By Angelos Anastasiou
The indictment of four former Laiki Bank senior officials for manipulating the market and misleading investors in 2011 was a positive step, but by no means enough, political parties said on Tuesday.
Despite clamouring for “those responsible” to be brought to justice ever since Laiki collapsed in March 2013, Monday’s announcement that charges were filed against four senior officials, including a former CEO, left them underwhelmed.
Although the charge-sheet includes Efthimios Bouloutas, former Laiki’s strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos right-hand man, parties thought the real prize would be Vgenopoulos himself.
The Greek financier is considered by many to be the chief villain in the lender’s demise.
“It is a provocation that [former Laiki boss] Andreas Vgenopoulos’ name was not included in the charge sheet, when close associates of his have been charged,” said DIKO’s spokeswoman Christiana Erotocritou.
“We ask the government and the justice minister once more: how far along are the proceedings to prosecute Vgenopoulos? Will he ever be indicted?”
In a statement, EDEK made a similar point – that more people need to be held accountable.
“We welcome the fact that, at long last, people in charge of Laiki Bank are being brought to justice,” EDEK said.
“But when will Mr Vgenopoulos’ responsibility be investigated, and when will he be brought before justice? What are the responsibilities of those who exercised oversight during the period up to the bank’s collapse?”
An unofficial response to Vgenopoulos’ absence from the charge-sheet was issued through the CyBC on Tuesday night. According to unnamed sources cited by the state’s TV channel, the reason is that Vgenopoulos “had not been in Cyprus” during the period under examination.
The Greens also welcomed Monday’s news, but said charges are not enough – those found guilty must be asked to compensate those who lost money due to their decisions.
“Even though the ‘big fish’, meaning Andreas Vgenopoulos, is not among those charged, we believe that [Monday’s] development opens a small window of hope that some of those responsible for the collapse of Cypriot banks will be tried and punished,” the Greens’ leader Giorgos Perdikis said.
“Of course, to the thousands who fell victim to banking fraud, charges in court are not enough. Punishment must include the assumption of the cost of the victims’ compensation.”
The demand was echoed by the bondholders’ association, which welcomed the filing of the charges but also demanded the return of the officials’ pay during their time at Laiki.
“We hope that the charge-list will soon be amended to include the rest of those bearing responsibility, and above all the number-one destroyer of the bank,” the association said, presumably referring to Vgenopoulos.
“If people are found guilty, their bonuses and wealth acquired through illegal acts and omissions must be returned.”
Ruling DISY credited the Legal Service and investigators with a major breakthrough.
“Every political party had acknowledged delays in bringing people to justice,” DISY spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said.
“So today, we must credit the Attorney General, and the competent authorities, because the first such case has been filed.”
Asked whether the ministry has a plan in place, in case Bouloutas – like Vgenopoulos, a Greek national residing in Greece – refuses to show up when the Laiki trial is underway, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said investigations are proceeding steadily, with a view to completing cases so they can be brought to court.
“As far as I am aware, other cases are nearing completion soon,” he said.
“In collaboration with the attorney-general, efforts to issue subpoenas to the defendants who reside abroad, and, should they fail to appear in court, all required measures will be taken, such as issuing a European arrest warrant, so that they appear in court.”
Vgenopoulos and Bouloutas were asked by Greek authorities – at the request of the Cypriot justice ministry – to give a statement to investigators in Athens over a separate case earlier this year, but appealed the summons and have not yet been forced to comply.
State TV reported on Tuesday that police investigators will be travelling to London next month, hoping to make headway in investigations over the sale of HSBC bank’s 9.98 per cent stake in Laiki to Vgenopoulos’ Marfin in 2006.
Unnamed sources cited by the channel said that Vgenopoulos’ name will appear in another charge-sheet, shortly after the holidays, which will relate to a “much more serious” case than the one filed on Monday.