By Angelos Anastasiou
FORMER governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Athanasios Orphanides made a surprise appearance in Limassol court on Monday, at a hearing in relation to a civil suit filed against him by a former-Laiki bank bondholder.
Orphanides had claimed he was unable to attend the trial on several earlier occasions, as he is currently employed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but pledged to appear before the court in the summertime, when the university is in recess.
Along with Orphanides, the plaintiff – a man from Limassol who claims to have been misled into buying Laiki bonds – also accused former Laiki bank’s strongmen Andreas Vgenopoulos and Efthimios Bouloutas, as well as Laiki bank as a legal entity, of conspiring to defraud him out of €400,000.
Last September, an arrest warrant had been issued against the former central banker for failing to appear before the court in connection with this case.
But in the absence of the assigned judge, the court decided to postpone the session to August 11, and set bail for Orphanides at €10,000.
The defendant’s lawyer, Efstathios Efstathiou, argued his client’s innocence and noted his decision to travel to Cyprus to attend the proceedings. He asked that Orphanides be cleared of all charges as he claimed the charge sheet contravenes basic rules of justice.
While the court postponed the proceedings until August 11, upon the presiding judge’s return, Efstathiou moved that the arrest warrant against Orphanides is revoked, as he will remain in Cyprus until August 20.
Instead, at the prosecution’s request, the court decided to set bail at €10,000.
Meanwhile, several bondholders who had gathered outside the courtroom in protest shouted at Orphanides as he left the court.
Addressing the press after the court session, Efstathiou claimed that the “charge sheet is completely baseless and relates to no offence allegedly committed by Orphanides.”
“You will hear our arguments in great detail on the 11th,” he said. “We believe that after August 11th the charge sheet will be revoked because it bears no relation to reality and the legal science.”
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Costas Melas, acknowledged that Orphanides had kept his word and appeared before the court as he had promised, adding that his claims of innocence are his inalienable right, until otherwise proven.
However, he noted that the defence lawyers always raised pre-trial issues “in hopes of avoiding the substance”.
With regard to Vgenopoulos and Bouloutas, their trials have not yet started as the hearing of a request by their lawyers for proof of legally handing them subpoenas is pending and scheduled for September 10.