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Cyprus

Focus case defendant turns prosecution witness (updated)

Former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Christodoulos Christodoulou

Attorney-general Costas Clerides has dropped charges against a defendant, after he turned state’s evidence, in the corruption trial relating to the alleged bribery of a former central bank governor in exchange for his collusion in the takeover of Laiki Bank in 2006.

Prosecutors told the court on Tuesday that Andreas Kizourides, the governor’s former son in law, visited police investigators on Saturday and gave a lengthy statement regarding the case.

Kizourides will be testifying as a prosecution witness, prosecutor Andreas Aristidis told the Nicosia criminal court, which immediately acquitted the defendant who left the dock and exited the courtroom.

Kizourides was charged along with his former father in law, Christodoulos Christodoulou, ex-wife Athina Christodoulou, Greek businessman Michalis Zolotas, former Laiki official Michalis Fole, and companies AC Christodoulou Consultants Ltd, Marfin Investment Group (MIG), and Focus Maritime Corp.

“It transpired that most of the fifth defendant’s claims are consistent with the existing evidence and also add elements that reinforce it,” Aristidis said. “Consequently, the statement in question, which records events that came to his attention directly, is particularly important in proving the prosecution’s case.”

Taking into account the contents of the statement, the attorney-general judged it was credible and decided to drop the charges against the defendant “so that he can be summoned as a prosecution witness.”

Aristidis said the fact that Kizouridis had played a secondary role in relation with the other defendants, made it fair and reasonable to treat him differently.

The defendants faced 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.

Zolotas, a Greek shipowner accused of using his Focus Maritime Corp to transfer €1m to pay former central bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou.

The money was paid into the account of a consulting firm technically owned by Christodoulou’s daughter, and it is alleged that it was actually done on behalf of former Laiki strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos in exchange for the former governor’s collusion during the Greek financier’s 2006 takeover of Laiki.

Laiki closed down in 2013.

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

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