Cyprus Mail

AKEL sues ‘over loss of supporters’ Politis says

By George Psyllides

MAIN opposition AKEL has sued a newspaper over allegations that the party had received €1.5 million from a company allegedly linked with a man many hold responsible for the collapse of the banking sector.

The party said it had no other choice but to resort to court to set the record straight after shadows were left by “malicious” reports in Politis.

Politis said in a statement later that one of the reasons the party sued the paper was because the article had “resulted in the loss of party officials, members, voters and supporters”.

The paper said it found it “astonishing” that the party considered its members and voters as “lost profits”.

“Just how impressionable does AKEL think its officials and members are?” Politis said in a written statement. The paper said it welcomed the lawsuit because the party would be asked to present in court its financial statements for the time period in question.

AKEL also warned yesterday “for the first and last time” that anyone who reproduced “the false allegations from now on … will also be sued.”

Politis had reported that Focus Maritime had paid €500,000 directly to DISY in ten instalments of €50,000 each in January and February of 2008, and almost €1.5 million to AKEL – of which €1 million was paid through offshore Abendale Management Corporation in two equal instalments in September 2007, and €450,000 in June 2008 through the audit firm of Kyprianides, Nicolaou & Partners.

The newspaper said the transfers were made around the time of Cyprus’ 2008 presidential elections.

Both parties denied any wrongdoing although DISY later admitted to receiving €50,000 from Focus.

Focus is owned by Greek ship owner Michalis Zolotas who is in turn linked to Greek businessman Andreas Vgenopoulos, whom many here blame for the collapse of Laiki Bank.

Focus allegedly received large loans – some without adequate security – from Laiki during the time Vgenopoulos was at the helm of the bank.

AKEL said because it does not usually resolve disputes in court “except as a last resort,” and because monetary benefit was not the objective, if successful, it will donate any money awarded to people affected by the crisis.

The party is seeking between €500,000 and €2 million in compensation.

The party filed the libel suit while authorities are looking into the case, trying to determine whether the allegations were true.

“The objective is to find out whether this money trail ended at the two parties,” Attorney-general Costas Clerides told state radio CyBC.

Clerides had recently asked investigators to extend their search. Cyprus has asked Greek authorities to assist by looking into bank accounts on their side.

The investigation is part of a wider probe into the collapse of the economy, which Clerides said was a laborious and complex task.

Two related cases appear to be close to completion.

Clerides said investigators were asked to fill in some gaps “but they are at an advanced stage.”

It is understood that the two cases concern loans and forgery.

The attorney-general said violation of capital controls were not included in the terms of reference initially but recent reports and information regarding cash transfers abroad using illicit methods have caught they eye of investigators.

“We are monitoring the matter so that we can go ahead when we have a more complete picture,” Clerides said.

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