Cyprus Mail

Further privacy questions puts Focus trial on hold

Former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos

The Nicosia criminal court trying the Focus corruption case on Tuesday denied a motion by defendants to refer to the supreme court a matter relating to the admissibility of evidence introduced by state prosecutors.

Having heard the litigants, the court said it was neither necessary nor vital to the case to have the supreme court weigh in, and that it would itself adjudicate the matter.

The court will deliver its interim ruling on February 20.

Lawyers representing two of the defendants are objecting to the submission as evidence of email correspondence between Focus Maritime Corp and Laiki Bank.

They say the emails constitute private and confidential communications. The prosecution, which wants the evidence admitted, argues the emails are communications of a business nature.

The disputed emails were secured from the Administrator of Laiki Bank. The lender was placed under administration in early 2013, following the Eurogroup decisions on the Cyprus bailout/bail-in. It was shuttered later that year.

The communications in question are understood to be between defendants Michalis Zolotas, owner and director of Focus, and former Laiki official Michalis Fole. They were extracted from external hard drives.

It is the third objection raised by the defence relating to the inadmissibility of evidence on the grounds of privacy breach. The first two objections were decided by trials within a trial, which found against the defence.

The current objection will be decided within the trial proper.

The prosecution’s case rests on the premise that former Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou was bribed in exchange for agreeing to the 2006 takeover of Laiki by Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos.

An amount of €1m was paid into the account of a consulting firm technically owned by Christodoulou’s daughter. The conduit for the transfer was Focus.

Apart from Zolotas, Fole and Christodoulou, the charge sheet includes the former governor’s daughter, Athina, her ex-husband Andreas Kizourides, and companies A. C. Christodoulou Consultants Ltd, Marfin Investment Group (MIG), and Focus Maritime Corp.

The defendants face a total of 24 charges including corruption, bribery, abuse of authority, abuse of trust, and money laundering.

Zolotas faces a single count relating to money laundering.

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

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