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Cyprus

Focus corruption case ‘back to square one’

Former Central Bank chief Christodoulos Christodoulou (file photo)

The Nicosia criminal court hearing the Focus corruption case decided on Monday that a trial within a trial should be held to determine the admissibility of evidence which prosecutors want to introduce.

The ruling means further delays in the case which has been bogged down in one pre-trial objection after another since hearings began in April 2017.

In court, lawyers for some of the defendants argued that certain evidence obtained from Greece by Cypriot authorities were inadmissible, as these were not obtained lawfully.

The prosecution said the evidence (documents) were obtained via the mutual judicial assistance process between Cyprus and Greece, but this was disputed by the defence.

As such, the prosecution will now have to bring new witnesses to corroborate that the evidence was acquired lawfully.

Defence lawyers also objected to the prosecution presenting evidence obtained from a hard drive from the personal computer of Greek businessman Michalis Zolotas, a key defendant.

They argued that the hard drive contains private communications of Zolotas.

Despite agreeing to review the admissibility of the evidence, the court expressed its frustration with the litigants, remarking that “we are back to square one.”

The case is based on the suspicion that a €1m transfer from Focus Maritime Corp, owned by Zolotas, to a consulting firm owned by the daughter of former Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou, was actually made on behalf of former Laiki Bank boss, the late Andreas Vgenopoulos in exchange for Christodoulou’s collusion during the Greek financier’s 2006 takeover of Laiki. The lender closed down in 2013.

In addition to Zolotas and Christodoulou, defendants in the same case are Christodoulou’s daughter Athina, her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides, former Laiki official Michael Fole, and Marfin Investment Group (MIG) and Focus Maritime Corp as legal entities.

 

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