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Greece refuses to testify in ongoing Focus trial

Former Central Bank chief Christodoulos Christodoulou (file photo)

Greek judicial authorities will not be sending their officials to Cyprus to testify in the ongoing Focus trial, it emerged on Monday.

A trial within a trial is currently underway in order to determine the admissibility of certain evidence which the prosecution wants to introduce.

The defence argues 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, owner of Focus Maritime Corp and a key defendant in the proceedings.

As a result, state prosecutors subsequently requested Greek authorities that they allow the official there who had executed the judicial assistance request, to appear in court and testify.

On Monday, the lead state prosecutor informed the court that Greek authorities wrote back, denying the request and explaining the reasons for it.

Once the trial within a trial is over, Nicosia criminal court will look at 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 defendants.

Lawyers for Marfin Investment Group (MIG), another defendant, had requested a copy of the hard drive in question.

Andreas Aristides, the lead state prosecutor, confirmed that this material has yet to be delivered to the defendants. He told the court that arrangements had been made so that a defence lawyer for MIG visit the police and hand them an empty hard drive, onto which the contents of Zolotas’ hard disk would be copied.

The defence meanwhile informed the court that it would not be calling any witnesses of its own during the trial within a trial.

As such, the litigants are expected to soon deliver their respective summations for this part of the trial. This could take place on Tuesday.

To date, the prosecution has summoned three witnesses in the trial within a trial.

Prosecutors claim that 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 he would green-light the 2006 takeover of Laiki Bank by Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos, now deceased.

The bank was shuttered in 2013.

Vgenopoulos, chairman of MIG, was initially also on the charge sheet. His name was withdrawn when he died in November 2016.

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 Α.C. Christodoulou Consultants Ltd, MIG and Focus as legal entities.

The case was filed with Nicosia district court in September 2016, and referred to a criminal trial in April 2017.

 

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