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Cyprus

Prosecution in Focus trial defends testimony of state witness

Former Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) governor Christodoulos Christodoulou

The prosecution in a corruption case involving the former central bank governor asked the court on Wednesday to reject the defence’s objections over the testimony of a former defendant who turned state’s witness.

Christodoulos Christodoulou is accused of accepting a €1m payment to turn a blind eye to the takeover of former Laiki Bank in 2006.

Last week, lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou, who represents former governor 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 made by the late financier and Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos and asked the criminal court to dismiss it as hearsay.

He 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.

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

He was charged along with 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.

Zolotas is a shipowner accused of using his Focus Maritime Corp to transfer the €1m to pay Christodoulou on behalf of Vgenopoulos in exchange for the former governor’s collusion during the Greek financier’s takeover of Laiki, which closed in 2013.

Prosecutor Andreas Aristidis cited case law to argue that the statements made by someone who has since died should be accepted by the court.

“The death of an individual was considered by the ECHR as a good reason to accept hearsay statements,” Aristidis said. The ECHR also accepted that when a conviction is solely based on the hearsay testimony of an absent individual, it did not violate the principle of fair trial if there were adequate factors, including solid procedural guarantees to offset the difficulties caused to the defence, he added.

“Andreas Vgenopoulos’ statements, which constitute hearsay evidence, could be accepted by the court, which will evaluate them at the end of the process and give them the equivalent or no gravity,” Aristidis said.

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