Following a public appearance in which the Nationalist Party’s home affairs spokesperson expressed “serious reservations” about the whistleblower in the Egrant case, Maria Efimova, while also downplaying the role of anti-corruption NGO Repubblika, the NGO responded by calling out the former’s conflict of interest as a criminal lawyer and MP.
Earlier on Saturday, the PN’s home affairs spokesperson, Joe Giglio, made an appearance on the radio show ‘Malta’s Heart’, in which he referred to information about the Egrant whistleblower which he acquired from his time as the former lawyer for Pilatus Bank.
The bank was closed down by the European Central Bank in 2018 over leaked intelligence reports which connected it to money laundering. Efimova, a former employee of the bank and the whistleblower in question, had said the ownership of a company linked with the bank, named Egrant, with the wife of disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had published Efimova’s claims. Efimova now stands accused of perjury following an inquiry which had not found any conclusive evidence linking the Muscats with the company, and has fled Malta out of fear for her safety.
Speaking about his time serving as Pilatus Bank’s lawyer, Giglio said the bank had taken action against Efimova over an alleged abuse of one of its employee credit cards at a hotel room and that Efimova had responded with a counter-claim about unpaid wages.
Referring to the Egrant saga itself and his experience of Efimova during the case involving the alleged credit card abuse, Giglio described the whistleblower as someone he knew as “a malevolent woman who was capable of getting herself into certain situations” and as a person who “can manipulate facts”.
Answering questions about whether he agrees with Repubblika’s calls for the resignations of Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg and Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’, Giglio drew a clear line between the NGO and the PN, arguing that the PN represents a larger segment of the population and that he would rather talk about the Party.
In its rebuttal, Repubblika criticised Giglio over conflict of interest between his roles as a criminal lawyer and the Opposition’s shadow home affairs minister.
“When he represents his clients in court, Joe Giglio does his job by portraying criminals like angels. When he uses his credentials as an MP and a speaker for the Opposition he does not just have a conflict of interest. He is betraying his democratic function,” the NGO said in its statement.
“While he is the Opposition’s home affairs speaker, Giglio negotiates with the country’s institutions as the lawyer of his criminal clients. Rather than making sure that the institutions uphold their duties to the Maltese people, he wishes to see the institutions enabling his criminal clients,” it added.
The NGO also drew a line between the functions of political parties and NGOs, albeit in an entirely different manner. While Giglio believes that parties will always rank more highly in terms of importance to society, Repubblika argued otherwise.
“There is no higher or lower in a democracy. There is the function of the parties and the function of non-governmental organisations. One of the functions of non-governmental organisations is to expose the parties’ wrongdoing and to act when institutions fail,” the statement read.