Police sergeant Chrysostomos Christou, a member of the three-person team investigating a case of market manipulation involving four former Laiki Bank top officials, was the first witness called to the stand on Tuesday as the trial began.
Defendants in the trial are Laiki’s then-managing director Efthimios Bouloutas, his deputy Panayiotis Kounnis, non-executive vice-president Neoclis Lysandrou and executive board member Marcos Foros.
They are facing charges of market manipulation and submitting false or misleading information with regard to publishing an interim financial report in November 2011, in which they omitted to include a goodwill writedown of €330 million for Marfin Popular Bank’s – as Laiki was then known – operations in Greece.
After rejecting pre-trial objections relating to documents submitted by the investigators as evidence, the criminal court commenced hearings.
Questioned by state prosecutor Elli Papagapiou, Christou said the investigating team comprises himself, chief investigator Inspector Marcos Nikolettis and officer Anna Andreou, and that the case was initiated following an investigation by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) into the failure to report the goodwill writedown for 2010 and the first half of 2011.
Christou said the team took statements from Lysandrou on October 28, 2015, and Kounnis on November 11, 2015, but not from Bouloutas and Foros, because of their earlier refusal to give a statement either in Cyprus or Greece.
Pressed to elaborate by Foros’ defence lawyer Michalis Pikis, the investigator said the former Laiki man had asked that he give a statement via an interstate request for legal assistance.
He explained that such a procedure would be too time-consuming, especially given the sequence of events in a legal assistance request in another case, also involving Bouloutas and Foros, which they had taken to the Greek courts to prevent.
Christou said the decisions on who would be charged were made solely by attorney-general Costas Clerides after reviewing the evidence and dismissed suggestions that the investigators had influenced the decisions by making recommendations.
He also denied that the team had been guided by Rallis Christoforou, the CySEC official who had drafted the report on Laiki, noting that “other than a statement I took from Mr Christoforou in December 2015, I have had no contact, professional or personal, with him”.
“Our questions were formulated after reviewing the evidence available to us, including Mr Christoforou’s report,” Christou said.