Cyprus Mail

Three arrested, fourth sought in dodgy land deal

By Elias Hazou

POLICE yesterday placed under arrest three people in connection with a real estate deal in Dromolaxia dating back to 2007.

The three are two secret service officers, aged 40 and 53, and 42-year-old businessman Nicos Lillis.

They are facing charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, fraud and corruption of public functionaries.

The alleged offences in question took place between 2007 and July 7 of this year in the Larnaca, Famagusta and Nicosia areas, a police bulletin said.

The three men under arrest face 12 charges in total, including: conspiracy to defraud; engaging in fraudulent transactions on real estate property belonging to a third person; corruption of a public functionary; bribery; and legitimizing ill-gotten gains.

They are expected to appear before Larnaca district court today where police will ask that they be remanded in custody.

The secret service (KYP) officers – who meantime have been suspended from duty – have been linked to an agency report connected to the Dromolaxia land deal. That report had affirmed that the original Turkish Cypriot owner of the land plot was living in the south, when he was not.

Detectives say they have located two cheques – one for €10,000, the other for €40,000 – made out to the two KYP officers by Lillis.

Reports said a fourth man – a former KYP officer – is also wanted by police.

Authorities began looking into the land deal in Dromolaxia, Larnaca district, after a series of allegations made before a panel of inquiry, which is still ongoing.

The panel of inquiry heard how the deal was crooked from the outset: witnesses testified that documents were forged to make it seem like the original owner of the land plot, Turkish Cypriot Mustafa Mehmet Mustafa, resided permanently in the government-controlled areas.

By law, Mustafa needed to have been a resident in the south for a minimum of six months prior to selling the land.

The question of Mustafa’s residency in the south had been addressed by two, apparently contradictory, reports compiled by the secret service.

Mustafa’s cover, witnesses said, was posing as a confectioner living in the village of Dheryneia, Larnaca district.

On one occasion, the panel was told, Mustafa was rushed to the south after a tip that Greek Cypriot police were “coming for a check.”

The land was purchased in 2007 from Mustafa by the Greek Cypriot company Wadnic Trading Ltd. It was bought for €1,273,770, even though its going market price had been valued at close to €3m by the land registry.

Wadnic Trading allegedly then changed the terms of use, upgraded the coefficients and built on the land, selling the investment on to the pension fund of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority in 2011 for over €19 million.

Previously, the panel of inquiry had heard that Mustafa was fearful of the Greek Cypriot buyer’s connections. The buyer in question was Nicos Lillis, a shareholder in Wadnic Trading and chairman of Larnaca football club Alki.

The police case has largely been based on the testimony provided before the panel by Charalambos Liotatis, a businessman and former shareholder in Wadnic Trading, the company that purchased the land plot.

Liotatis told the panel that he lent Wadnic Trading over a €1.0 million for what he was told would be a profitable investment. He further alleged that Lillis assured him he had the backing of the then ruling party, AKEL.

Liotatis has implicated an MP and a senior CyTA official, whom the company allegedly bribed to the tune of €1.0 million each, as well as two major unions that allegedly were to receive €500,000 to grease the deal. Wadnic Trading has denied all claims.

The businessman claims also that he and Lillis once met with Neoclis Sylikiotis, the interior minister and custodian of Turkish Cypriot properties at the time in question.

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