Cyprus Mail

Waiting game on Zolotas extradition from Greece

Andreas Vgenopoulos

Cyprus will have to wait a month or so to find out whether a ship owner wanted in connection with the 2013 bank collapse will be extradited by Greece.

In the case, filed at the Nicosia district court, the prosecution maintains that a company, Focus Maritime, had acted as a front for former Laiki Bank strongman, the late Andreas Vgenopoulos, who allegedly bribed former Central Bank of Cyprus governor Christodoulos Christodoulou with €1m to look the other way while he irregularly acquired a controlling stake in the lender in 2006.

Greek national Michalis Zolotas, who appeared as the owner of Focus, had surrendered to Greek authorities after a Nicosia court issued a warrant for his arrest around a month ago.

A court in Athens had ordered Zolotas’ extradition but the decision was appealed and will now be decided by Greece’s high court.

His defence claimed that the extradition order was only based on one of the 29 charges Zolotas faced, money laundering, which he described as vague.

The defence also suggested there were clear signs that their client would not face a fair trial in Cyprus.

Other defendants in the case are Greek nationals Kyriacos Magiras, who is also refusing to appear before court, and Michalis Fole, held in Romania pending extradition proceedings, Christodoulou and his daughter Athina, and her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides.

The prime suspect in the case was businessman Vgenopoulos, who died last Friday at the age of 63. Vgenopoulos is widely held responsible for the collapse of the island’s banking system.

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 Bank in 2006.

Focus reportedly received hundreds of millions in loans from Laiki during Vgenopoulos’ reign at the lender.

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