Cyprus Mail

New pre-trial objections lodged in Focus case

Shipowner Michalis Zolotas

Fresh pre-trial objections were raised Thursday in the case relating to the alleged bribery of the former head of the Central Bank to turn the blind eye in the takeover of Laiki Bank by the late Greek businessman Andreas Vgenopoulos.

The lawyer representing Michalis Zolotas, a Greek national thought to have acted as the go-between insisted that prosecutors did not have any evidence proving his client had committed the offence he was charged with on the island.

Zolotas has been charged with laundering the proceeds from illegal activities carried out in Nicosia between June and December 2013.

Greece extradited Zolotas at Cyprus’ request to face the single charge of money laundering.

His defence argues that none of the 15,818 pages of testimony they had studied in detail contained any evidence backing the charge.

State prosecutor Andreas Aristides informed the defence earlier this month that he was not going assist them since it was not part of the prosecution’s obligations, as stipulated by the constitution and the European charter of human rights, to provide further details to a defendant.

Aristides said details of the charge faced by Zolotas and his codefendants “were presented accurately and fully.”

In a letter to the attorney-general, Zolotas’ lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou urged him to look into the issue because if there was no evidence that his client did indeed visit Nicosia, an action giving Cyprus courts jurisdiction, “the consequences will literally be very serious in relation for bilateral relations between Cyprus and Greece and the rest of EU countries by extension.”

Efstathiou argued that the prosecution’s refusal to provide the requested information hindered the procedure significantly and violated basic court decorum.

Zolotas’ lawyers had earlier filed a motion for their client to be tried separately from the rest of the defendants, arguing that, unlike the other accused, he only faced a single charge.

They had also filed a motion that Zolotas’ name should be removed from the text of the charge sheet detailing the charges faced by the other defendants.

The court rejected both motions, finding that Zolotas’ inclusion was integral to the case as a whole.

The case centres on the suspicion that a €1m transfer from Zolotas’ Focus Maritime Corp. to consulting firm (AC Christodoulou Consultants Ltd) run by the daughter of Christodoulos Christodoulou, the former governor of the Central Bank, was actually made on behalf of former Laiki Bank boss Andreas Vgenopoulos in exchange for Christodoulou’s collusion during the Greek financier’s 2006 takeover of Laiki.

The other defendants – Christodoulou, his daughter Athena Christodoulou, and her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides, former Laiki official Michael Fole, and companies Focus Maritime Corp, AC Christodoulou Consultants Ltd and Marfin Investment Group (MIG) – face charges including corruption of a public official and abuse of power.

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