Members of the European Parliament who visited Malta to investigate the state of the rule of law have heard a former Pilatus Bank official reiterate claims that the Joseph Muscat's wife is the beneficiary owner of Egrant, a Panama-based company.
The claims prompted a strong denial from the Office of the Prime Minister, which called the allegations "pure invention."
In an hour-long session behind closed doors in Strasbourg on Monday, Maria Efimova, who fled the island after the last general election, replied to questions by MEPs through a video conference from an unnamed location.
She also passed on various documents to MEPs to sustain her claims.
“It was a very interesting session in which Ms Efimova seemed very credible and convincing,” an MEP who attended the session told the Times of Malta.
“She did not say anything new that was not already out in the media but she gave us documents and insisted that the Prime Minister’s wife [Michelle Muscat] is the owner of Egrant,” the MEP said.
Asked on the content of the documents, the MEP said that “these are currently being studied by the EP and mainly sustain her claims.”
However, he refused to give any specific details on the content of the documents. No Maltese MEPs attended the session with Ms Efimova on Monday.
In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, the Office of the Prime Minister said "there can exist no bona fide document on the matter since this is a pure invention."
The OPM suggested the matter was being used for "purely political purposes" and reiterated Dr Muscat's pledge to "resign immediately" should a magisterial inquiry into the matter find any truth to the claims.
"He would expect anyone pushing these inventions to make the same commitment if these allegations prove to be, as they will, unfounded," the OPM said.
Replying to MEP questions as to why she fled the island after the last election, Ms Efimova insisted that she felt very unsafe following intimidation attempts against her family in Russia.
Documentsare currently being studied by the EP
The whistleblower also told the MEPs that all the documents in her possession had been passed on to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja who is conducting an inquiry into the claims.
Earlier this year, slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and the whistleblower came under intense political pressure after publishing claims that the Prime Minister’s wife owned the Panama company Egrant.
Leaks through the Panama Papers had shown that Egrant Inc was opened on the same day as another two Panama companies owned by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. The three companies were opened by Nexia BT, owned by Brian Tonna.
Egrant was the only company whose owner’s identity had to be passed to the Panama intermediary – Mossack Fonseca – through a Skype call.
Ms Efimova also claimed that $1 million had been transferred to Egrant by the daughter of Azeri President Ilham Alijev through an account at Pilatus Bank. Ms Caruana Galizia also published what she claimed to be transcripts of two trust declarations linking Ms Muscat to Egrant.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife vehemently denied the claims and asked for a magisterial inquiry into the affair.
The inquiry is still ongoing.
EP sources told this newspaper that the MEP delegation that visited Malta is now compiling a report which will include recommendations to be presented to the Civil Liberties Committee.
Ms Efimova’s testimony is expected to be included in the final report.
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