By Angelos Anastasiou
EIGHT defendants – seven persons and a legal entity – implicated in the CyTA land scandal yesterday pleaded not guilty to all 28 charges presented against them.
The case involves a suspicious land deal in Dromolaxia paid for by the pension fund of state telecoms company CyTA.
The Larnaca Assize Court, which was convened yesterday, decided to start the proceedings on Monday at 1 pm with the first witness testifying for the prosecution.
Prosecutor Elli Papagapiou presented the defendants with the list of charges they are faced with, which they all denied.
The accused are Stathis Kittis, former chairman of CyTA’s board of directors, Charalampos Tsouris, former member of CyTA’s board of directors, Orestis Vasiliou, former secretary general of CyTA’s employee union, Yiannis Souroullas, CyTA employee, Gregoris Souroullas, employee of the land and registry department, Venizelos Zannetos, member of AKEL, Antonis Ioakim, a businessman and shareholder of Wadnic Trading Ltd, and Polleson Holdings Ltd.
Given the long list of charges, the defence asked the court to allow that they be tried separately, citing the prospect of a needlessly long and convoluted trial. The prosecution counter-argued that there were common elements in all 28 charges, and Presiding Judge Nikolaos Sandis denied the defence’s motion.
But Sandis erupted with rage when the defence implied it would be seeking a 15-day adjournment, and called a one-hour recess so that the prosecution could present its first witness.
When the proceedings resumed, the prosecution said it had been unable to get a witness to court in time as it had prepared for an adjournment, and repeated the defence’s request for a two-week break.
This caused Sandis further annoyance, and he pointed out that the point of an assize court is to try cases speedily.
“With great reluctance we adjourn for Monday, 31 March at 1 pm, so that the prosecution can call its first witness”, he said.
“We are not being irrational, but it seems that some think they can manipulate the system”, he added, noting that the court will start trying the case on a daily basis until late at night.
“We are here until 10 pm”, he said.
Kittis faces most of the charges – 19 out of 28 – including having conspired with Nikos Lillis in order to overprice the Aero Center, the construction project the land was bought for. The same charge was presented to Charalampos Tsouris.
Kittis is also accused of taking a €300.000 bribe from Nikos Lillis in order to consent to the deal.
Venizelos and Ioakim have been charged with forcing Nikos Lillis to repay €770.000 of old loans made by Alki football club by threatening him that if he did not, they would block his deal.
Vasiliou and Yiannis Souroullas are facing charges of blackmailing Lillis into paying them €250.000 to refrain from inciting opposition to the investment – made by the CyTA pension fund – by CyTA employees.