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Appeal opens in Hadjicostis murder case, Skordelli taken ill (Updated)

Elena Skordelli on Wednesday

The Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing the appeals against the convictions for the 2010 murder of Sigma boss Andis Hadjicostis.

Appealing the June, 2013 decision of the Nicosia Criminal Court are all four persons then found guilty of conspiring to murder Hadjicostis – former Sigma presenter Elena Skordelli, her brother Tasos Krasopoulis, Andreas Gregoriou and Grigoris Xenofontos.

They were all handed life imprisonment sentences.

On the request of her lawyer, Skordelli was on Wednesday referred to Nicosia general hospital after she complained of feeling unwell.

As such, during the next hearing on Thursday her lawyer will be laying out his grounds challenging Skordelli’s conviction .

According to the court’s verdict back in 2013, Skordelli and her brother – both shareholders in the Sigma television station – masterminded the assassination of Hadjicostis, whom they saw as impeding their plans to gain a controlling interest in the company.

The court said Skordelli and her brother began hatching plans to kill the Sigma boss as far back as October 2009.

The judges also accepted that a meeting of the conspirators took place at Krasopoulis’ house in December 2009.

The Sigma boss was gunned down on January 11, 2010, just after arriving home around 9pm in the Engomi neighborhood of Nicosia. He was 41 years old.

Xenofondos shot Hadjicostis twice, killing him, while Fanos Hadjigeorgiou drove the getaway bike.

Crucially for its decision, the court said it considered Hadjigeorgiou – who admitted to participating in the crime – a credible witness.

Hadjigeorgiou had turned state’s witness in exchange for immunity and had been placed in a witness protection programme. The prosecution’s case had hinged on his testimony.

In its ruling, the criminal court had described the police investigation prior to the trial as unimpeachable, despite the fact authorities were unable to track down the murder weapon.

Failure to locate the weapon, it said, could not be taken to mean that no crime was committed.

But addressing the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Krasopoulis’ attorney argued that his client did not have a fair trial.

Although the court had at the time cited the mistakes and omissions made by Krasopoulis’ trial attorney, the court had not taken into account the ramifications of this, said Krasopoulis’ current lawyer, Lambros Pelecanos.

One example of Krasopoulis’ poor defence in the trial, said Pelecanos, was that his client’s lawyer at the time did not furnish evidence that might have proved that Krasopoulis never met with Gregoriou, the ‘fixer’ in the crime.

The criminal court had accepted that the meeting took place at Krasopoulis’ home. But this could be disproved by Hadjigeorgiou’s phone records, which were never submitted as evidence during the trial.

Xenofondos’ attorney meanwhile insisted that Hadjigeorgiou was a non-credible witness.  Hadjigeorgiou had fingered Xenofondos as the man who shot and killed the victim.

The lawyer focused on the fact that the murder weapon, the location of which Hadjigeorgiou claimed to have known, was never recovered.

In addition, Xenofondos had no motive to kill Hadjicostis, the lawyer argued.

The defence attorney for Gregoriou, the fourth convict, pointed out that his client could never have conspired nor participated in the murder.

This was because on New Year’s Day 2010 – ten days prior to the hit on Hadjicostis – Gregoriou himself was injured in a bomb blast of which he was the intended target.

“He could not have physically been elsewhere other than Nicosia general hospital and Ippocration hospital, where he was transferred for an operation,” the attorney argued.

 

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