By George Psyllides
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos expressed satisfaction on Friday over the damning findings of an independent probe into a land deal involving the pension fund of state telecoms company CyTA, as former ruling party AKEL said certain aspects were unsubstantiated while the basic rules of natural justice had been ignored.
“I am satisfied despite the issue not being personal,” Hasikos told reporters. “It is the popular demand, especially after the disaster the country experienced, for a clean up and punishment where it is proven that people are responsible for the catastrophe and the theft of public money.”
The 294-page report concluded that all those involved in the deal basically facilitated a private company of dubious financial standing, and slammed the administrators of the pension fund, headed by former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, as being indifferent and negligent. The investigators did not rule out “the existence of ulterior motives, if not corruption.”
The report was handed over to the attorney-general who will decide whether prosecutions were in order or further investigation of certain aspects.
The three investigators do recommend police investigations to be extended to include individuals named in the case.
The interior minister said the case in question was not the only one.
“There are many other acts concerning other real estate and it is up to the attorney-general to look into it and the new CyTA board,” Hasikos said. “More people are responsible.”
CyTA has been slated for privatisation and potential buyers must know whether it is clean and all matters have been investigated, the minister said.
Former ruling party AKEL, which appointed the CyTA board and was directly implicated in the affair, sought to disprove the findings.
The party said in some cases during the investigation, the commission did not even follow the basic rules of natural justice.
“Summoning witnesses was selective,” AKEL said.
For example, people who were accused, were not even summoned to give their position to the one-sided charges, which could be the result of expediencies.
AKEL said the commission’s conclusion that the investment was damaging was arbitrary, as it failed to summon the two independent evaluators that acted on behalf of the pension fund.
It also adopted statements without corroboration and documents that included inaccuracies.
The party also described as arbitrary the conclusion that procedures had been expedited and there was nothing on whether the public interest had been served. AKEL said it would not comment further since other aspects were before justice and the attorney-general.
The multi-million land deal in question involved the purchase by the pension fund of office space near the 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.
Several people have been named as allegedly receiving kickbacks, including Kittis and AKEL MP Nicos Katsourides, and former interior minister Neoclis Sylikiotis.
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.