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Cyprus

A litany of dirty dealings

By George Psyllides 

THE CHAIRMAN of state telecommunications company CyTA and an AKEL MP allegedly received €1.0 million each in kickbacks in connection with a land deal involving the organisation’s pension fund, a Larnaca court heard yesterday.

A large amount of money was also paid to AKEL, which was the ruling party at the time, as well as to several other people, police said.

CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, was remanded in custody for eight days in connection with a dodgy land deal worth €20.5 million.

Two other suspects, senior CyTA employee Yiannis Souroullas and his brother Gregoris, who works for the land registry, were also remanded in custody for eight days.

The brothers, along with a fourth suspect, union rep Orestis Vassiliou, allegedly received hundreds of thousands of euros in kickbacks as part of the deal.

Vassiliou apparently left the country just hours before police executed a warrant for his arrest.

The land deal in question involved the purchase by CyTA’s pension fund of office space near Larnaca airport at a price reportedly several times the going market value.

Allegations have surfaced that millions were paid in kickbacks to make the deal possible.

Prosecutors have already charged businessman Nicos Lillis and two police officers, Costas Miamiliotis and Lefteris Mouskou, in connection with the case.

The officers allegedly produced a false report saying the Turkish Cypriot seller had resided in the government-controlled areas for six months – a necessary condition — prior to selling the land.

Lillis, also the chairman of ALKI football club, had been implicated by businessman Charalambos Liotatis who claimed he had lent the suspect €1.6 million to get the ball rolling on the deal.

Liotatis had told police that the deal between Wadnic Trading, a company that belonged to Lillis, and the pension fund, would be facilitated by high-ranking officials, namely Kittis.

Lillis, Liotatis claimed, had told him that the deal hinged on ALKI, in that it was linked to a specific party (AKEL) and the whole project would help the club and the party but also club and party officials who had mortgaged their homes to help the team.

Included in the officials were former president Demetris Christofias’ undersecretary Titos Christofides, and former Larnaca mayor Andreas Moiseos.

Lillis received a €9.2 million down payment on November 4, 2011, and Liotatis pressured him for his money, the court heard.

However, Lillis allegedly told Liotatis that he could not pay because he used part of the money to pay kickbacks – a million euros each to Kittis and an AKEL MP who was not named and a large amount to AKEL.

Lillis also claimed he had started paying off the loans of various ALKI and AKEL officials who had mortgaged their homes to help the team.

AKEL’s Larnaca district committee received €234,000, the court heard.

On November 25, 2011, Wadnic issued a cheque for €100,000, which ended up in an account named Stathis Kittis & Co. at Laiki.

On December 23, 2011, Lillis allegedly met Kittis in a café in Nicosia and handed him €100,000 in cash, police said.

He allegedly met him again some four months later in a café in Larnaca this time, handing him another €100,000 in cash.

This was after Wadnic signed a complementary deal with the pension fund, receiving €4.5 million in the process.

In his statement to police, Lillis also alleged that union rep Vassiliou had asked for €250,000 so there would not be any problems with the union.

The money was paid with two cheques to a company, Polleson Ltd, whose director was Yiannis Souroullas’ mother in law and Vassiliou’s mother was the secretary.

One of the cheques, for €100,000, was given to Gregoris Souroullas.

Vassilou later asked for an extra 200,000 in cash, which he received.

The money was used by the three suspects to pay off debts, police said.

Following the hearing, AKEL’s Larnaca branch issued a statement rejecting suggestions it had anything to do with any conspiracies, nor had it benefited financially from the deal.

The party admitted to receiving the €234,000, claiming however that it was used to pay off debts linked with ALKI.

Debts included mortgages taken out by former club officials to help the club, the party said.

The money was put into the party’s account because some of its members had taken part in a committee set up to raise cash to pay the club’s debts, the statement said.

AKEL said it was prepared to present all necessary receipts and bank documents to let the “real truth” shine.

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