April 12, 2018 / 3:03 PM / in 8 days

Greek court rules against extraditing Russian source in Maltese scandal

ATHENS (Reuters) - A Greek court on Thursday ruled against extraditing a former bank employee who ignited a political scandal in Malta when she became a source for an investigative journalist who was murdered last year.

Maria Efimova, a Russian who left Malta for Greece last year with her family, surrendered to Greek police last month and was arrested at Malta’s request.

Maltese prosecutors had filed a European warrant for her on suspicion of embezzlement and said she should be tried on the island.

Efimova denied the accusation. The court ordered her release on Thursday.

Efimova was employed for three months in 2016 by the Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank [RIC:RIC:PILAT.UL]. The journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, named her as the source of internal bank documents which Galizia said indicated that Michelle Muscat, wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, owned a secret company in Panama.

Joseph Muscat and his wife have denied the accusations.

A group of 36 European parliament members signed a letter this month calling for Efimova not to be extradited to Malta.

Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017. Three men have been charged with killing her but police have yet to give motive.

Pilatus Bank has accused Efimova of embezzlement. Efimova denies all charges and has counter-sued the bank for failing to pay her salary.

Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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