Interpol rejected Cypriot arrest warrant for Efimova, lawyer says

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By Stelios Orphanides

Interpol rejected an international arrest warrant issued by Cypriot authorities in the past against Maria Efimova, the source of slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, as Cyprus’ police insist that the warrant is in place, her Greek lawyer said.

“Cypriot authorities in the past attempted to turn an arrest warrant against Efimova into a European warrant which the directorate general of Interpol blocked as it regarded its justification as too political,” said Alexandros Papasteriopoulos who represents Efimova after she surrendered to Greek police on Monday. “It was not made international, not because the Cypriot side hadn’t asked for it, but because it was regarded by Interpol that there was a problem”.

Papasteriopoulos, who cited a communication with the department of international cooperation of the Greek police in Athens, said that Cyprus’ attempt to have an international arrest warrant issued against Efimova may date back to 2014 before another attempt was made in 2017.

Efimova, currently detained at the Korydallos prison in Athens, worked at Malta’s Pilatus Bank for three months last year. As a source, she backed reports published by Caruana Galizia about a transfer of funds from an account belonging to a daughter of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev to that of a company owned by Michelle Muscat, the wife of Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The Maltese journalist lost her life in a car-bomb attack on October 16, six months after publishing her report. The Muscats deny any wrongdoing.

In January, the Cypriot police said they issued an arrest warrant against Efimova and her Cypriot husband in connection with an alleged embezzlement case following a complaint filed by the Limassol-based and Russian-owned IDF Fragrance Distribution Ltd in 2014, where Efimova had worked. She said in January that she intended to apply for political asylum in Greece and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) repeatedly asked Greek authorities to protect her.

Efimova, a mother of two, also said that she had left Malta two months before the assassination of Caruana Galizia fearing for her safety and that of her family. She also denied having committed any offences in Cyprus and said that the complaint filed against her aimed at damaging her credibility.

Also on Monday, US authorities arrested chairman of Pilatus Bank Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, accusing him of being involved in a scheme to evade sanctions against Iran.

On Saturday, Interpol declined to comment to questions forwarded by the Cyprus Business Mail and referred to those authorities investigating the matter.

“If or when police in any of Interpol’s 192 member countries share information with the general secretariat in Lyon in relation to investigations and fugitives, this information remains under the ownership of that member country,” the organisation said in an emailed statement on Saturday. “Interpol does not therefore comment on specific cases or individuals except in special circumstances and with approval of the member country concerned”.

“Whether they will extradite her to us is a separate issue, which likely has to do with her protection,” Soteriades said. “The European arrest warrant exists and has not been cancelled”.

Lawyer Papasteriopoulos said that his client is facing only a double European arrest warrant issued by Maltese authorities, communicated via ‘Sirene’, an international police cooperation system. Sirene, he continued, did not show any indication that there was a Cypriot warrant.

“When she was presented at the court of appeals, there were only the two Maltese warrants,” he said. The offences, which concern an alleged misappropriation of €5,500 and defamation of public officials, are considered “misdemeanours,” in Greece which do not justify the extradition of a suspect to another country.

The Greek lawyer added that Efimova is not eligible for asylum in Greece as she is not facing political prosecution in Russia, her country of origin.

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About Author

Stelios Orphanides is a journalist at CyprusBusinessMail.com. To contact Stelios Orphanides: [email protected]

  • Evergreen

    What a relief !!! The only question-what if interpol had not intervened? Cyprus management seems to follow russian instructions blindly. What a dusgrace!!!

    • Leo

      You are a disgrace for seeing a conspiracy theory in any thing to do with Cyprus, Greek/ Greek Cypriot bashing is your game.

      • Evergreen

        I love Greek people as they are good but they live in another country – and I love many cypriots who love their country namely Cyprus . Every Cypriot is not like you.Trust me,I have a lot of Cypriot friends whose first priority is Cyprus as their own country and yes I am proud of being friends with these Cypriots. You are a confused person . Cypriots are not.

        • CM follower

          It sounds like”I tell a lot to f Jewish jokes……..it is ok I have a lot of Jewish friends”……………..

        • Leo

          Turkish Cypriots.

          • Evergreen

            Cypriots.

          • Leo

            Which language do they speak?

          • Evergreen

            Does ‘nt matter.

          • Leo

            Yes it does.

        • SuzieQ

          I, too, have a lot of Cypriot friends. They are a lovely people, in the main.

          • Mike

            Well I’m greek Cypriot and have been for 70 years although can’t claim to be lovely, but agree with Evergreen. Living in the villages outside and behind Limassol I see the Russian influence daily, not bad in itself if like me you keep yourself to yourself but our politico’s do seem to bend over backwards and appease Russia. Perhaps it has something to do with 2.5 billion we owe them and the reorganised repayment terms and smoothing the way for any future loans.

          • Evergreen

            Indeed,Suzie mou.

  • Gismo

    What is Russian for “enosis”? Well done Greece – keep her safe.

  • Muffin the Mule

    Interpol….knows. Hence the rejection.

    • Eve Frangoudis

      Interpole is not above corruption and vengeance! They can stick anything and anyone on there! Facts and nothing but facts. Real court ! Especially when it comes to ID thefts!

  • Cydee

    To be honest I don’t feel any of us ‘outsiders’ knows enough about this complex case to comment.

  • Sergey Krasilnikov

    Why not call Cyprus authorities their true names. like `Russian puppets`.

  • Bystander

    Extremely murky case. Efimova may not be facing political prosecution in her country, but she may quickly die ‘from a heart-stroke’ in Russian jail, everyone knows similar cases.