inquiry by Bugeja found no evidence to back those claims and recommended that Efimova be prosecuted.
Reacting to Giglio's claims, MEP David Casa, who had supported Efimova and once even visited her in a Greek jail, said on Twitter that "those fighting for truth and justice were insulted, ridiculed and even threatened because they stood up for what they believed in".
"Pilatus Bank remains a symbol of sheer corruption and a laundromat for illicit funds which destroyed Malta’s reputation," he said.
PN MP Karol Aquilina warned Giglio that he was undermining the memory of Caruana Galizia when he cast doubt over the credibility of Efimova.
Jason Azzopardi, lawyer and former MP, accused the PN of publicy defending a corrupt bank and its officials.
“It’s a black day for a party with a glorious history when it takes the side of the corrupt.”
Former PN MP David Thake, who also worked closely with Efimova, also reacted to Giglio's comments.
"Whatever was Joe Giglio thinking in today’s interview? While our country has huge issues with #RuleOfLaw he tries to undermine #republika and also casts doubts on the #Egrant whistleblower. Not in my name," he wrote on Twitter.
'Party greater than NGO'
Later on in the interview, Giglio also went on to question the relevance of civil society NGO Repubblika.
"Good governance is an issue which the PN values but this does not mean that just because there is an NGO that has the same values the two are one and the same. You would be wrong to assume this.
"A party is always greater than an NGO. Let's not waste time on NGOs and Repubblika," Giglio said with a wave of his hand.
Reacting, Repubblika said that while everyone is free to have their own opinions, Giglio's clients would benefit from Efimova's reputation being tarnished.
The NGO said that although it was not affected by Giglio's comments that parties are greater, in remarking in such a way, the MP "threw out all of civil society".
"In democracy, nobody is greater than the other. Both have their own functions and the NGOs' function is to expose parties' wrongdoing," Repubblika said.
The NGO said that while Giglio had a duty, as a lawyer, a represent his clients, as a parlamentarian, he was to duty-bound to serve Malta and its people.
Earlier on in the interview, Giglio said he would not be contesting the upcoming election for deputy leadership but when pressed further said he would not rule out contesting any party leadership election in the future.
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