By Poly Pantelides
A FORMER board member of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) yesterday joined the chorus defending the pension fund’s investments as sound and justifiable.
Charalambos Tsouris, joined the CyTA board in July 2010 and left in January this year to take up the chairmanship of the board of another semi-governmental body, the electricity authority.
He appeared yesterday before a body investigating a 2011 land deal in Dromolaxia, next to Larnaca airport that was bought in 2007 from its Turkish Cypriot owner by the Greek Cypriot company Wadnic Trading.
The land was bought for €1,237,770 although the land registry – in calculating the transfer fees – had placed the value at €2,970,000.
But Tsouris said these claims were false. According to his account, in February 2011 CyTA’s pension fund signed an agreement to buy 48 per cent of the land plot in question. But during the licensing process the initial architectural plans were modified, bringing about additional surface area worth €1.717m plus VAT. Although the extra surface area related to parking space which the pension fund did not want (it was interested in office space only), the pension fund decided against appealing, which would have meant a protracted arbitration process.
The pension fund later agreed to also purchase the remaining 52 per cent of the plot, Tsouris said. Following negotiations, a supplementary agreement was signed on 19 April 2012 for the amount of €4.225m.
Tsouris said CyTA handled its pension funds with the help of five expert consultants, and was advised by the office of real estate experts George Georgiades that rent revenues from the purchase could fetch €1.6 million a year. A more conservative estimate stood at €1.2 million a year, he said.
Given the advantages of the investment, including its competitive placement next to Larnaca airport, the board decided to cinch the deal, he said. CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis has made similar statements this week at the panel.
As a CyTA board member, Tsouris dealt with managerial issues pertaining to the body’s pension fund, and had had a six-year presence in the interior ministry’s town planning council by virtue of his membership of the Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (ETEK), he said. Tsouris said that his terms in the CyTA board and the town planning council overlapped at some point.