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Cyprus

Decision still pending in Michaelides trial

The trial of former interior minister Dinos Michaelides in an Athens criminal court resumed on Tuesday but did not progress very far.

The case relates to charges of laundering money from the Greek armaments programme under Greece’s former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

Michaelides, his son Michalis and Syrian arms dealer Fouad al-Zayad – the latter is a fugitive from justice – are all implicated.

Greek authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for al-Zayad who is thought to have facilitated the purchase of Russian-made Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missiles by Greece.

Al-Zayad is accused of channelling a $10 million kickback to Tsohatzopoulos through Michaelides.

The court was on Tuesday set to rule on a motion from Michaelides’ lawyer to expel the Greek government – as represented by its lawyers – from the courtroom.

But there were more delays when Michaelides’ lawyer raised more objections, meaning the case will now continue on Thursday.

Michaelides’ defence argues that whereas bribery may be considered a financial offence against the Greek public, the laundering of money as a result of said bribery cannot be considered as causing financial harm to the Greek state.

Due to the statute of limitations, the defendants are not on trial for bribery.

A key witness for the prosecution is Nikos Zigras, first cousin to Tsohatzopoulos. Tsohatzopoulos is said to have introduced Zigras to Michaelides in 1997.

Greek authorities, investigating the case for the last three years, have unraveled a money trail with bank accounts in Switzerland and shell corporations in Cyprus and Greece.

Michaelides and his son have been remanded in Athens for approximately one year. Their maximum remand period – 18 months – expires in six months. If the trial is not concluded at the end of this period, they will be released.

Their motion to be released conditionally in Greece upon completion of 12 months in custody was earlier rejected by the court as the trial is in progress.

Michaelides became the first Cypriot government or former government official to be extradited. His extradition to Greece took place in September 2013.

 

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