By George Psyllides
ALL THOSE involved in a land deal involving the state telecoms (CyTA) pension fund basically facilitated a company of dubious financial standing, an independent probe into the affair has found, recommending that police investigations must be extended to include the individuals named in the case.
The 294-page report details a web of shady dealings and procedures involving businessmen and politicians, who allegedly received kickbacks to facilitate the deal.
The findings slammed the administrators of the pension fund, headed by former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, as being indifferent and negligent, and did not rule out “the existence of ulterior motives if not corruption.”
Kittis was detained for ten days in September in connection with the case. He remains a suspect.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the attorney-general would decide “if there is a need to carry out further investigations or if any other individual would be prosecuted beyond those already announced.”
The multi-million land deal in question involved the purchase by the pension fund of office space near the 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.
A businessman linked with Nicos Lillis, one of the suspects charged by prosecutors, had alleged that two members of the former ruling party AKEL and the CyTA board had all received kickbacks.
The businessman alleged that Lillis’ lawyer, Christos Poudjiouris, had told him that “The whole CyTA board took money and Kittis also … Kittis got a million, (AKEL MP Nicos) Katsourides got half a million, (former interior minister Neoclis) Sylikiotis got one million.”
It is understood that not all members approved of the deal.
Asked why one AKEL official got less than the other, the businessman was told that Katsourides pocketed the money himself while Sylikiotis gave most to the party.
The agreement to buy the property was signed on February 25, 2011. It involved the purchase of four buildings for €19.6 million.
The pension fund agreed to this despite the land being inside a housing zone.
Wadnic, the company developing the project, filed an application to be allowed to build office space in a housing zone on March 2, 2011.
It was swiftly approved. The interior ministry had asked for procedures to be expedited on April 18.
“This ‘interest’ raises reasonable questions,” the investigators said in their report.
The exemption was issued on July 28, 2011.
The construction permit was also issued quickly.
It came 15 days after the district administration received the town-planning permit, on October 11, 2011.
On November 3, 2011, the pension fund paid Wadnic a €9.2 million down-payment.
On March 20, 2012 Charalambos Tsouris, a member of the CyTA board who was later appointed chairman of the electricity authority, called a meeting of the fund administrators, where he presented a memo outlining additional Wadnic demands stemming from changes in the plans imposed by town-planning.
He suggested paying €4.5 million to buy the share of the land that remained in Wadnic’s ownership, in a bid to settle the company’s claims.
The proposal was approved in the same meeting by the majority of the members – without any hesitation or study. The deal was concluded on April 19, 2012.
However, it transpired later that the company had made no such demands, and no letter was found backing Tsouris’ claims.
The only thing he presented before the investigating committee was an unsigned document, without letterhead, dated November 30, 2011.
The report said the contents of Tsouris’ memo were doubtful, leading the committee “to the reasonable conclusion that they constitute serious indications of criminal offences, which caused the fund huge financial loss.”
In addition to Kittis, also implicated in the land deal case, were two members of AKEL’s secretariat, a businessman, a union rep, another CyTA senior official and his brother, a land registry official.
Authorities have secured a court order to freeze a bank account in Britain belonging to Kittis, reportedly holding €300,000.
Two police officers, Costas Miamiliotis and Lefteris Mouskou, and Lillis have already been charged for the same case.
The officers allegedly produced a false report saying the Turkish Cypriot seller of the property had lived in the government-controlled areas for six months – a necessary condition — prior to selling the land.