It takes formidable courage to be Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova in these times. And you need to be of exceptionally rare character in a world where people rarely do anything for nothing to give up so much purely because you’re right and being told to shut up will not stop you believing that.
When they first came on the scene saying that not everything was ok at Pilatus Bank, at the FIAU, at the MFSA and in the government of Malta, you could take the aloof attitude that it was their word against everyone else’s.
But very soon signs emerged that suggested there was something to what they were saying. Facts emerged independently that corroborated their stories. And probably their best witness was the government that in its reaction and the angry mobs it mobilised made itself look guilty as sin.
That attitude by the government continues even now, almost a year later. Weeks after Jonathan Ferris protested in court, the ‘external officer’ – what an ironic term – replied Friday that he was refusing his application for whistle-blower status. The logic they’ve been arguing was: first you tell us what you know so we can put you in prison for breaking money laundering secrecy laws and then we’ll see if you’re eligible to whistle-blower status.
Maria Efimova is in prison already, having walked in a Greek police station to hand herself in after hiding as a fugitive from an international arrest warrant over allegations filed by a man now in a US jail indicted for 6 counts of bank fraud, money laundering and breaching sanctions laws.
Our own police commissioner yesterday insisted Maria Efimova must be extradited to Malta to face justice. You’d admire his keenness for justice if he showed a fragment of the same enthusiasm in investigating Ali Sadr of Pilatus Bank – Maria Efimova’s accuser – suspected, and now accused, of far worse.
And yet Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova continue to pay this ungrateful nation an uncompensated service. One of them is not even a Maltese citizen.
We judge people by our own standards and for most the behaviour of these two is utterly incomprehensible. “Għal xi ħaġa qed jagħmluha żgur”.
It’s the same logic of people who believed Daphne Caruana Galizia was ‘paid by the PN’. Or that genius who posted on Facebook recently saying the FBI ‘was paid’ to embarass the Joseph Muscat government because the Americans envied us the quality of our leadership.
When a person walks off the street to tell the police they are aware of crimes, what the police would normally do is listen to what that person has to say and then look into the matter. If a person walks off the street to tell them they’re in danger because of what they know but what they know could lead to someone else’s prosecution, they first protect them and then look into the matter.
That is normal police work that happens every day in the prosecution of all sorts of crime.
An exception here is being made and it is being made because Ali Sadr has provided services to some very powerful people in Malta and abroad.
This is why these powerful people insist so vehemently on Ali Sadr’s presumption of innocence (which he is of course entitled to) but are then so insistent that witnesses that can shed light on his activities are prevented from doing so. After all if the witness does not show, the presumption of innocence persists.
I have spoken to Maria Efimova every day since she’s been in prison. She told me a couple of days ago she was tired and no longer knew how long she could hold on for. I’ve never been in prison myself and I never spoke to anyone who’s been in prison because they wanted to testify on somebody else’s crime. It must be tougher than anything I’ve ever got close to imagine experiencing. She’s clearly made of sterner stuff than I am.
As is Jonathan Ferris: who alone, backed only by his wife and children, from his small home, defies an entire government and says ‘this will not stop here’.