Cyprus Mail

Omonia funding handled by top bankers, court hears

Former president Demetris Christofias

Whenever they wanted to have money moved into Omonia football club’s accounts, former Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Akel leader Andros Kyprianou contacted former Bank of Cyprus CEO Andreas Eliades and board chairman Theodoros Aristodemou for them to arrange for loan extensions to Miltiades Neophytou, the club’s chairman at the time, to be summarily approved, former BoC group risk manager Nicolas Karydas told the Nicosia district court on Tuesday.

He was testifying as a witness for Neophytou, a private contractor and developer, who filed a lawsuit against Christofias asking for over €22 million which he claims is money he was instructed to spend on Omonia by the former president, who also allegedly owes the contractor around €2 million for construction work performed on his home in Nicosia and his vacation estate in Kellaki, Limassol.

In September, Neophytou had claimed in court that after being handpicked by Christofias to become Omonia’s chairman in 2008 he was instructed by the newly-elected president to pour money into the club as this would help his re-election prospects in 2013 and that the money would be returned to him.

Karydas told the same story as Neophytou, claiming that whenever Omonia was in need of money, Christofias contacted Aristodemou and Eliades directly. The calls, he claimed, he was informed of by Aristodemou and Eliades.

“I met Neophytou when the bank’s CEO was Vasos Sharly,” who would then go on to be appointed finance minister by Christofias, Karydas said.

“He introduced him to me as a major client.”

Sharly served as the bank’s boss from 2009 to 2010.

At that meeting, Karydas recalled, he told Neophytou that the way his accounts were being used to indirectly finance Omonia would bring his company to its knees.

According to Karydas, in July 2012 he requested a review of Neophytou’s accounts with a focus on transactions to Omonia, but he was let go by the bank soon after and does not know whether it was eventually conducted.

He claimed he was sacked by the BoC in 2012 for political reasons because he refused to do favours for Akel companies.

During cross-examination, Karydas said he was never directly asked to bend any rules.

“Miltiades Neophytou’s firm funded Omonia in a manner contrary to the bank’s rules,” he said.

“I never got any calls from Christofias or Kyprianou to help. They called Eliades and Aristodemou.”

The defence submitted that neither Christofias nor Kyprianou made any requests to the bank’s management on Neophytou’s behalf.

“There are other non-performing loans but the interfering was obvious in this one,” Karydas said.
The trial continues on Wednesday with the plaintiff’s last witness, before Christofias takes the stand to testify.

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