President of the supreme court Myron Nicolatos on Thursday recused himself from the panel of judges hearing the state’s appeal against the acquittal of two former Bank of Cyprus officials.
Nicolatos announced he would be stepping down from the proceedings, being adjudicated before the supreme court, after attorney-general Costas Clerides raised the matter.
Clerides, representing the state, requested Nicolatos’ recusal, arguing that there were questions surrounding the judge’s “objective impartiality”.
Nicolatos himself rejected any doubts over his impartiality, but said he would recuse himself regardless.
As such, the panel hearing the appeal needs to be reconstituted.
Earlier this year, allegations surfaced that Nicolatos’ daughter and sister had benefited from out-of-court settlements with the Bank of Cyprus (BoC).
Nicolatos had also adjudicated in an appeal filed by former BoC CEO Andreas Eliades who had been jailed for market manipulation.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the three-bench court had found that the bank and Eliades, although they had made false representations about the financial status of the bank, did not do so with intent to manipulate the market but rather to ‘reassure’ shareholders.
The casting vote, which benefited the bank, belonged to Nicolatos – leading to murmurs of a quid pro quo between the judge and the lender, and the suggestion that Nicolatos ought to have recused himself from those hearings.
The appeal now being heard at the supreme court concerns a different case against the bank. It relates to the third case filed by the state, where it’s alleged that BoC executives conspired to reclassify the lender’s holdings in Greek bonds with intent to defraud investors.
Two former executives, Eliades and Yiannis Kypri had been acquitted in the same case.
The trial before Nicosia criminal court continues for the remaining defendants. But Eliades and Kypri could return to the dock should the state successfully appeal their prior acquittal.
The matter of Nicolatos’ recusal ties in to incendiary allegations made by the attorney-general’s brother back in December.
On Facebook, Nicos Clerides – himself an attorney – upset the apple cart by asserting that most supreme court judges have either direct or indirect familial ties to a top law firm, Chrysafinis & Polyviou LLC, hinting at conflict of interest.
The law firm represents Bank of Cyprus in all its court cases.