President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday fired deputy police chief Andreas Kyriacou, a move believed to be connected with his alleged involvement in the unauthorised leaking of confidential reports on a foiled assassination attempt and police corruption to the press.
A statement from the presidential palace said it was announcing the move “with regret” but that it was in the public interest.
It added that the president was replacing Kyriacou as deputy chief with Kypros Michaelides, the current assistant chief of police.
Michaelides will be sworn in on Tuesday at the presidential palace.
Attorney-General Costas Clerides had said last week that Kyriacou appeared to have been behind the unauthorised leaking of confidential information, including the tip from Serbian Interpol of a foiled assassination attempt, and the likely leaker of a 2015 internal police report on preventing and combating corruption to an MP and the press. The announcement was part of the key findings of an independent criminal investigation sought to establish whether members of police were involved in corruption or graft.
If indicted, the deputy chief of police could face a sentence of one year in prison or a fine up to €1,700, or both for each leak.
In a statement, Kyriacou said that it is the constitutional right of the president to act as he sees fit, but that it is everyone’s right to be given the opportunity to defend him or herself “before they are beheaded”.
He added that efforts to link his name with corruption, before he is even condemned for anything, will fail.
“As far as the legal aspect of the matter is concerned and what is unfairly attributed to me, I reserve the right to present my evidence and position regarding the true facts, if and when a criminal case is filed against me,” Kyriacou said.
In an apparently sarcastic tone, Kyriacou said that he hoped “firing the deputy police chief would put an end to the many problems plaguing the police force and especially that of corruption”.
He also thanked all the police officers he had worked with the last 35 years for their support, “which to me is the greatest moral satisfaction”.
But the president’s move angered Akel that criticised Anastasiades for double standards.
The party’s spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said that while in the case of former deputy attorney-general Rikkos Erotokritou, the president kept declaring that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, he treated Kyriacou differently. Erotokritou is currently in prison after being sentenced to three-and-a-half years for conspiring to subvert the course of justice and bribery while serving as deputy AG in 2013
“He fired the deputy chief based on the suspicion alone of leaking documents,” Stefanou said. He added that this “selective and contradictory approach” of the president, was linked with the upcoming presidential elections, and intensive efforts to man government posts with Disy adherents.
Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos refuted Akel’s claims by saying that Michaelides’ appointment was based not on party criteria but on his “great contribution so far to the police force”.
Since three independent investigators and the AG ruled that attributing disciplinary responsibilities was in order, he said, “and given that the deputy chief cannot be suspended until the end of the trial, the president had no other choice but to fire him”.
“It would be unreasonable for the deputy chief of police to be a defendant before a court and at the same time handle serious police cases,” Papadopoulos said.
Police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou had said last week that a probe was to also be launched into four high-ranking police officers, including Kyriacou, related to the handling of information given by Interpol Serbia on last year’s Ayia Napa shooting.
Chrysostomou last week also ordered the immediate suspension of a sergeant and three officers following the letter of Clerides and the findings of the report into corruption in the police force.