Cyprus Mail

Zolotas and Fole both in custody (Update 1)

In a case filed with Nicosia district court, the prosecution maintains that Zolotas’ Focus acted as a front for former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos (pictured)

Two Greek nationals said to be associated with former Laiki Bank boss Andreas Vgenopoulos and wanted for weeks by Cypriot authorities in connection with a bribery case, are in police custody in Greece and Romania.

Michalis Zolotas, 42, whose whereabouts were apparently unknown, surrendered to judicial authorities in Athens, around noon on Wednesday.

The businessman is said to be in the custody of Greek extradition authorities, although his automatic extradition to Cyprus, on the basis of a European arrest warrant, is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Sources apprised of the matter said Zolotas and his lawyers are likely to object to his extradition. The process could therefore take anywhere from a matter of days to months.

Zolotas is the owner of Focus Maritime Corporation, which paid one million euros to a company connected to Christodoulos Christodoulou, then governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus.

Focus is alleged to have been used as a slush fund to bribe state officials and political parties.

Zolotas was wanted for bribery, accepting a bribe, abuse of power and money laundering.

Also on Thursday Michalis Fole – an associate of Vgenopoulos likewise wanted on a European arrest warrant for the same case – was arrested in Romania.

Sources said Fole was apprehended at his residence there.

Fole is the person who managed Focus’ account at a Laiki branch in Marousi, a suburb of Athens.

In a case filed with Nicosia district court, the prosecution maintains that Zolotas’ Focus acted as a front for former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos, who bribed Christodoulou to look the other way while Vgenopoulos irregularly acquired a controlling stake in Laiki in 2006.

On October 3 Zolotas along with Fole and two others -Vgenopoulos and associate Kyriacos Magiras – failed to show up during a hearing before Nicosia district court, with the judge ordering an arrest warrant against him.

For Vgenopoulos and 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.

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