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Cyprus

Greek deputy justice minister named in tangled Vgenopoulos case

Laiki Bank’s former strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos

The war in the Greek justice system’s inner circles over the case of Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos escalated on Monday as the involvement of Deputy Justice Minister Demetris Papangelopoulos, who allegedly tried to tamper with judicial independence, came to the fore.

The row, which centres on Vgenopoulos’ clearing of all charges last month by Athens district attorney Georgia Tsatani in connection with his role in the demise of Laiki Bank in 2013, was rekindled over the weekend, when she claimed Papangelopoulos tried to pressure her into returning the case file to a junior investigator.

Tsatani had taken over the investigation after the junior prosecutor stumbled upon a legal impasse, which required the involvement of a senior district attorney. Press reports at the time claimed Tsatani’s taking over of the case constituted a “judicial coup d’etat”.

Tsatani’s revelations follow the decision of the president of the Supreme Court to launch a disciplinary probe against her for unduly taking over the Vgenopoulos investigation. The probe appears to have been the result of a request by Cypriot authorities.

Press reports claim that Attorney-general Costas Clerides and Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou allegedly asked their counterparts in Greece to reopen the investigation that led to Vgenopoulos’ exoneration.

According to the district attorney, Papangelopoulos tried to threaten her into returning the investigation to the junior investigator, who should have duly completed it.

The deputy minister denied having interfered with Tsatani’s work, an offence that would have constituted meddling with judicial independence.

In a statement on Monday, Vgenopoulos weighed in on the dispute, claiming Papangelopoulos is “now under scrutiny for having committed extremely serious criminal offences”, alluding to his alleged attempts to influence the course of justice.

Amidst the schism, Vgenopoulos tried to drive an even bigger wedge in the relations between Greece and Cyprus.

“At some point, Papangelopoulos must explain his close cooperation with the Cypriots and his meddling with judicial matters, which serves their interests, at a time when the Cypriot Laiki Bank, with the approval of the ‘friendly’ Cypriot government, seeks €4 billion in damages from Greece!” the Greek businessman said.

He was referring to a claim he first made last week that a lawsuit by legacy Laiki Bank’s special administrator – apparently rubberstamped by Finance Minister Harris Georgiades – on grounds of losses incurred by the lender as a result of actions by the Greek government, to the tune of €4 billion, constituted a “hostile act by Cyprus against Greece”.

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