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Cyprus

Economy task force chief blames Erotokritou of meddling

Deputy AG Rikkos Erotokritou said that he had not spoken with Arnaoutis about the probe since October 2013

By Elias Hazou

THE former head of the police task force investigating the collapse of the financial sector has accused deputy Attorney-general Rikos Erotokritou of meddling in the criminal probe.

Chief inspector Themistos Arnaoutis quit the team in mid-April, though his reasons for stepping down were not revealed at the time. A day later, Politis broke its story about a combined €2m in donations given to DISY and AKEL by Focus Maritime Corporation.

The daily followed up yesterday with a report claiming that Arnaoutis walked because of constant interference from Erotokritou.

In his resignation letter to the chief of police, which Politis has seen, Arnaoutis alleged that the deputy AG was demanding from investigators to hand over all original documents, as well as the payment orders made by Focus to political parties, individuals and corporations.

In addition to insisting that the documents be sent to him for “safekeeping,” Erotokritou wanted detectives not to keep copies of the originals.

What’s more, according to Arnaoutis, the deputy AG wanted to be briefed in advance of pending depositions. In his letter, Arnaoutis points out that this demand was extremely irregular – if not unlawful – given the clear separation of powers between the police and the Attorney-general’s office. Whereas it is the police’s job to investigate, the Attorney-general’s office is limited to prosecuting based on the strength of the evidence gathered by law enforcement.

Erotokritou has since answered the chief inspectors’ allegations, calling them “paranoid.” The deputy AG said that he had not spoken with Arnaoutis about the specific probe since October 2013, and that moreover he was not kept informed about the investigations, nor was he in any way involved in the probe.

Focus is apparently the only company which Arnaoutis named in his letter of resignation.

Last week, Politis stirred up a political storm when it reported that Focus paid €500,000 directly to DISY in ten installments of €50,000 each in January and February of 2008, and almost €1.5m to AKEL – of which €1 m was paid through offshore companies and audit firms. The transfers were made around the time of the 2008 presidential elections.

Both parties denied any wrongdoing.

Focus is owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas who is in turn linked to former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos, whom many here blame for the demise of the lender. Focus allegedly received large loans – some without adequate collateral – from Laiki during the time Vgenopoulos was at the helm of the bank.

After initially denying receiving any cash from Focus, DISY subsequently admitted to getting €50,000 from the same company – money used to subsidise air fares for students flown in to vote in the elections. But the ruling party could not account for the remaining €450,000 it allegedly got from Focus.

Attorney-general Costas Clerides was meanwhile set to see the leaders of the two parties after Easter to “confirm or deny the correctness of the published information.”

The meeting, sought by the respective party leaders, was scheduled to take place on Wednesday but has been delayed. Clerides said earlier that the available information would be handed over to the parties involved provided that it would not hurt the investigation.

Politis reported that some within the Attorney-general’s office question the wisdom of briefing the two parties, even if they are not (currently) criminally liable.



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