By Peter Stevenson
CYTA CHAIRMAN, Stathis Kittis, and Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos continued their public spat on Friday with Kittis hinting that the minister’s insults over a controversial land deal were little more than a case of sour grapes.
“Hasikos is trying to create defamatory and highly offensive impressions of me personally by spreading false and misleading information about my involvement in the squandering of state funds,” Kittis said in a written statement.
The chairman added that the minister had claimed he was involved in purchasing land – near Larnaca Airport in 2011 – on behalf of CyTA’s pension fund at allegedly twice its value, when a nearby piece of land was being sold for far less.
“I have challenged the minister publicly to reveal to the public his sources about the land in question so we can all know what he is trying to accomplish, but until now he has not given any information publicly or to the investigative panel,” Kittis said.
He added that publications indicated that any information the minister had received was from his own sources and hinted strongly that Hasikos’ probe is a result of sour grapes.
“If he continues to act in this manner, I will ask him publicly if the plot of land he is talking about [the one the CyTA didn’t buy] is the same piece of land that was offered to me by his father-in-law Frixos Koulermo … and belongs to members of Hasikos’ family,” Kittis said.
CyTA’s chairman added that if the minister continues to use the press to imply various falsehoods then the only logical reason would be that Hasikos is trying to get revenge as his plot of land was not purchased.
The only property, Kittis claimed, that is next to the land purchased by the fund is registered in the name of Airsun Properties Ltd which is owned almost entirely by members of Hasikos’ close family.
“If he is referring to another piece then no other land was offered to the fund which has a permit for commercial buildings and in any case the other piece of land is at least 4 km away from the airport and when it was proposed was only licensed for tourist residences,” Kittis explained.
Other issues regarding the fund’s investments and operations will be explained to the investigative panel when he will be called to testify, the chairman said.
In response, Hasikos said he believed justice would prevail.
“I would like to tell the chairman of CyTA that the two plots of land which I was referring to are closer to Larnaca Airport, they are cheaper and have industrial permits,” the minister said. Hasikos revealed one piece of land belongs to Quality Group and the other to New Dimension Property Development.
“As for the other subject the chairman referred to, concerning the involvement of my father-in-law, I state that I have no connection with his property,” he added.
The land deal in 2011, where CyTA’s pension fund purchased a plot in Larnaca for some €20 million, was “a stitch-up from beginning to end,” Hasikos told the investigating panel on Thursday.
The land, in Dromolaxia, Larnaca, was sold to a Greek Cypriot businessman, and after the coefficients were upgraded, it was acquired by the CyTA pension fund for around €22 million.
Hasikos said CyTA chose it despite being aware of other cheaper options which also came with all the necessary permits.
The semi-state telecoms company denies any wrongdoing.
The panel continued their investigations yesterday with the Interior Ministry’s permanent secretary Andreas Ashiotis’ statement.
He handed over five files to head of the panel, Nora Nikolaidou and gave names of state officials who could testify as they were involved in cases of where Turkish Cypriot land was purchased.