By Angelos Anastasiou
FORMER Laiki bank boss Andreas Vgenopoulos said on Monday that local daily Politis and Greek online news portal Kouti Tis Pandoras (‘Pandora’s Box’) have joined forces in slandering him by misrepresenting facts about him and bending the truth.
In a written statement, the Greek businessman deemed their news reports about him “mudslinging stories”, and lambasted Politis publisher Yiannis Papadopoulos and Kouti Tis Pandoras’ boss Costas Vaxevanis for disrespecting the basic ethics of journalism.
“Mudslinging stories by Papadopoulos in Cyprus get picked up by Vaxevanis in Greece,” Vgenopoulos charged.
“Then, Vaxevanis runs mudslinging stories, which get picked up by Papadopoulos.”
Vgenopoulos has taken both men to court for slander, and several more cases are waiting to be heard.
“The two businessmen/journalists have the following in common: both have been found guilty of slandering (10 months in prison for Papadopoulos, 26 months in prison for Vaxevanis), while several lawsuits against them are pending; neither respects basic rules of journalistic ethics (they fail to ask their subjects’ views for publication, they fail to respect the presumption of innocence principle, etc); and both break the law by making ‘classified’ information from ‘probes’, which they interpret as they like and make any conclusions they want, with no counter-arguments,” Vgenopoulos said.
His statement was prompted by a series of stories run by the two newsmen in the last few days, which claimed that, as head of now-defunct Laiki Bank from 2006 to 2011, Vgenopoulos made loans to himself, and that he bought his way into controlling Laiki by hiding behind investment vehicles other than Marfin Investment Group (MIG), the group he runs.
They also accused Vgenopoulos of lying about not personally knowing Greek ship-owner Michalis Zolotas, owner of the notorious Focus Maritime offshore company, and speaking on the phone with former Cyprus Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou immediately after Politis ran a story claiming that Christodoulou had been bribed by Zolotas. The telephone conversation, Vaxevanis had reasoned, raised suspicion that Zolotas had only served as a proxy for Vgenopoulos.
“These claims lack seriousness and have long broken the limits of common sense,” the Greek businessman said.
“The Tosca Fund [which bought a stake in Laiki at the same time MIG did] is one of the most famous ones in the investment world, and does not belong ship-owning friends of mine.”
Both Politis and Kouti Tis Pandoras cited an investigation report by Greek authorities, which found that Vgenopoulos and Zolotas had both served on the board of directors of a company, thus negating the claim that they did not know each other.
“The existence of two members on the board of directors of a company for a brief spell could prove they met and knew each other if the board had convened in person even once, which has not happened in this case,” Vgenopoulos fired back.
The MIG boss did not deny the phone calls to and from Christodoulou, but denied they had anything to do with the case the two news portals linked them to.
“The ‘revelation’ that I had telephone contact with Mr Christodoulou when his case was made public is indicative of the evidence that is being revealed,” Vgenopoulos argued.
“With a hefty dose of imagination and ill will, the slanderers assume the topic of discussion was ‘Mr Governor, our illegalities have been exposed and what shall we do now?’, instead of ‘Mr Governor, what has happened and my name is being involved?’, or ‘Mr Vgenopoulos, they are coming after me unfairly, because they are trying to get to you’.”