Russian national Maria Efimova, 36, a former bank employee named in international arrest warrants and mentioned as a witness in a journalist’s murder case in Malta, was arrested on Monday night after turning herself in at a police station in Athens.
Efimova turned herself in at the Syntagma Square police station, and told police “there must be something against me”. Police found two international warrants issued by Malta and Cyprus over charges of embezzlement and fraud, respectively, and arrested her.
She was led before a prosecutor in Athens on Tuesday and ordered detained. She is held at Korydallos prison, until an extradition request is examined.
Efimova is considered a key witness in investigations into widespread corruption in Malta carried out by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was assassinated in October 2017, and the Russian whistleblower has since expressed fears for her own life.
“The arrest warrant against Maria Efimova is based on two ridiculous charges of Maltese authorities, that she made improper use of some tickets for her family and that she slandered a Maltese policeman,” Syriza Eurodeputy Stelios Kouloglou said in a statement on Tuesday, warning that an extradition to the island state would seriously endanger her life.
“Greek justice, which is investigating the case following her surrender to police, must seriously take into account the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, to whom the public-interest whistleblower Maria Efimova had given revealing information about financial scandals,” Kouloglou added.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Efimova claimed that a private bank where she worked had been used for money laundering by local politicians and the family of Azerbaijan’s president. Kouloglou told the newspaper that she had called him from the police station on Monday night and had turned herself in out of fear for her life. She and her family have been living on Crete since 2017.