PROSECUTORS on Friday dropped charges against a member of main opposition party AKEL, who had been implicated in a suspicious land deal in Larnaca involving the state telecoms company pension fund.
Despite initially judging they had enough to charge Christos Alecou, one of two AKEL members involved in the case, prosecutors dropped the charges saying they did not have enough evidence against him.
Alecou, the party’s Larnaca district officer at the time of the alleged offense, was scheduled to respond to formal charges on Friday along with seven others.
The suspects are former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, former chairman of the electricity authority EAC Charalambos Tsouris, a member of the CyTA board at the time, AKEL official Venizelos Zanettou, the director of CyTA’s television arm and SEK union rep Orestis Vasilliou, CyTA employee Yiannis Souroullas and his brother Gregoris who works at the land registry, and businessman Antonis Ioakim, a shareholder in Wadnic, the company involved in the €20.5 million deal.
In a related development, the state also reduced the charges from 33 to 28 and prosecution witnesses to 106 from 133.
Absent from the list were Charalambos Liotatis and his wife, once thought to be material witnesses in the case.
Defence lawyers requested more time from the court to study the new charge sheet and possibly ask for their clients to be tried separately.
Prosecutors said they will object to separate trials but agreed for more time to be given to the defence to study the charges.
Court President Nicos Sandis stressed that he intended to proceed at an “exceptionally fast pace,” as he gave the two sides one week to prepare.
The suspects face charges including conspiracy to commit felony, fraud, theft, bribery, abuse of power, and money laundering.
The offences were committed between 2009 and 2013.
The land deal in question involved the purchase by CyTA’s pension fund of office space in Dromolaxia at a price several times the going market value.
Claims have since surfaced that millions were paid in kickbacks to make the deal possible.
Prosecutors have already charged businessman Nicos Lillis, the owner of Wadnic, and two police officers, Costas Miamiliotis and Lefteris Mouskou, in connection with the case.
They face trial before the district court, which can only impose a maximum custodial sentence of five years.
The officers, serving with the secret service, allegedly produced a false report saying the Turkish Cypriot seller of the land had resided in the government-controlled areas for six months – a necessary condition — prior to selling the land.