FORMER Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos will, at long last, next Tuesday be questioned by Greek investigators in connection with misleading investors in Cyprus, a case that has also been looked into by the Cyprus Securities and Exchnage Commission. Cypriot investigators will also be present during the questioning and have the authority to ask for clarifications although they will not be allowed to put questions directly to the head of the Marfin Investment Group.
This arrangement, agreed by Cypriot and Greek authorities, has led to a scathing attack against Attorney-General Costas Clerides by Politis which argued that Cypriot investigators should have carried out the questioning. It accused Clerides of bad handling and hinted that the Greek investigators could not be trusted as they had let down the Cyprus Republic in another Vgenopoulos-related investigation. Clerides avoided responding, saying that he refused to comment on the content of leaked correspondence.
On the issue of being let down by the Greek authorities, the paper had a point. It was only last month that two suspects in the same case – Greek nationals and senior executives of Laiki, Efthymios Bouloutas and Markos Foros – had failed to show up for the execution of an extradition order to Cyprus issued by the Greek court; they are still on the run. Earlier a Greek prosecutor, who had carried out an investigation at the request of Vgenopoulos and found he had done nothing wrong in Cyprus, was subjected to a disciplinary investigation by the Greek Supreme Court.
The choice for Clerides was between maintaining a working relationship with Greece’s legal authorities or burning all bridges by insisting Cypriot investigators questioned Vgenopoulos, on the ground that their Greek counterparts could not be trusted. He opted for the first, more sensible approach, as the assistance of the Greek authorities will be needed in the future as well. It may only be offered grudgingly and in some cases not at all, but this approach is more likely to achieve some, if limited, results.
What is becoming increasingly obvious are the legal difficulties in putting together cases against those believed to have caused the collapse of the Cyprus economy. Even when charges have been brought, as in the case of Bouloutas and Foros, bringing them to Cyprus to stand trial is not a straightforward procedure. Under the circumstances, what is the probability of bringing Vgenopoulos, the man who bankrupted Laiki in order to prop up his failing bank in Greece, to Cyprus to stand trial? All we can say is that, currently, it appears very low indeed.