By Constantinos Psillides
TRIAL hearing into the controversial CyTA land acquisition deal in Dromolaxia continued yesterday, with defence lawyers resuming their cross examination of the main prosecution witness, entrepreneur Nicos Lillis.
Responding to the questions put forth by lawyers CyTA employee Yiannis Souroullas and his brother Gregoris, an employee of the land registry department, Lillis said that the case started back in 2007 when he first tried to buy the land off the Turkish Cypriot owner, Mustafa Mehmet Mustafa.
Lillis repeated what he had said in previous statements that the deal couldn’t be completed because the law mandated that for any transaction to be considered legal the Turkish Cypriot should have resided in the Republic of Cyprus for at least six months.
On Monday, Lillis said that legal difficulties in the transaction led him to seek assistance from AKEL members Venizelos Zannetos – one of the defendants – and Christos Alekou, against whom charges were dropped. The two asked him to make “hefty donations” to the party in exchange for their efforts, Lillis claimed.
Due to the legal tangle that threatened to undo the deal, the entrepreneur claimed that he sought the involvement of the Central Intelligence Service. Lillis testified that the then-boss of the secret police, Vasos Georgiou, informed him that the agency’s initial report stated that Mehmet was not a resident of the free areas, but CIS sergeants Costas Miamiliotis and Lefteris Mouskos – both facing charges along with Lillis in a separate case – later drafted a second “ironclad” report stating the contrary.
The entrepreneur, who was also chairman of Larnaka based football club Alki, added that the acquisition deed wasn’t issued by the Land Registry until 2010.
Lillis said that by that time he was faced with three problems: the money he had paid Mustafa, Alki’s crushing debts and the pressure from Alki’s people who wanted the team’s debts to be settled. Lillis told the court that he was assured that people would stand by him and that he needn’t worry.
Lillis added that he was burdened with all the financial problems so he was forced to resort to shady tactics to find a solution.
The land in Dromolaxia was paid for by the state telecoms CyTA employees’ pension fund. The seven defendants face 28 charges relating to the alleged embezzlement of €22.5m to build four office complexes – the ‘Aero Centre’ – from the CyTA employees’ pension fund.
The accused are former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, Charalampos Tsouris, former CyTA board member, Orestis Vasiliou, former secretary general of CyTA’s employee union, Yiannis and Gregoris Souroullas, AKEL member Venizelos Zannetos, Antonis Ioakim, a businessman and shareholder of Wadnic Trading Ltd, and Polleson Holdings Ltd.