Daily Politis and the Tassos Papadopoulos & Associates law firm have become embroiled in a tussle over the publication of official documents showing that the firm made several millions in legal fees from the Bank of Cyprus in the 2002 to 2012 period.
The law firm claims the figures are wrong and that the document published by the newspaper on Sunday is a forgery.
Nikos Papaesftathiou, managing partner with the law firm, has accused the paper of doctoring the data to make it look like Bank of Cyprus was being fleeced.
The daily flatly rejects the allegation, pointing out that the document it published is an official document posted on the website of the House of Representatives.
The figures Politis cites are exactly those appearing in the document. According to the uploaded file, from 2002 to 2012 Tassos Papadopoulos & Co – as it was then known – charged the bank €29.5m in legal fees for various services, including services for venture capital investments, preparation of agreements and legal retainers.
And during the period in question, the Chrysafinis & Polyviou law firm made some €10.2m in legal fees from Bank of Cyprus. Combined, the two law firms clocked just under €40m from the bank.
The fees come under the ledger entry “BoC Ventures Ltd.” The document contains several other ledger entries.
The Tassos Papadopoulos law firm is threatening to sue Politis for publishing falsified information, and has asked the attorney-general’s office to launch a criminal investigation against the paper.
On Monday, Papaesftathiou called a news conference to repeat his forgery allegations, even though by then it was clear that the paper had merely reproduced an official document.
Politis has countered by saying that, if the document is indeed bogus, the culprits should be sought elsewhere.
Signing off on the document is Phivos Zomenis, the head of Bank of Cyprus’ legal department. Dated December 11, 2013, it is addressed to MP Demetris Syllouris, then chairman of the House ethics committee.
It is a response to Syllouris, who on behalf of the committee had asked the bank to furnish a breakdown of legal fees paid from 2006 to end-2013.
During the press conference, Papaesftathiou also claimed that the figures in the document were inflated by a factor of 1,000.
The actual document indicates that the numbers are in thousands (EUR 000). Thus, the figure “19,202,000” (legal fees charged by Tassos Papadopoulos & Co in the year 2002) should logically be read as €19.2m.
Nevertheless, Politis said it was open to the possibility that the numbers may be incorrect, but added that if this is the case the onus is on the House ethics committee, which did not bother to verify their authenticity.
The newspaper contacted Bank of Cyprus, which declined to comment.
The file can be found here.