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Cyprus

Former bankers fight arrest warrant (update)

Two former Greek bankers whose arrest was sought after they failed to appear before a Cypriot court were arrested but objected to their extradition, Attorney General Costas Clerides said on Friday.

European arrest warrants were issued for former Laiki Bank board members Efthimios Bouloutas and Markos Foros, who failed to appear before court on Monday at the inaugural hearing of the first case relating to mismanagement at the failed lender.

According to a statement issued by Marfin Investment Group, where both men serve as board members, Bouloutas and Foros appeared before Greek authorities “voluntarily and were naturally released without any restrictions, apart from being banned from leaving the country.”

“This restriction will be in place until the case is tried by the relevant” court, the statement said.

It claimed that the arrest warrants were “illegal.”

But what the group’s statement failed to mention, it emerged later, was that, while the two men did appear before the authorities of their own free will, they were arrested and then released on condition that they don’t exit the country.

This, Clerides said, was because they refused to consent to being extradited to the Cypriot authorities, and thus Cyprus’ request for their extradition will be heard by a Greek court.

Clerides noted that the procedure relating to the execution of European arrest warrants includes a 60-day deadline, which can be extended under extraordinary circumstances by 30 days.

The Nicosia district court had convened to rule on whether to refer the case to the criminal court. The other two defendants, Panayiotis Kounnis and Neoclis Lysandrou, also former board members, were in court. The four men are accused of having conspired to mislead investors through public statements and inaccurate account reporting in 2011.

Laiki faced serious undercapitalisation issues and had to be bailed out with €1.8 billion of taxpayer money in June 2012, but went down in March 2013.

Management of the failed lender was taken over by Marfin Investment Group (MIG) founder and boss Andreas Vgenopoulos in 2006. He promptly recruited a team of Greek nationals to run it, who he has called pejoratively “the Greeks” since the bank’s failure, arguing that the local political and banking establishment had always cast a suspicious eye on them.

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