By Elias Hazou
The sacking of Michalis Papageorgiou turned ugly on Thursday as the former police chief hurled allegation after allegation at the DISY administration and at justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, whom he said was out to get him from day one.
“They wanted to get rid of me since before the elections, as far back as February 2013. They were just looking for the right opportunity,” Papageorgiou told a news conference he called shortly after getting the boot.
The chief claimed justice minister Nicolaou, his political boss, had it in for him all along. Often, he said, Nicolaou would keep him waiting outside his office as long as 90 minutes.
Papageorgiou, appointed to the job by the previous government, went on to portray himself as the clean cop who refused to play ball with corrupt goings-on.
He even charged that Nicolaou had tipped off a suspect in a criminal probe that he was about to be arrested. He was referring to the Dromolaxia land deal, where several persons are currently facing charges of corruption and fraud.
“I wonder what sin the police chief has committed?” he said, talking about himself in the third person, a quirk perhaps reminiscent of infamous 1920s bootlegger George Remus.
“It is because I refused to go with the flow?” he then added, switching to the first person.
Papageorgiou accused Nicolaou of methodically seeking to undermine him via a mudslinging campaign. The justice minister, he suggested, was behind a series of unflattering media reports claiming that Papageorgiou disregarded court rulings.
Firing another broadside on the CyBC evening news bulletin, Papageorgiou said that a former associate of his, who was suspected of making leaks to the media, was later spotted at Nicolaou’s office.
The insinuation was that the associate, who was transferred out of the chief’s office, had been working in cahoots with the justice minister. The person is now employed as an associate of the justice minister.
Earlier, the embattled Papageorgiou admitted he was asleep as members of far-right group ELAM stormed a Cyprus problem talk in Limassol on Wednesday night.
But yesterday, Papageorgiou said he had been aware of ELAM’s intentions to disrupt the event. The fact he was out of reach at the time of the actual disturbances did not point to dereliction of duty or incompetence, he said, since the deputy police chief had been authorised to handle the affair.
Later in the day, Nicolaou held his own press conference, addressing Papageorgiou’s claims one by one.
The minister denied having prior knowledge of pending arrests in the Dromolaxia case, and said moreover that in reality he was being kept in the dark about the whole investigation.
“One has to wonder why Mr. Papageorgiou decided to go public with these groundless allegations today, only after he was terminated and not during all this time when these alleged practices were taking place. Would he have done the same had he kept his position?”
“The only point on which I agree with Mr. Papageorgiou is that he lacked the necessary tolerance to the pressures of the job,” Nicolaou added, driving in the blade.
“It is true that from the first day that I took office as justice minister I supervised the police and issued instructions for the implementation of the government programme. How can the fact that a senior police officer fulfils his duties be construed as putting undue pressure on him or undermining him?”