By Andria Kades
Former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos claims a conspiracy to discredit his name in Cyprus’ public opinion is slowly being uncovered after an Athens court of appeals decision awarded him €54,000 in damages from former MP Demetris Tsironis to the Marfin Investment Group (MIG) boss.
Tsironis, who had been invited by Cyprus’ House ethics committee in June 2013 to speak on Vgenopoulos, told deputies the island’s banking system incurred losses of at least €4 billion through the merger of Greek lender Marfin Egnatia with the now defunct Laiki Bank.
In a statement on Wednesday, Vgenopoulos said the five year court battle between MIG and Tsironis found that the former MP’s comments were false and defamatory.
“The court ruled that the public statements Demetris Tsironis made, in which he tried to implicate us in the so-called ‘scandal’ of the Vatopedi monastery and presented the increase of MIG’s capital shares in 2007 as false and illegal, were false and defamatory.”
Those same comments were shared to Cypriot MPs that were investigating the collapse of the Cypriot economy, and were “fully included without investigation and questions, adopting (the comments) in their ‘findings’.”
The matter, which Tsironis disclosed to Cypriot MPs during his visit two years ago alleged Vatopedi monks had engaged political help to obtain the rights to a nature reserve in northern Greece and then, with more help, to swap it for valuable state-owned real estate across the country.
The monks were also major players on the stock market and received €109 million in loans from Marfin Bank.
The money was in turn used to buy shares in Marfin Investment Group (MIG), controlled by Vgenopoulos.
The Greek parliamentary inquiry alleged serious “conflicts of interest” in how bank loans were issued to finance MIG’s wider activities.
“The investigation of the Vatopedi scandal led us to a collateral scandal that extended to Cyprus through Laiki Bank,” Tsironis said at the time.
“It is obvious the conspiracy set up against me that aimed to mislead Cyprus’ public opinion is slowly unravelling. The decision by the International Court of Arbitration (ICC) is approaching, and then the true causes of Laiki Bank’s collapse and that of the Cypriot economy will be revealed and those truly guilty will be held accountable,” Vgenopoulos charged in his statement.
He was referring to a case filed by him and other Greek investors against the Republic of Cyprus with the ICC, claiming over €1 billion, in which he cited a bilateral agreement between Cyprus and Greece for the protection of investments from either country.
Vgenopoulos claims the Cyprus government violated its obligations under this treaty at various times since 2012, when it authorised a taxpayer-funded €1.8 billion capital injection in Laiki, taking over its management until the lender’s demise in 2013.
By Andria Kades