THE head of the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department of the Nicosia General Hospital Yiannakis Kyamides was arrested on Friday for suspicion of taking bribes, with more arrests imminent, as the Greens party leader said the allegations date back to October.
For the same case, police reportedly also arrested Vasken Shahbenderian, a doctor at the same ENT department. A third arrest warrant was issued against another doctor who is currently abroad.
According to the police, Kyamides was arrested in a sting operation at around noon outside a private hearing centre in Nicosia he reportedly cooperates with, after an envelope with €600 in marked bills was found on him by officers. There had been allegations that Kyamides was receiving bribes and police had been investigating the allegations for some time.
Kyamides was allegedly reported to the police by the specific hearing centre. There are reports that the alleged bribes could reach thousands of euros.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the suspect appears to have demanded a commission for every patient he was referring to that private clinic.
Reportedly, patients were taking tests at the specific health centre and were then visiting Kyamides at the Nicosia General hospital where he was signing relevant approvals to authorise state aid for their treatment at the private clinic.
Kyamides faces charges for conspiracy to commit felony, fraud, abuse of power, deceit, abuse of trust by a public servant, and bribery. The reported offences took place between 2008 and 2016.
The head of the Green Party George Perdikis, told Sigma TV on Friday night that in October he had received an anonymous letter, also addressed to the Auditor General, according to which, deaf people were being blackmailed that they would not receive approval for state funding for hearing aids, unless they went to the specific centre.
“The letter came in October, and I immediately started to ask around at the hospital among doctors and deaf people,” Perdikis said. He added that he found out that for years doctors had been referring patients to different hearing centres and receiving bribes, but that after Kyamides’ daughter was hired by one of them, “from that point on, the bribery was directed to one hearing centre”.
“My suspicion is that the letter came from one of those affected by this,” Perdikis said.
He added that the auditor general’s office, that began investigating the case, had said that the Health Ministry, and one employee in particular, was not cooperative and that it had a hard time accessing information that had been requested.
In February, Perdikis informed Health Minister George Pamporidis about this in a letter, and a few days later, he received a response from the permanent secretary of the ministry, Christina Yiannaki, that following his notification, they gave the auditor general’s office all the information requested.
Another probe is underway, Perdikis said, following reports from Yiannaki and the auditor general’s office, for an attempt to cover up the whole case.
The head of the state doctors’ union PASYKI, Soteris Koumas, told state broadcaster CyBC that they will wait until the police investigation is over before making any statements.
“Of course we are saddened by the whole case,” Koumas said. He added that they will not allow for the good name of state doctors to be tarnished by some colleagues, “although we hope that this will not be the case”.
“PASYKI said in the past that all those who have information on bribery cases and say nothing, bear equal responsibility,” Koumas said.
He added that many patients who may experience such cases, are afraid to come forward as they fear of consequences from doctors involved. “They should not be afraid and report such cases to the authorities”.
The majority of state doctors, Koumas said, go over and above their duty to keep “this level of health service at public hospitals, despite understaffing”.
“We will not cover up for anyone. Those who are guilty should face the consequences,” Koumas said.