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Cyprus

Focus Maritime probe in last stages, says AG

AG Costas Clerides (CNA)

By Constantinos Psillides

Investigations into alleged donations to political parties through Focus Maritime Corporation – owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas, a close associate to former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos – is in its final stages, Attorney-general Costas Clerides said on Tuesday.

“I want to assure people that this matter has neither been forgotten, nor shelved, and least of all covered up. It is proceeding as fast as conditions allow,” said Clerides in a written statement.

He added that investigators had taken statements, opened bank accounts and even asked Greek authorities for their help.

“We have gathered a massive body of evidence that is being processed by investigators and experts. As a result of this, progress has been slow,” he noted, pointing out that investigators needed to find the money trail and then link it to criminal activity.

The AG appeared pessimistic as to whether the investigation team could come up with any criminal activities, as he said that he had to order the completion of the investigation after it was left unfinished because there appeared to be no chargeable crime. “This is a matter of public interest. Both the people and parties who were named in this case demanded that the investigation be completed.”

Reports surfaced in 2013 saying that ruling DISY and opposition AKEL received a total of €2 million from Focus.

Daily Politis revealed in April 2014 that €1.5 million was donated to AKEL and €500,000 to DISY – in late 2007 and early 2008.

Among other business connections, Zolotas participated in MIG’s – Vgenopoulos’ investment group – €5.2 billion capital increase in 2007, partly using funds allegedly loaned to him by Marfin-Laiki and collateralised only by the MIG shares bought, a claim Vgenopoulos has repeatedly denied.

 

Rumours of money funnelled to the two most influential political parties in Cyprus by Focus Maritime – with the implication that Vgenopoulos was behind the donations in order to secure favourable treatment from the political establishment – have been circulating since December 2013.

Focus had also been reported as having paid former Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Christodoulos Christodoulou €1 million in July 2007 – two months after he had stepped down as Governor. Christodoulou justified the payment as “consultancy services for 10 years, paid in advance” and clarified that the account the funds were paid into was not his own but belonged to a company run by his daughter.

Christodoulou was sentenced to five months in jail in 2014 for failing to pay taxes on the amount received from Focus, and released last month.

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