Ap­peal kicks off in Ero­tokri­tou-Neo­cleous case

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Lawrence

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.

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