My interview with Maria Efimova continues here.
MD: OK, so you know, this is interesting also because Daphne Caruana Galizia is no longer with us, so many people wonder
MD: Unfortunately, so we go through that as well, but many people wonder what she was like. You are a foreigner in Malta, you’ve had a very unhappy experience while you were here, you had issues with the Police, you had issues with the bureaucracy, you wrote to the Prime Minister and you didn’t get an answer. How did you find Daphne Caruana Galizia? What was she like?
ME: She was very, you know, very easy to speak to, I mean, she wasn’t strict or otherwise like she wasn’t encouraging me to say more, she wasn’t trying to be over-friendly or something, she was just professional, asking me questions and not putting pressure where I didn’t want to expand, so overall opinion of my meetings with her that she was very professional as a journalist
MD: Ok. In these exchanges, you told her what you remembered, you told her pretty much what you’re telling me now, you obviously told her about your work there, and what you went through and what the problems were, but you also told her ‘listen, I made these reports of the suspicious transactions, I’ve seen documentation that shows that Egrant belongs to Michelle Muscat, I’ve seen payments made to their account in Dubai from our Azerbaijan clients, I’ve seen these things’. Did you discuss your ability or your inability to show documentation of this?
ME: When we met with her the first time she already had those declarations of trust she mentioned, and she showed, they were copies of course not original, and she showed those declarations to me and she asked me if they are true, if I saw those declarations in the Bank. And I told her ‘yes, I saw the very same declarations in the Bank’.
MD: So, just to clarify, what you’re telling me is this, that Daphne Caruana Galizia knew about the declarations of trust proving that Egrant belonged to Michelle Muscat before she met you and before she spoke to you. Is that correct?
ME: Yes, yes, because first time when we met, she already had those declarations.
MD: Understood. And you basically confirmed the story for her.
MD: OK, so you were a corroboration. I understand that. Ok. At first, Daphne did never mention you as a source. When the story broke, there was a big political hullabaloo here, obviously, you know, there was all that scene with the flight to Baku, the Prime Minister speaking, the Prime Minister calling for an enquiry, there was all of that. Can you go back to those days and tell me how it felt, your emotional experience of those hours when the story broke.
ME: I cannot, you know, it was all like I’m watching a movie. I think by that time I wasn’t realising it is actually happening because everything was happening very quickly, but I wasn’t panicking and I remember the day that they, I think it was Malta Today, they had written that I’m the one who, I’m the whistleblower
MD: So someone outed you, they named you
ME: Yes, yes, yes. I remember that day, and my friends they’re calling me and asking me if I’m ok, if I’m afraid, and actually I wasn’t afraid because I didn’t do something wrong. What had to be done, I did it. This is life, and I don’t regret it.
MD: If I remember right, you actually of your own accord showed up at the court in Valletta to speak to the Magistrate, you actually volunteered, right? Right. Why did you decide to do that?
ME: Because I wanted to show that I don’t want to hide behind Daphne’s back or someone else’s back, I am ready to support the work, and the story I already told, so I didn’t see the point to hide and to not go to the magistrate. I just wanted to confirm officially what I already had said.
MD: Ok. Now. I understand that. Now however you’re talking about you not being afraid but you were not alone. You have a husband, I understand you have children as well. In terms of the experience of your family here in Malta, when your name came out, when you could see that in the media people were now talking about you, how did your family feel and how did you feel for your family?
ME: Since children are still young they of course they didn’t really understand and I never talked to them about the situation, it’s not for their ears anyway. Yes, but my husband actually it affected him a lot, he started, you know, he was very worried, a man of the house, he feels like he should protect me, but it was not much that he himself could do, and you know, he started to go to psychologist and taking some anti-depressive treatment, you know, he was having some kind of panic attacks.
MD: How is he now?
ME: The same, I mean, he’s continuing going to psychologist and, but, I cannot say that he’s in a very bad condition but not the best of conditions
MD: And how about you? Did you need support? Did you need medication?
ME: No, no, thanks God I don’t need medication, I wouldn’t mind moral support, I mean, you know, someone who could just speak to me or, you know, give me some advice, because I don’t want to put that pressure on my family back in Russia, they already suffered from the story. My husband as well, he’s not feeling that good, I don’t want to speak to him about it and make him more anxious.
MD: Yes. You speak about the impact on your family in Russia as well. How did it impact them?
ME: It’s the main, I was keeping the story, I was not telling them what is going on, because my mother has passed away and they were very upset. So I just, I came up with some kind of explanation why I couldn’t come to funeral, I didn’t tell them the real reason, and they actually learn about the story when some private detective last June they approached my father and they were trying to intimidate him and they were trying to find out if my mother has actually passed away. I don’t know, maybe it was a try to discover me as a liar that I used that excuse for people to feel sorry for me. So, and that’s how he learned.
ME: Have you been to him since then, or have you just spoken on the phone?
MD: No, no, I saw him. In August, I was in Russia, so I had a chance to tell about, to tell the whole story, and to see how is he. But first he found out that those detectives they were asking the neighbours, about me, and then they approached him and started to ask him questions. So after that he called me, he gave me their details of the detectives, I approached them myself, I asked them to not bother my father any more, I explained to them what is going on in Malta and why they have been approached, because they have been approached by another agency in Moscow, so they were like sub-sub-contractors, and I explained to them the whole story and they said ‘yes, ok, we apologise, we will not do it anymore’.
MD: And that was that.
ME: Yes and for a month, after that June for a month, I had to make sure that there will be protection for my father, my sister and her son, and like protection, like security, because I didn’t know what would come next.
MD: I see. So. Who did you think, first of all, were you ever told or was your father ever told who sent these private investigators? Who their client was?
ME: I approached agency in Moscow, what I found out that which agency it was, I approached them unofficially through some friends of course, because they wouldn’t speak officially, and they told they were people from Malta and they mentioned the name, actually, of the person who hired them but since I don’t have written proof I think it would not be correct to mention this name.
MD: Ok. Alright. Obviously I would be very curious but I respect your decision not to say so. May I ask if the name reminds you of your former employer or not?
ME: No, no, it was actually a political person.