Appeal kicks off in Erotokritou-Neocleous case
On Tuesday, October 17, the Supreme Court will start to hear the appeal in the case of the State v. Rikkos Erotokritou, Andreas Kyprizoglou, Panayiotis Neocleous and Andreas Neocleous law firm LLC.
In February this year, the Assize Court found Erotokritou guilty of bribery, abuse of power, corruption, and conspiracy. Kyprizoglou was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, while Panayiotis Neocleous and the Andreas Neocleous LLC law firm were found guilty of bribery, conspiracy, and corruption.
Erotokritou was sentenced to 3.5 years, while Panayiotis Neocleous was sentenced to 2.5 years.
The case, launched in 2015 by AttorneyGeneral Costas Clerides, came about during a huge political row over the role of Central Bank Governor Chrystalla Georghadji in the management of Legacy Laiki – the remaining assets of Laiki bank closed in the financial crisis in 2013. Georghadji’s exhusband was representing former Laiki chairman and CEO Andreas Vgenopoulos in cases brought by the Laiki Resolution Authority against Vgenopolous.
Acting for the Laiki Special Administrator, Panayiotis Neocleous had secured a freeze worth around EUR 3.7 bln on the global assets of Vgenopoulos and his associates. A few months later, the Central Bank governor removed the Neocleous firm as legal adviser, prompting the resignation of the Special Adviser Andri Antoniadou and a longrunning saga about the alleged conflicts of interest of Georghadji, as well as questions about political party funding from companies alleged to be associated with Vgenopoulos.
During the row, outgoing Central Bank director Stelios Kiliaris claimed as he resigned that Governor Georghadji had said Panayiotis Neocleous had done a deal with Erotokritou to launch criminal proceedings in a trust case (Providencia), in return for non-appearance in a court case. In the court case Erotokritou sought to offset Laiki deposits held in one name against loans held in another (something which ultimately has not been done).
The trust case was against the raiders of Providencia, a trust controlled by Andreas Neocleous LLC, which held prime assets in Moscow (Rosinka).
Its ownership had mysteriously changed hands overnight at the Company Registrar in September 2011 without the knowledge of the trustee.
When the Economic Crime Department of the Cypriot Police recommended criminal action be brought against the raiders in late 2013, Erotokritou ordered criminal proceedings, but Attorney-General Clerides cancelled them a few days afterwards. Full ownership was finally restored to the original trustee in mid-2014, but by that time all the assets had been stripped.
The Financial Mirror understands that the defence will be presenting arguments touching on the absence of evidence, the ignoring of basic legal principles and caselaw with respect to corporate criminal liabilities, as well as insufficient or contradictory evidence brought by the prosecution.
In addition, the defence is expected to allege that the court unlawfully acted as an expert witness for the prosecution without having the necessary knowledge or expertise, and that the process during the criminal investigation against the appellants as well as before the courts was lacking the legal standards and requirements of a fair trial.