By Angelos Anastasiou
THE trial of a suspicious land deal, purchased illegally from its Turkish Cypriot owner by the CyTA employees’ pension fund, continued yesterday with the cross-examination of police chief inspector Charalampos Mavrommatis, who led police investigations on the notorious ‘Dromolaxia’ case.
Businessman Nikos Lillis and his company, Wadnic, are key players in the case concerning the financing of a multi-million development project – the Aero Centre – in Dromolaxia from the CyTA pension fund, where hundreds of thousands of euros in kickbacks allegedly greased political wheels to make the deal happen.
The land was sold to Wadnic Trading, which managed to upgrade the coefficients, built on it and sold it on to the CyTA pension fund for some €20m – several times its going market price.
According to Lillis’ testimony, trade union rep Orestis Vasiliou had blackmailed Lillis into paying him €250,000 to refrain from inciting opposition to the investment by CyTA employees, a charge Vasiliou denies.
Michalis Pikis, Vasiliou’s defence attorney, questioned Mavrommatis on the arrest warrant issued against his client on September 23, 2013, while Vasiliou was in Athens.
Mavrommatis testified that “when the warrant for the arrest of Vasiliou was issued, he had already escaped abroad. Later, when questioned why he had travelled to Athens, he offered no explanation and exercised his constitutional right to remain silent.”
“This suggests that he left the country because he was somehow connected to the case,” Mavrommatis said, and explained that during that time there had been many leaks to the media related to the case, especially that following the arrest of Nikos Lillis “more arrests were imminent,” which may have led Vasiliou to suspect that he might be arrested.
Pikis also questioned Mavrommatis about the night of September 24, when Vasiliou’s then-attorney Harris Kyriakides contacted the police to inform them that his client was in Athens and gave his departure time and flight number. The witness said that from investigations up to that point, police had already been aware of Vasiliou’s departure time.
But Pikis argued that when Vasiliou returned to Cyprus on September 26, the police officers on duty at passport control did not notice that his name was on the ‘stop list’ and were about to let him through, until Vasiliou told them about an arrest warrant against him and of his wish to turn himself in. Mavrommatis said that, according to what he had been told by on-duty officers, they spotted Vasiliou’s name on the stop-list when he returned to Cyprus and arrested him.
Pikis then linked the case to another case involving Nikos Lillis and two intelligence service agents – Kostas Miamiliotis and Eleftherios Mouskos. Despite confessing to multiple crimes, the Attorney General’s office decided to forego prosecuting Lillis for either case, while the two agents’ case was demoted for trial from the Assize Court to the District Court, which automatically means a lighter sentence in case of conviction. The witness said he had prepared a report to the Law Service suggesting all three had been suspected of bribery, conspiracy and other serious offences. Mavrommatis added that Lillis had confessed to committing multiple crimes and that as the head of the investigations team he did not suggest Lillis’ prosecution.
“My view was that Nikos Lillis should be a prosecution witness in all cases, and it goes without saying he would not be prosecuted for the crimes he confessed to,” said Mavrommatis, adding that the decision to make Lillis a prosecution witness was made by the Law Service.
“I put it to you that the reason the police did not suggest Lillis’ prosecution was because a backroom deal had been made,” Pikis said. “In return for not prosecuting him, the case involving the two intelligence agents would be tried by a district court, instead of an assize court.”
Mavrommatis dismissed the defence’s claim, adding that “there has been no deal between the police and Nikos Lillis.”
“This was a case of give-and-take,” Pikis insisted.
“There was no give-and-take,” Mavrommatis repeated. “Lillis told me he would provide the police with evidence on the case and he did just that.”