By Angelos Anastasiou
The decision of the president of the Supreme Court of Greece to revisit an investigation that cleared Andreas Vgenopoulos of any suspicion for his role in Laiki Bank’s demise has been questioned by the Greek financier’s lawyer, it emerged on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court president Vasiliki Thanou ordered a disciplinary investigation against district attorney Georgia Tsatani, in order to establish whether due process was followed in the handling of the Vgenopoulos investigation.
According to state radio, the object of the disciplinary investigation is to establish why Tsatani took over the case and subsequently concluded that no evidence existed against Vgenopoulos, when it should have been handled by either of the corruption or financial crime desks.
Tsatani, who issued the final report clearing the Greek businessman, took over the investigation from a junior attorney with the corruption desk a few months ago, a move Greek press deemed a “judicial coup d’etat”. The implication was that Tsatani was on a mission to exonerate Vgenopoulos.
But the financial crime desk’s head, who conducted a disciplinary probe on the matter, deemed the transfer completely legitimate.
At a news conference last Friday, Vgenopoulos dismissed the conspiracy theories, claiming the change was merely procedural.
“An Athens prosecutor, who used to run the legal assistance department, filed a report against me for ‘allegations of serious offences in Cyprus’,” Vgenopoulos said.
“He had obviously been contacted by Cypriots who asked for legal assistance from Greece, and at some point he filed a report saying he became aware of claims against me in Cyprus. His report was referred to the district attorney initially assigned our investigation, who should have then taken a statement from the prosecutor. But she couldn’t, because he outranks her. This is how the case landed in Tsatani’s lap – she was simply someone who, as of her rank, could take a statement from this prosecutor.”
The handling of the case appears to have sparked controversy in Greek judicial circles, with press reports referring to a brewing crisis. Following representations by Cyprus Attorney-general Costas Clerides and Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, Thanou sprang into action, ordering that the transfer of the case to a different district attorney be investigated anew.
The Greek Supreme Court’s president insisted on taking another look at what happened, telling reporters on Tuesday that the disciplinary probe she will conduct herself places the outcome of Tsatani’s investigation – the conclusion that no evidence against Vgenopoulos exists – in question.
But in a statement later on Tuesday, Vgenopoulos’ lawyer, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said that, while Thanou’s intervention is “legally acceptable”, it raises serious questions.
“Firstly, disciplinary probes are carried out in complete secrecy, and making them public is institutionally unacceptable,” Dimitrakopoulos said.
“And secondly, never before has a completed disciplinary investigation been reopened, without the introduction of new, previously unknown evidence, merely on the strength of disagreement with its conclusions.”