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Cyprus

Focus trial hearings postponed

Former central bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou

Hearings in the Focus corruption trial involving the former governor of the central bank, have been postponed to later this month.

Proceedings were set to resume on Thursday, but the Nicosia criminal court adjourned until March 23.

The case will continue with two key defendants – Michalis Zolotas and Michalis Fole – being tried in absentia.

Both Greek nationals, Zolotas and Fole had been acquitted of the charges against them in August last year after the criminal court ruled the arrest warrants against them had been illegal.

The supreme court reversed the decision in December, upholding an appeal filed by the attorney-general, and ordered the trial against them to continue.

Zolotas and Fole failed to appear in court early this year with their defence saying they had resorted to courts in Greece and Romania to have the initial European arrest warrants voided.

Zolotas and Fole had been arrested in Greece and Romania, respectively, in late October 2016.

At the last hearing, state prosecutors argued that new arrest warrants for the two should be issued to compel them to attend court.

But the criminal court decided the arrest process would take too long, further delaying a lengthy trial which got underway back in May 2018.

Zolotas is the owner of Focus Maritime Corporation, which paid €1m to a company by the name of AC Christodoulou Consultants Ltd, connected to former central bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou.

The payment is thought 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 the late former Laiki Bank strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos, who bribed Christodoulou to look the other way while he irregularly acquired a controlling stake in Laiki in 2006.

The defendants face charges including corruption, bribery, abuse of authority, abuse of trust, and money laundering.

Zolotas faces a single count relating to money laundering.

 

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