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Arrest warrants for Zolotas and Fole, stay for Vgenopoulos and Magiras (Update 1)

Andreas Vgenopoulos (right)

Nicosia district court Monday issued arrest warrants against Michalis Zolotas and Michalis Fole following the lack of commitment on the part of their lawyers to ensure their physical presence for their referral to the criminal court.

For Andreas Vgenopoulos and associate Kyriacos Magiras, the court took into account an interim decision of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and decided to allow their defence lawyers until November 3 to consult with their clients as to whether or not they would appear before court.

The court ruled that the four Greek nationals who have failed to show up for a hearing in connection with the alleged bribery of a former Central Bank governor, must appear physically in court in order to be referred to the criminal court.

In her decision, Judge Marilena Miliotou said the physical presence of Laiki strongman Vgenopoulos, Zolotas, the owner of Focus, Magiras, and Fole was necessary. The four stand accused of involvement in the payment of one million euros by the Focus company to a company connected to the former Governor of the Central Bank, and former interior and finance minister, Christodoulos Christodoulou.

The judge rejected arguments put forward by the lawyers of the accused that their clients’ presence was not necessary at the referral proceedings saying the summons had been served to the accused in a proper and valid manner, and as such, is capable of bringing all the legal consequences to bear on the accused for their absence, including the issuing of arrest warrants against them.

The judge then went on to ask the Greeks’ lawyers if they undertook to ensure the presence of their clients before the court on a new date to be announced for referral to the criminal court.

Miliotou specifically asked the defence lawyers of Zolotas and Fole, to commit themselves to ensuring the physical presence of their clients before the court “to avoid arrest warrants against them.”

Regarding Vgenopoulos and Magiras, who are affected by ICSID, Miliotou asked the defence lawyers of the two to present their clients in court, in the light of the commitment of the attorney-general that if they appear, they will only ask for financial guarantees for purpose of ensuring their future presence in court.

The decision of the ICSID included a recommendation to the Republic of Cyprus to refrain from issuing arrest warrants against Vgenopoulos and Magiras while arbitration proceedings were ongoing.

The judge called on the attorney-general to position himself on whether the Cyprus Republic may be held accountable with non-compliance with this recommendation should the court proceed to issue arrest warrants against them.

Three other individuals are implicated in the case, Christodoulou, daughter Athina, and her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides.

Three companies, A.C. Christodoulou Consultants, Focus Maritime Corp, and Vgenopoulos’ investment firm Marfin Investment Group (MIG) have also been charged.

The prosecution is suggesting that Focus acted as a front for Vgenopoulos, who bribed Christodoulou to look the other way while the former strongman irregularly acquired a controlling stake in Laiki in 2006.

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

The case is the first to implicate Vgenopoulos in Cyprus despite his being considered a key figure in the build-up to the collapse of Cyprus’ banking sector in March 2013.

The Greek investor has long maintained that this, and other cases, are the jurisdiction of Greek authorities, while two of his close associates, Efthimios Bouloutas and Marcos Foros, refused to travel to Cyprus when they found themselves in a similar situation to Vgenopoulos.

Arrest warrants issued for the pair 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 against Cyprus with the ICSID, claiming the government, which had taken over control of the bank after it was bailed out in May 2012, was solely responsible for its eventual demise.

They seek redress of over €1.2b, arguing that the government violated a 1992 treaty between Cyprus and Greece, in which they pledged to protect investments made by each other’s nationals.

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