The supreme court on Thursday held off on making a decision on the appeals filed against convictions in a public corruption case involving a quid pro quo between former deputy attorney-general Rikkos Erotokritou and a prominent law firm.
The court deferred judgment to a later date, having heard closing arguments from the prosecution who argued that the decision of the criminal court should be upheld.
Erotokritou, along with lawyer Panayiotis Neocleous, the lawyer’s former law partner Andreas Kyprizoglou, and the Andreas Neocleous law firm, had been convicted on charges relating to the handling of a Cyprus-based trust fund, Providencia Ltd, worth hundreds of millions of euros.
They were found guilty of conspiring to arrange for a favourable outcome in a civil lawsuit Erotokritou had filed against legacy Laiki bank in 2013, in which he sought to have about €0.5 million in loans written off against his seized deposits.
The Neocleous law firm, which represented Laiki at the time, did not appear in court for the hearing of Erotokritou’s lawsuit, resulting in a default decision in favour of the deputy attorney-general.
In return, the court found, Erotokritou launched criminal prosecutions against Russian nationals who had been battling the law firm in court over control of Providencia against the explicit instructions of two attorney-generals.
In court on Thursday, lead prosecution lawyer Elias Stefanou presented a diagram depicting in chronological sequence the events that transpired, which he said prove beyond a reasonable doubt a deal had been struck between the former deputy attorney-general and the law firm.
Stefanou rejected Panayiotis Neocleous’ defence that his law firm’s failure to appear in court was down to a clerical mix-up. If this was a mistake, why did it then take the firm two-and-a-half months to file a motion to set aside the court decision on Erorokritou’s loans, the prosecutor asked.
The law firm itself claims the delay in filing the motion was due to its heavy workload.
On Neocleous, Stefanou said the court of first instance had determined that the defendant was aware of the handling of the Providencia case – thus invalidating the argument that Neocleous’ presumption of innocence had been violated.
Regarding Erotokritou, the prosecutor argued that the former deputy AG did not enjoy immunity from prosecution by virtue of his position.
He said that whereas the criminal code grants immunity to judicial officers, it does not afford the same protection to legal functionaries – which is what Erotokritou was.
According to Stefanou, a possible finding now that Erotokritou should enjoy immunity would result in voiding his depositions to police and thereby invalidate the circumstantial evidence presented in court, with broader ramifications on the entire case.
The former deputy AG had been sentenced to three-and-a-half years for corruption, and one-and-half-years for abuse of power, with the sentences running concurrently.
Neocleous received a two-and-half year prison sentence for corrupting a public official; Kyprizoglou got one-and-a-half years for conspiracy to defraud, but his sentence was suspended.
In addition, the law firm itself had been found guilty of corrupting a public official, and was fined €70,000.