By Angelos Anastasiou
Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos, former boss of failed Laiki Bank, and his right-hand man Efthimios Bouloutas have refused to answer investigators’ inquiries until a Greek court rules on their application to be exempt from questioning, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said on Monday.
Vgenopoulos, Bouloutas, and three of their former associates at the lender were due to be questioned by Greek authorities over three days – Monday to Wednesday – on issues relating to allegedly misleading investors and mismanagement that led to the bank’s demise in March 2013.
The questioning sessions, were to be attended by two Cypriot investigators looking into possible criminal actions that led to Cyprus’ economic meltdown.
Earlier extensive questioning of Cypriot former Laiki officials by local investigators led them to the need to ask Vgenopoulos, Bouloutas, and three others at the top of Laiki’s management, for their version of events.
According to protocol, as the five men live in Greece, they could only be asked to answer the questions of Greek police in the presence of two Cypriot investigators, specifically despatched to Athens to attend the proceedings, and due to return to Cyprus on Wednesday.
But when they appeared for questioning on Monday morning, Vgenopoulos and Bouloutas informed investigators that they had filed for their exemption from the proceedings.
“They also stated, and it was recorded, that pending a ruling on their request they will not be answering any questions, but in case it is denied they will be available to respond to said questions,” Angelides said.
He added that the Greek investigator will resume the proceedings on Tuesday, in order to question the remaining three men.
In June 2014, the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission had fined Vgenopoulos and Bouloutas €705,000 each for misleading investors with regard to the risk carried by Greek sovereign debt, on which Laiki had invested heavily.
Similar cases – revolving around misleading investors over Greek debt holdings – have already been brought against five former Bank of Cyprus officials, including two former CEOs and two ormer board chairmen.
Cypriot authorities have come under fire in recent months over the slow pace in prosecuting those responsible for the country’s economic collapse, with critics focusing on the failure to bring Vgenopoulos and his ring of associates at Laiki before court.
According to unnamed sources cited by business portal Stockwatch, one of the main reasons the economy cases appeared to have stalled was the need to evaluate the statements given by Cypriot former Laiki officials, so as to finalise the questions to be asked of the five Greeks.
By Angelos Anastasiou