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Cyprus

Zolotas free on bail (Updated)

Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas, one of the defendants in the trial over a €1m payment to former Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou shortly after he left the post in 2007, was released on bail on Friday.

Zolotas is expected to appear before the court on January 16, when the case will be referred to the Nicosia Criminal Court.

His extradition to Cyprus was recently approved by the Greek supreme court despite the shipowner’s objections. Zolotas has been linked to former Laiki bank boss, the late Andreas Vgenopoulos.

In addition to Christodoulou and Zolotas, the charge sheet includes Greek businessman Kyriacos Magiras, Christodoulou’s daughter Athina, her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides, former Laiki official Michael Fole, and companies A. C. Christodoulou Consultants Ltd, Marfin Investment Group (MIG), and Focus Maritime Corp.

The case is based on the suspicion that the €1m transfer from Zolotas’ Focus to Christodoulou’s consulting firm (technically owned by his daughter) was actually made on behalf of Vgenopoulos, who had also been on the charge sheet prior to his death last month, in exchange for Christodoulou’s collusion during the Greek financier’s 2006 takeover of Laiki.

Meanwhile, the International Arbitral Tribunal in Paris, where Vgenopoulos, MIG, and several other Greek investors, are demanding the return of their investment in Laiki from the Republic of Cyprus, which they claim is responsible for the lender’s eventual demise, has approved a motion by the Cyprus authorities to be allowed to issue a warrant for Magiras’ arrest.

The tribunal had instructed the Republic to refrain from arresting any of the key witnesses in the international dispute, so that they can appear before the court as needed in the hearings, slated to begin in the coming months.

In addition to bribery, the defendants are facing charges of transactions suggesting corruption, abuse of power, and money laundering.

In court on Friday, Zolotas was asked to post bail of €350,000, as well as a personal guarantee for the same amount, handed in his travel documents, had his name added to the country’s stop-list, and asked to appear at a police station daily, before being released.

All this after the state prosecutor asked that he be remanded until the next hearing, on grounds that he failed to show up when he was first served with summons to court.

“This case was filed on July 25, 2016, and it has yet to be referred to the Criminal court,” the prosecutor said.

On October 30 the court issued a warrant for his arrest, so that he would show up, which still didn’t work, she added.

His remand, the prosecutor argued, was required to make sure he appears in court.

“The risk of non-appearance is a real one, since he appeared today before court not willingly but following an arrest warrant,” the state prosecutor said.

Zolotas has no ties to Cyprus, thus the risk that he may take off is “visible”, she added, noting that he resides in Monaco and Focus is registered in the Marshall Islands.

Defence attorney Achilleas Emilianides said his client turned himself in to the Greek authorities in order to raise his legal objections.

“He didn’t try to escape and has been detained since,” the lawyer said.

Zolotas has a wife and children in Greece, and professional interests in Greece and Cyprus, Emilianides said, suggesting that it would be unlikely that he would ruin his life by becoming a fugitive.

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