Cyprus Mail

Conspiracies about Vegenopoulos ‘fake death’ dispelled

Andreas Vgenopoulos

Ridiculous claims that seemed to gain traction on social media that Greek businessman Andreas Vgenopoulos, who passed last Friday night, had faked his own death in order to escape prosecution were dispelled on Tuesday, when the findings of a state pathologist revealed that he died of a stroke.

The conspiracy theories emerged soon after news of Vgenopoulos’ death broke early on Saturday, fuelled mostly by the fact that he was pronounced dead at Hygeia, a private hospital in Athens owned by Marfin Investment Group (MIG), the investment vehicle the businessman founded and chaired until last summer, as well as the fact that his family promptly announced that the funeral would be attended only by close family members.

Despite scornful commentary by pundits in the few media outlets that opted to address the rising tide of disbelief, suspicion was revived on Monday, when photos from the funeral revealed a closed casket.

And this despite the fact that Greek law mandates that autopsies must be conducted by a state pathologist.

On Tuesday, Greek online news portal reported that the autopsy, conducted by state pathologist Chara Spiliopoulou, identified the cause of death as a stroke, which resulted in heart failure.

The urban legend that Vgenopoulos may have staged his death was most likely born out of the man’s reputation as a wily and unorthodox business operative.

The late businessman’s career was rife with unprecedented investment moves, as was his meteoric rise from human resources manager at a shipping firm to managing the single-largest capital increase – over €5 billion in 2008 – ever in Greece, which in turn led to a flurry of summary takeovers by MIG.

Some of the early takeovers proved hugely profitable, earning Vgenopoulos a reputation as an investment wizard, but as the financial crisis dawned upon debt-ridden Greece, things quickly turned sour for over-leveraged MIG and its chief.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t only financial trouble that started brewing in recent years, as Vgenopoulos’ name started being associated with dubious behavior, mainly focusing on shady loans allegedly made by Marfin Popular Bank – or Laiki – that he bought in 2006 and headed until 2011, which critics said was used to fund much of MIG’s 2008 capital increase.

Other allegations claimed Laiki had failed to disperse credit risk by buying too much Greek sovereign debt, which carried significant risk and eventually had to be written down, incurring huge losses for the lender.

And when Laiki collapsed and was wound down in 2013, prompting a giant banking crisis in Cyprus, most fingers on the island and beyond were pointed at Vgenopoulos.

Two cases were soon filed against him by Cyprus’ attorney-general, one on market-manipulation charges and another for allegedly bribing Cyprus’ Central Bank governor in 2007 through a proxy.

Vgenopoulos’ name, it emerged on Tuesday, will be withdrawn from the charge-sheet, although the cases will continue.

But a separate court case, this one filed by Vgenopoulos, MIG, and other Greek businessmen against the Republic of Cyprus at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, in which they seek redress for €1.2 billion invested and lost in Laiki, will be picked up by his heirs.

The case was being handled personally by Vgenopoulos, and the court was scheduled to issue a ruling in mid-2017, although it is now estimated that the timeline will be pushed back.

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