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Cyprus

Kittis claims envelope had Man Utd T-shirt, not bribe

Stathis Kittis

By Elias Hazou

STATHIS Kittis, former chairman of state telecoms company CyTA, on Thursday again denied taking kickbacks in a multi-million land deal financed through the telco employees’ pension fund, telling the court that what he was offered was a Manchester United T-shirt.

During the second day of his cross-examination in court, the prosecution put it to Kittis that he accepted a €100,000 bribe for greasing the deal.

The state prosecutor said Kittis was handed the cash by Nicos Lillis, a businessman and former football club chairman, who put together the whole deal. Lillis is now the state’s star witness.

During a meeting at a café, Lillis allegedly handed Kittis an envelope containing €100,000.

Kittis rejected the imputation, saying the envelope in question did not contain cash, but rather a replica shirt of Manchester United FC. He claimed that Lillis – who at the time was negotiating with MUFC a deal whereby its junior teams would use the sports facilities of Alki football club for training – gave him the shirt as a gift.

The state prosecutor challenged the plausibility of Kittis’ explanation, noting that shirts are typically wrapped in nylon bags not envelopes.

Kittis also acknowledged receiving €100,000 from Lillis in an arrangement between the two concerning another property deal that ultimately never materialised.

Under that arrangement, which Kittis said was above board, he was to receive €100,000 from Lillis, but was to return €90,000 in the event the deal did not happen.

Kittis rejected imputations by the prosecution that, during his time at CyTA, he drew up bogus deals as a cover to ‘launder’ backhanders.

The former CyTA boss countered that Lillis has been feeding prosecutors with false information.

“These are lies from Lillis, extracted at the behest of police investigators, so as to concoct a case, given that Lillis is a collaborator with authorities, as has appeared from the phone calls,” he said in court.

He was referring to leaked recordings of a conversation between Lillis and a lawyer. Transcripts of the recordings emerged in February.

The transcripts, if authentic, revealed the questionable backstage wheeling and dealing that took place with the involvement of state officials and politicians.

According to the transcripts, Lillis asked his lawyer, Giorgos Georgiou, whether he would be “safe” if he gave up Kittis, whom he had allegedly bribed with €300,000 to help push the deal through.

Kittis and six other defendants are on trial over a suspicious land deal in Dromolaxia, near Larnaca, paid for by the 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’.

The trial continues.

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