Cyprus Mail

Vgenopoulos bribe case could impact others says AG

The late Andreas Vgenopoulos

The outcome of the court case filed against Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos, former finance minister and central bank boss Christodoulos Christodoulou, five other individuals and three companies over the payment of €1 million, allegedly as a bribe, in 2007, will likely impact other cases currently under investigation, attorney-general Costas Clerides said on Tuesday.

Christodoulou admitted to receiving the money, which was paid by Focus Maritime Corporation to a company technically registered to his daughter and former son-in-law, and claimed it was an advance payment for consultancy services over 10 years.

Focus, owned by Greek ship-owner Michalis Zolotas, reportedly received hundreds of millions in loans from Laiki Bank during Vgenopoulos’ reign at the lender.

Prosecutors suggest that Focus acted as a front for Vgenopoulos, who bribed Christodoulou to look the other way while the former irregularly acquired a controlling stake in Laiki in 2006.

The Greek businessman denied any personal acquaintance or association with Zolotas, other than as a customer of the bank.

In addition to Vgenopoulos and Christodoulou, the former minister’s daughter and her ex-husband, Athina Christodoulou and Andreas Kizourides, Zolotas, and former Laiki officials Kyriacos Magiras and Michalis Fole, have been indicted. Three companies – A.C. Christodoulou Consultants, Focus Maritime Corp, and Vgenopoulos’ investment firm Marfin Investment Group (MIG) have also been charged.

“For us, this is an extremely important case, because it essentially touches on the way a stake in Laiki Bank was acquired, which, in turn, had given its owner control, and some other cases currently under investigation are premised on this,” Clerides told state radio on Tuesday.

“Why the money was paid is something to be decided by the court. The allegations raised in the case relate to oversight [by the Central Bank] that was exercised, or not, and also the way the controlling stake was acquired.”

Asked whether he feels confident in having a strong case, Clerides was cautiously optimistic.

“I am not going to discuss this – you understand, these are delicate points that will be put to the court,” he said.

“What I will say is this: for the police and the Legal Service to bring a case to court, they must believe they have adequate evidence to back the charges.”

The case, which is the first to implicate Vgenopoulos in Cyprus despite him being considered one of the key figures in the build-up to the banking collapse of Cyprus in March 2013, presents with Vgenopoulos’ doubtful readiness to appear before court.

The Greek investor has long maintained that this – and others – case is the jurisdiction of Greek authorities. In addition, two of his close associates, Efthimios Bouloutas and Marcos Foros, have refused to travel to Cyprus when they found themselves in a similar predicament to Vgenopoulos, and remain fugitives even after Greek courts have ordered their extradition to Cyprus. It is thought that Vgenopoulos might go the same route.

“The process is already being followed – subpoenas must be issued to those implicated, both in Cyprus and in Greece,” said Clerides.

“In Greece, this needs to be done via the normal channels, meaning through the justice ministries of the two countries. There are various issues raising jurisdictional questions between the two countries, meaning some cases fall under the jurisdiction of one country, others of the other country, and in yet others there is joint jurisdiction. All of this is under discussion between the two countries, and agreement was reached in some cases – but others are still under discussion.”

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