NICOSIA – A former business partner of Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has denied their firm violated UN sanctions against Yugoslavia in the 1990s by helping Serbian firms get cash out of the country. It was the first hearing in a libel case brought by Papadopoulos against the Financial Times for reporting in 2002 that his law firm had close ties with companies suspected of siphoning money abroad. Papadopoulos and his aides have consistently denied wrongdoing or of knowingly assisting attempts to violate sanctions, imposed to punish Belgrade for its role in the conflicts that accompanied the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Sanctions busting is thought to have bankrolled at least two Balkan wars in the 1990s. «(We) never acted in violation of United Nations sanctions, either in relation to the registering of companies or handling their cases in the fields of our competence,» said Pambos Ioannides, now managing partner of Tassos Papadopoulos & Co. Papadopoulos is no longer with the firm that bears his name. President of Cyprus since 2003, he is claiming up to 250,000 Cyprus pounds ($568,000) from the British newspaper in damages. It is not clear whether he plans to personally testify in court. Ioannides read a written deposition to a Cyprus court on Monday, saying one of the law firm’s clients, a Cyprus unit of a Serbian bank, Beogradska, did get cash flown in from its main office in Serbia to help it continue its operations after sanctions began. The central bank of Cyprus had verified the cash transfers were legally sound, he said. «The plaintiffs are not aware that any of their clients, and particularly not Beogradska Banka or the companies they registered, violated any sanctions against Yugoslavia or broke any laws,» Ioannides said. «Nor would they have ever aided or abetted such a violation in any way.» The lawyer for the Financial Times in Cyprus was not immediately available for comment. The case continues on May 3.