One of Cyprus’ most controversial yet colourful figures, Larnaca businessman Antonis Fanieros died on Monday from cancer. He was 73.
A fixture in the island’s public life, Mr Antonis as he was widely known, was revered by many for being a generous individual, but he was also rumoured to be a gambling kingpin.
In 2016, the previously convicted Fanieros filed an application at the district court to restore his rights so that he could run in the parliamentary elections.
“We need an independent voice that will be guided by the best interests of ordinary people,” Fanieros said at the time.
Fanieros had two previous convictions: one in relation to gambling in 1986, when he was jailed for four years, and in 2001 when he got five years for his part in a scam to cash £143,000 (€244,000) worth of someone else’s shares.
In his 2016 court appearance, Fanieros, who famously survived a drive-by machine gun attack in May 1997, attracted a large crowd of cheering friends and relatives.
The attorney-general filed an objection to his request, and the court said the law did not allow for the expunging of sentences longer than four years.
However, the court did approve the request to strike off the 1986 conviction.
Making his case, Fanieros argued that since his release on a presidential pardon for the 2001 conviction, he had incurred no further sentences.
He told the court that in recent few years he had helped many people in need, and that due to his social and political beliefs he had been encouraged to run for parliament so that he could make a contribution to the country.
In 2010, Fanieros’ interests were targeted by a police anti-gambling raid at a time when he was again toying with the idea of running for office.
“It makes me think. Maybe they heard I will be standing as an independent candidate and they want to silence me,” he said. “I will speak in parliament for the ordinary people, the poor, who are not allowed to voice their complaints.”
Fanieros denied being involved with online gambling and a much-publicised extrajudicial ring that collects private debts.
He said a woman had simply asked for his help in collecting a debt and he invited the debtor for coffee. There, they agreed for the debtor to pay off his debt in three months.
And he paid for the coffees without receiving anything for his services, he said.
Fanieros said he dealt with real estate and that all his affairs were crystal clear.
Reports said that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer recently and had been undergoing treatment. He died in a private hospital in Nicosia.
His funeral will be held in Aradippou on Wednesday at 3pm.