Russian Whistleblower, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Source, Faces Arrest Warrant in Cyprus after Complaint from Former Employer

Update: 05 Nov 2018 State replied
Year 25 Jan 2018 Country Cyprus Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner Index , EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
25 Jan 2018 Cyprus Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Index , EFJ/IFJ Level 2

On 16 January 2018, Cyprus issued a European arrest warrant against Maria Efimova, a Russian whistleblower, following a complaint filed by the Russian-owned Cypriot company IFD Fragrance Distribution against Efimova, who is accused of stealing from the company. Maria Efimova, former Pilatus Bank employee, had tipped off Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that the wife of the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Michelle Muscat, was allegedly the owner of Egrant Inc., a Panamanian offshore company. Efimova, who lived in Cyprus four years ago before moving to Malta, says these new charges are part of a plot to discredit her and to extradite her to Malta, where she was placed on the wanted list, after failing to turn up for court sittings. Efimova left Malta in August 2017, fearing for her life and that of her family, after having given evidence to the prosecution on the allegations regarding the PM’s wife ownership of the Panama offshore company. The Prime Minister and his wife denied the allegations and called for a judicial inquiry. Efimova has now applied for political asylum in an unspecified European Union country and asked from the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion to recognise her as a whistleblower. The European Parliament, asked EU member states, including Malta, to protect Efimova and grant her asylum, after a delegation led by the Portuguese MEP, Ana Gomes visited Malta in late November 2017.

Updates

14 Jun 2018 : On 14 June, the Greek Court of Appeal denied the request for extradition of Maria Efimova.
12 Apr 2018 : On 12 April 2018, an Athens Court ruled that Maria Efimova will not be extradited to Malta, because there were no guarantees that “she would be granted a fair trial”. An appeal was filed by the Greek prosecutor's office.
20 Mar 2018 : On 19 March, Maria Efimova voluntarily turned herself in to the Greek police in Athens, fearing for her life. She was transferred to court custody on 20 March.

State replies

05 Nov 2018 : Official reply of the Cyprus Authorities

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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