Costis Hadjicostis, father of the murdered Andis Hadjicostis
By Elias Hazou
NICOSIA Criminal Court yesterday delivered a guilty verdict in the trial for the slaying of Sigma boss Andis Hadjicostis, bringing the case to a dramatic – and climactic – end.
The decision by the bench was unanimous.
The four defendants were found guilty as charged: of conspiracy to commit murder and of premeditated murder, a verdict that carries automatic mandatory life imprisonment.
The defendants were former Sigma presenter Elena Skordelli, her brother Tasos Krasopoulis, Andreas Gregoriou and Grigoris Xenofontos, the ‘fixer’ and shooter respectively.
It took the court almost three hours to read out the highlights of its 380-page ruling.
Inside a tense, jam-packed courtroom, relatives and friends of the victim sat at one side, the kin of the defendants at the other.
Hadjicostis’ parents were both present, as was his wife. The victim’s mother, Toula, wept as the court recounted the circumstances of the killing.
Pent-up emotions erupted once the guilty verdict was read out, with angry relatives of the accused yelling and jostling with police officers.
Some of the relatives tried to take out their frustration on journalists and photographers, but police officers stepped in to break up the fracas, and evacuated the newsmen from a backdoor.
Similar scenes unfolded outside, where some of the convicts’ relatives burst into tears, others fainted, while someone grabbed a photographer’s gear and threw it on the ground.
Relatives of the accused generally appeared to harbour ill feelings toward the media – partly because of what they perceived as biased coverage of the trial, but also because yesterday many of them were not allowed inside the courtroom as it had become packed with journalists.
The convicts were escorted into police vans, and driven off straight to the Nicosia Central Prisons to serve their jail terms. A sobbing Skordelli had to be dragged into the van.
The commotion necessitated the deployment of the police’s counter-terrorism unit to assist with the transportation.
According to the court, Skordelli and her brother – both shareholders in the Sigma television station – masterminded the assassination of Hadjicostis, whom they saw as impeding their plans to gain a controlling interest in the company.
Their motive was vengeance as well as the corporate elimination of Hadjicostis.
“They wanted to wipe him off the face of the earth,” the court noted in its judgment.
It said Skordelli and her brother began hatching plans to kill the Sigma boss as far back as October 2009.
The judges also accepted that a meeting of the conspirators took place at Krasopoulis’ house in December 2009.
The Sigma boss was gunned down on January 11, 2010, just after arriving home around 9pm in the Engomi neighborhood of Nicosia. He was 41 years old.
Xenofontos shot Hadjicostis twice, killing him, while Fanos Hadjigeorgiou drove the getaway bike.
Crucially for its decision, the court said it considered Hadjigeorgiou – who admitted to participating in the crime – a credible witness.
Hadjigeorgiou had turned state’s witness in exchange for immunity and had been placed in a witness protection programme. The prosecution’s case had hinged on his testimony.
During the trial, which lasted three years, the defence had hammered away at Hadjigeorgiou in a bid to discredit him. The defence lawyers raised the possibility that it was Hadjigeorgiou who shot and killed Hadjicostis and that he subsequently pinned the crime on others in order to cut an immunity deal with authorities.
In its ruling yesterday, the court described the police investigation prior to the trial as unimpeachable, despite the fact authorities were unable to track down the murder weapon.
Failure to locate the weapon, it said, could not be taken to mean that no crime was committed.
The sawn-off shotgun, used to fire the two lethal shots, was never recovered.
The court dismissed the argument that the defendants’ constitutional rights had been violated due to the delay in the start of the trial. It also dismissed claims that media coverage of the case may have prejudiced the trial.
Skordelli, 42, a former TV presenter, hails from the village of Pera Orinis, as does her brother Krasopoulis, 37, a civil servant. Gregoriou, 33, is a butcher from Tseri, and Xenofontos, 29, a plumber from Nicosia.