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Cyprus

Nicosia court to hear motion to dismiss case against Zolotas in Focus trial

Shipowner Michalis Zolotas

Nicosia criminal court will on July 30 hear a motion to discontinue proceedings against businessman Michalis Zolotas and former banker Michalis Fole, two of the defendants in the Focus corruption trial, after the supreme court earlier voided Cypriot arrest warrants issued against them in 2016.

In court on Monday, the state prosecutor asked for time to file a counter-motion to the two defendants’ bid to stay the proceedings against them.

The court granted the prosecutor until July 26 to file the counter-motion.

The next hearing in the case has been set for July 30, when the court will hear arguments in favour and against the discontinuance motion.

Earlier this month, in a judgment the supreme court had voided the warrants issued by Cypriot authorities for the arrest of Zolotas and Fole.

The warrants had been issued by Nicosia district court after the two men failed to show up at a procedure where they were set to be referred to a criminal trial.

Zolotas and Fole, both Greek nationals, were arrested in Greece and Romania, respectively, in late October 2016.

Zolotas is the owner of Focus Maritime Corporation, which paid €1m to a company connected to Christodoulos Christodoulou, then governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus.

Focus is alleged to have been used as a slush fund to bribe state officials and political parties.

Fole is the person who managed Focus’ account at a Laiki branch in Marousi, a suburb of Athens.

The prosecution maintains that Zolotas’ Focus acted as a front for former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos, who bribed Christodoulou to look the other way while Vgenopoulos irregularly acquired a controlling stake in Laiki in 2006.

On October 3, 2016 Zolotas along with Fole and two others -Vgenopoulos (now deceased) and associate Kyriacos Magiras – failed to show up during a hearing before Nicosia district court, with the judge ordering an arrest warrant against them.

In July of this year, Zolotas’ and Fole’s lawyers appealed those arrest warrants with the supreme court in Cyprus.

The supreme court accepted their position that the warrants at the time were null and void, given that the defendants were served the charge sheets in a foreign country – Greece and Romania.

The two men were thus under no legal obligation to appear in a Cypriot court, and the court issuing the arrest warrants had acted beyond its legal authority.

Zolotas and Fole are now expected to argue that the entire criminal proceedings against them have been unlawful and should be dismissed.

They have also stated their intention to claim damages.


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