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Cyprus

Court will rule on extradition on August 21

Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile systems at the centre of the investigation

By George Psyllides

THE LIMASSOL district court will issue its decision on August 21 on whether to extradite former interior minister Dinos Michaelides to Greece where he is wanted in connection with money laundering.

During a hearing that lasted over three hours on Monday, Michaelides’ defence suggested that the extensive publicity given to the case aimed at putting the court under pressure to extradite their client.

Lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou said there had been a “blatant intervention” from other authorities in the work of the court and an effort to manipulate it and turn it into an “instrument for serving expediencies.”

Greek authorities had originally issued an arrest warrant for the former minister and his son Michalis in July, but the process was stalled because Cyprus’ constitution prohibited extraditing Cypriots for offences committed before the island joined the EU in May 2004.

Lawmakers subsequently amended the relevant legislation, removing the exception originally inserted by MPs – in violation of EU rules — reportedly to protect two Cypriot businessmen.

The bill to amend the constitution had been pending from last year.

The Greek authorities moved quickly to rescind the original warrants and issue new ones based on the new state of play.

Efstathiou said the speed by which procedures were carried out was “unbelievable and unprecedented,” having the specific case in mind.

Michaelides’ defence also claimed that if their client was extradited to Greece, he could spend up to 18 months in custody and be deprived of the ability to prepare his defence.

Greek authorities are investigating the pair in relation to alleged kickbacks given in relation to the purchase by Greece of Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile systems.

Michalides, who denies the allegations, has said he wanted to be tried in Cyprus.

State prosecutors rejected the defence’s claims, saying it was the court that would rule on the case.

They also rubbished suggestions of amending the constitution solely to achieve the pair’s extradition.

His son’s case will be heard on August 12.

Greek authorities are investigating Michaelides and son in connection with alleged kickbacks paid in the purchase by Greece of Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile systems.

They had been implicated after the arrest of former Greek defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos in connection with the case.

The alleged offences that father and son are wanted for, took place between 1997 and 2001.

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