By Angelos Anastasiou
GREEK financier Andreas Vgenopoulos has said the Greek journalist Costas Vaxevanis’ suspended jail sentence for libel against the former Laiki Bank strongman has important ramifications for Cyprus.
“The court’s verdict is one of the largest delivered in Greece for similar offences, as it was fully accepted that Vaxevanis’ claims were false and slanderous,” Vgenopoulos said in a statement issued on Monday.
Considered by many as one of the villains in the collapse of Cyprus’ then second-largest bank in March 2013, Vgenopoulos has consistently maintained a stance of flat denial against all charges, claiming they are the result of a corrupt political and economic establishment in Cyprus trying to absolve itself of the responsibility of the country’s financial meltdown.
Vaxevanis was sentenced to 26 months in prison, suspended for three years, on Monday for comments he made about Vgenopoulos in April 2013
“Vaxevanis’ heavy punishment is extremely relevant to developments in Cyprus, representing by proxy the trial and conviction of all those in Cyprus (journalists, politicians, and lawyers), who, through mud-slinging, have been trying to turn normal banking transactions into ‘scandals’ and criminal offences for the last three years, in an attempt to protect the country’s political and economic establishment, thus absolving it of its serious responsibilities for the destruction of the Cypriot economy,” the businessman charged.
Vgenopoulos argued that the case is rendered all the more relevant by the fact that Vaxevanis tried – but failed – to back his claims in court using confidential documents obtained from Cyprus, including secret documents drafted by the police, the House ethics committee, and now-defunct Laiki’s Special Administrator.
In reference to claims by various politicians, as well as the Cypriot Attorney General Costas Clerides, that investigations against Vgenopoulos are ongoing, suggesting that the Greek business mogul will face justice in Cyprus, he was equally scornful.
“It is surprising that, although as early as September 9, 2014, it was established by an official document by the Cypriot police that the jurisdiction of Greek justice has been accepted, and it was decided that evidence in all cases involving Greeks to Greek justice, it has been six months in which no pieces of evidence have been forwarded to the Greek authorities, while the Cypriot public is still being misdirected into believing that Cypriot justice will investigate their actions,” Vgenopoulos argued.
In a postscript, he also claimed that Cypriot daily Politis’ publisher Yiannis Papadopoulos was sentenced to 10 months in prison, for a similar but unrelated case.
But the paper soon hit back with a harsh response, in which it explained that the initial court decision against Papadopoulos was redeemable for €3,000, but the publisher missed the deadline for filing an appeal by a day.
“Politis’ lawyers, convinced that there is no evidence constituting libel, started new proceedings requesting the reversal of the entire court decision, a procedure currently ongoing,” it said in a statement on Monday.