Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Court to decide future of Focus trial on August 7

Former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Christodoulos Christodoulou

Nicosia criminal court will on August 7 deliver a decision on whether to discontinue proceedings against two key defendants in the Focus corruption trial.

The court on Tuesday heard arguments for and against dismissing criminal proceedings against Michalis Zolotas and Michalis Fole.

A potential dismissal for these two would effectively spell the end of the trial as the two defendants’ alleged offences are fundamental to the case.

Zolotas and Fole’s lawyers have motioned for a dismissal on the grounds that their clients were arrested illegally overseas in order to be arraigned in a criminal court in Cyprus.

Their motion is based on an earlier ruling by the supreme court, which found that the arrest warrants for the two defendants – issued by a district court in 2016 – 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 district court issuing the arrest warrants had acted beyond its legal authority.

Zolotas and Fole now argue that the entire criminal trial is predicated on those unlawful arrests, that their fundamental human rights were violated, and that therefore the trial itself should be declared invalid.

For its part, the prosecution argues that the arrests – even if retrospectively shown to be unlawful – should be separated from the current criminal proceedings. They say that the initiation of a criminal trial constitutes a separate procedure from the serving of the charges to the defendants at the time of their arrest.

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.

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.

 



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