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Cyprus

First case filed against Vgenopoulos (Updated)

Andreas Vgenopoulos

The first case in which embattled Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos, former Laiki Bank strongman, will be called to defend his actions was filed in Cypriot courts on Monday.

Vgenopoulos, along with former Cypriot finance minister and former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Christodoulos Christodoulou, and four other individuals, as well as three companies, will face charges of bribery, abuse of power, proxy dealing, and money laundering.

The case relates to the payment of €1 million in “consultancy fees” by Focus Maritime Corporation, owned by Greek ship-owner Michalis Zolotas but thought to be a front for Vgenopoulos, to Christodoulou, shortly after he left the helm of the Central Bank in 2007.

Investigators suspect the transaction may have been a bribe so that Christodoulou would turn a blind eye to irregularities in Vgenopoulos’ 2006 takeover of Laiki Bank.

In 2014, Christodoulou was found guilty of tax evasion, as he had failed to report the money to the taxman, and sentenced to five months in prison.

Earlier on Monday, Vgenopoulos had issued a statement in connection with news reports claiming his house had been raided by police investigators, who removed documents and computer hard drives as evidence.

In the statement, Vgenopoulos said that investigations against him “under the rule of law” are welcome, but once more lambasted unlawful leaks to media outlets, which appear to have had information on ongoing probes against him before even he was informed.

Confirming the raids, the businessman claimed that the leak served as spin to make up for the absence of incriminating evidence, and that the time the story broke was no coincidence.

“On July 18 my house was searched as part of a preliminary investigation,” Vgenopoulos said.

“Naturally, there were no ‘findings’, which is why the investigation wasn’t advertised. When my lawyers tried to find out the reason for the investigation, from the district attorney’s office, they were told that no information could be divulged at that point.”

And yet, Vgenopoulos added, the full content of the investigation report was “revealed by [Greek journalist Costas] Vaxevanis (!)” on July 21. In addition to the raids, Vaxevanis also published classified transcripts of telephone conversations by Vgenopoulos and his associates, “former Laiki Bank officials”, which the journalist claimed suggest their involvement in money laundering.

“Because the ultimate goal of my slander was not met, [Vaxevanis’] invisible ‘informants’ made sure they brought this case back to the fore over the weekend, so that it could gain the traction they so coveted,” Vgenopoulos charged.

“All investigations and preliminary probes are welcome under the rule of law. But whether publicity given through the illegal leaking of classified and confidential information fall under the rule of law, each of us can draw their own conclusions.”

The Greek judicial system will also draw its own conclusions, Vgenopoulos added, but cautioned that “it is subject to the scrutiny of European courts”.

Although considered by many one of the key figures in the collapse of the banking sector in Cyprus, and the 2013 demise of Laiki Bank in particular, Vgenopoulos has yet to be officially indicted by Cypriot authorities.

Meanwhile, Vgenopoulos has also been battling an extradition request made by Cyprus to the Greek authorities so that he could testify on Laiki-related cases currently under investigation, which he has thus far managed to stall.

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