Cyprus Mail

Date set for proceedings against Vgenopoulos and others

Andreas Vgenopoulos (right)

A DATE has been set for the commencement of court proceedings against Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos and former central bank boss Christodoulos Christodoulou, among others, the state broadcaster reported on Thursday.

A court case has been filed against Vgenopoulos, Christodoulou, five other individuals and three companies over the payment of €1 million, allegedly as a bribe, in 2007.

The trial starts on September 30.

Christodoulou has previously 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. An earlier court case resulted in Christodoulou being found guilty on tax evasion.

Prosecutors suggest that Focus acted as a front for Vgenopoulos, who bribed Christodoulou – in his capacity as Central Bank chief at the time – to look the other way while the former irregularly acquired a controlling stake in Laiki Bank in 2006.

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

Vgenopoulos has 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.

The case, 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, poses the issue of Vgenopoulos’ doubtful readiness to appear before court.

The Greek investor has long maintained that this 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.

Citing its sources, the state broadcaster said Cypriot authorities are already preparing for the eventuality that Vgenopoulos and other Greek nationals might fail to show up in court on September 30, the start of the hearings.

The measures being considered include seeking a European arrest warrant.

The upcoming trial will address the substance of the €1 million transfer, that is, whether the payment entailed any quid pro quo to Vgenopoulos’ benefit.

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