Cyprus Mail

Defence objects to ‘hearsay’ comments in former bank chief trial

Former Central Bank chief Christodoulos Christodoulou (file photo)

The defence in the corruption case against a former central bank governor raised objections on Wednesday against the testimony of a witness who had been a defendant until two days ago when he struck a deal with the state and the charges against him were dropped.

It argued before the criminal court that the testimony should be thrown out as hearsay, reserving the right to submit a motion for terminating the trial.

Lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou, who represents former governor Christodoulos Christodoulou, and two others, argued that the contents of a statement given to police by Andreas Kizourides, Christodoulou’s son-in-law at the time of the alleged offence, 2006 to 2009, contained statements allegedly made by the late financier and Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos.

“The witness’ testimony cannot be accepted, nor can its contents be accepted, because they violate key fundamental rights,” Efsthathiou said.

According to the veteran defence lawyer, the prosecution’s attempt to introduce Kizourides’ testimony was in violation of a provision in the constitution that ensured that every defendant had the right to examine witnesses and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions and as witnesses against him.

“The part of the statements relating to comments made by Vgenopoulos to the witness clearly constitutes hearsay and raises the question of whether acceptance of a statement from a late person is allowed,” Efstathiou said. “And this because it is a completely impossible to cross-examine the dead man whose testimony is presented before the court through another person.”

The criminal court acquitted Kizourides on Tuesday after the attorney-general dropped charges against him when he decided to turn state witness.

Kizourides was charged along with his former father-in-law, 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.

Zolotas is a 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 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.

Kizourides took his place behind the witness stand on Wednesday but the hearing came to a halt because of the defence’s objection.

Efstathiou also argued the introduction of Kizourides’ testimony constituted abuse of the judicial process because as a former defendant, he had been informed of all the evidence, he had cross-examined witnesses and actively participated in the procedure.

“While the established practice dictates that a witness should not know what another witness had testified exactly, so as not to taint the quality of his testimony, he unequivocally states that after hearing the facts and studying the evidence, today he wants to tell the truth, as opposed to what he had previously told police,” Efstathiou said.

Efstathiou’s arguments were upheld by the other defence lawyers. State prosecutor Andreas Aristidis told the court an objection on the basis of hearsay was premature because it was general and did not specify the offending statements. Aristidis asked the court for time to study the objections and give a detailed response.

The court adjourned for March 27.

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Source: Cyprus News Agency