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Trial within a trial begins in Focus hearing

Former central bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou

A trial within a trial began on Wednesday at Nicosia criminal court, examining the admissibility of evidence the state prosecution intends to introduce in the Focus corruption case.

The defence had earlier argued that evidence obtained from Greece by Cypriot authorities was not acquired lawfully via the mutual judicial assistance protocol between the two countries. As such, this evidence should not be admissible.

The evidence in question relates to Greek national Michalis Zolotas, a key defendant in the proceedings.

It is alleged that his company, Focus Maritime Corp, was the conduit for transferring €1m to a consultancy firm in Cyprus.

The consultancy firm was owned by the daughter of then governor of the Central Bank Christodoulos Christodoulou. The prosecution’s case rests on the premise that the money was a sweetener to Christodoulou so that he would green-light the 2006 takeover of Laiki Bank by Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos, now deceased.

The bank was shuttered in 2013.

In court on Wednesday, prosecutors brought to the stand CID sergeant Nicolas Foullidis – the officer tasked with receiving and handling evidence gathered by Cypriot police as part of a broader probe into the causes of the 2013 financial meltdown.

Foullidis presented to the court the evidence that is currently under contention.

Also testifying was Maria Mounti, an employee with the ministry of justice who was responsible for relaying requests for judicial assistance to Greek authorities.

The next hearing is scheduled for June 19.

Once the trial within the trial is finished, the court will then address another objection raised by the defence.

Defence lawyers have objected to the prosecution presenting evidence obtained from a hard drive from the personal computer of Zolotas.

They argue that the hard drive contains private communications of the defendant.

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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