THE Audit Office has launched what looks like a full-blown investigation into the Paphos district office of the antiquities department, following on from allegations that artefacts kept at Paphos museum are not properly stored or tracked.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that his office has carried out two surprise inspections in Paphos, one on Wednesday, the second on Thursday.
“The inspections took place on the basis of specific complaints,” Michaelides said.
“These complaints relate to inadequate storage procedures for antiquities found during the course of excavations, as well as to possible wrongdoing in relation to proceeds from visitors to archaeological sites.”
Asked whether the inspections have confirmed the information which his office acted on, the official said that “at first sight, the complaints were not without foundation.”
On Friday, his office will be collecting more information and evidence from the antiquities department’s main offices in Nicosia.
According to the CNA, Audit Office inspectors visited the Archaeological Park in Paphos (site of the mosaics), as well as the Tombs of the Kings and the Kouklia local archaeological museum.
The inspections at Kouklia focused on recording artefacts stored in basements, while at the Archaeological Park and at the Tombs of the Kings the inspections concerned the handling of proceeds from visitors at the ticket offices.
In August, Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos claimed organised criminal gangs from Limassol were primarily responsible for all the antiquities being looted and sold. He even suggested that prominent Limassol families had bank safety deposit boxes full of these artefacts.
The gangs even have antiquities department personnel working for them on “the inside,” he maintained, something he had surmised from a theft some two years ago from the Polis Chrysochous museum where some of the stolen antiquities were later found dumped on a beach in Timi, a village near Paphos airport.
Phedonos claimed that of the around 20,000 ancient artefacts stored in the Paphos museum basement, only 5,000 have been catalogued and digitised in the last seven years.
His allegations led to a public spat with the head of the antiquities department.