Cyprus Mail

Greek businessman in Laiki case seeks separate trial

Shipowner Michalis Zolotas

Defence lawyers representing a Greek businessman implicated in the alleged €1m bribery of former Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou on Monday requested him be tried in a separate procedure.

Christodoulou has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him concerning the alleged €1m bribery of his family-owned consulting firm by Greek company Focus, which was owned by Michalis Zolotas.

The rest of defendants – Zolotas, former Laiki official Michael Fole, and companies AC Christodoulou Consultants Ltd, Marfin Investment Group (MIG), and Focus Maritime Corp. – also pleaded not guilty.

Christodoulou’s daughter Athina, who owns the consulting firm, and her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides, also entered not guilty pleas.

The current case is based on the suspicion that a €1m transfer from Focus to the consulting firm was actually made on behalf of former Laiki Bank boss Andreas Vgenopoulos in exchange for the former governor’s collusion during the Greek financier’s 2006 takeover of Laiki.

Laiki closed down in 2013.

Vgenopoulos, widely considered to be the protagonist in the collapse of the island’s banking system in 2013, died in November 2016.

However, Zolotas was extradited to Cyprus from Greece on a single charge of money laundering, prompting his defence to ask that he is tried separately from the others.

Lawyers Efstathios Efstathiou and Achilleas Emilianides argued that his name must also be removed from the text detailing the charges faced by the other defendants.

Efstathiou said for a long time his client will just be a member of the audience as the hefty body of evidence, which do not concern him would be heard.

He will be “deprived of his freedom and not be able to exercise economic activity, something which is a human right the court ought to secure”, Efstathiou said.

The veteran lawyer said his client would also have to face the other charges that portray him as an accessory in other offences.

“If he is an accessory why not charge him?” he told the court.

Efstathiou said his client would have to endure a trial that does not concern him, he will be accused, and he won’t be able to defend himself since he is not a defendant.

He stressed that Zolotas was not seeking acquittal but a separate trial that could be finished in four, five hearings.

After hearing the defence, the court censured them because it had taken them this long to file the motion when they could have done it much earlier, during the stage of pretrial motions.

Prosecutors asked the court for more time to study the defence motions before responding.

The court adjourned for Wednesday.

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