The Nicosia district court will announce on Monday whether it will issue arrest warrants for four Greek nationals who failed to show up for a scheduled hearing in connection with the alleged bribery of the former Central Bank governor.
The case concerns a €1m payment made to Christodoulos Christodoulou in 2007, which prosecutors allege was given so that he could turn a blind eye to irregular practices.
Christodoulou admitted to receiving the money, which was paid by Focus Maritime Corporation to a company registered to his daughter and former son-in-law, and claimed it was an advance payment for consultancy services over 10 years.
Lawyers for the four, former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos, Michalis Zolotas, the owner of Focus, Vgenopoulos’ associate Kyriacos Magiras, and Michalis Fole, a bank employee at the time in question, argued that the presence of their clients was not necessary during Friday’s hearing, held to determine whether they would be referred to trial before the Nicosia Criminal Court.
Their arguments were countered by the prosecution, represented by Attorney-general Costas Clerides.
The three other individuals implicated in the case, Christodoulou, daughter Athina, and her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides, appeared in court with their lawyers.
Three companies – A.C. Christodoulou Consultants, Focus Maritime Corp, and Vgenopoulos’ investment firm Marfin Investment Group (MIG) have also been charged.
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.
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, had refused to travel to Cyprus when they found themselves in a similar predicament to Vgenopoulos.
Arrest warrants were issued for the pair but were later suspended following the recommendation of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which was adjudicating on a case filed by Vgenopoulos.
Vgenopoulos and his investment firm MIG, along with a group of Greeks who had invested in Laiki, filed a case with the ICSID against Cyprus, claiming its government, which had taken over control of the bank after it was bailed out with taxpayer money in May 2012, was solely responsible for its eventual demise.
They seek redress of their total investment – totalling over €1.2b, arguing that the Cypriot government violated a 1992 treaty between Cyprus and Greece, in which they pledged to protect investments made by each other’s nationals.