By Elias Hazou
A 60-year-old war hero was yesterday sentenced to 12 years in jail after he pleaded guilty to smuggling 22kg of cannabis into Cyprus two months ago.
The defendant, Stavros Tseros, is a war veteran from Greece having served as a paratrooper during the 1974 war. The Greek air force plane he was on was shot down over Cyprus and crashed; Tseros had managed to parachute out in time but suffered a serious spinal injury on landing. He was later declared an honorary war hero by the governments of Cyprus and Greece.
The trial heard that Tseros was arrested at Larnaca airport on May 9. Following a flight from Athens, the defendant attempted to pass through the ‘nothing to declare’ queue but his behaviour roused the suspicion of customs officials.
Officers inspected his two suitcases and found they contained 22kg of cannabis – one of the largest quantities of narcotics ever to be seized at Larnaca airport.
In presenting mitigating arguments, his defence lawyer said Tseros has struggled financially for decades as his spinal injury left him unable to work.
The defence claimed Tseros fell into debt in recent years and was forced to borrow money from a loan shark in Greece. Unable to repay the loan shark who demanded extortionate interest, Tseros was said to have been forced to agree to transport the 22kg of cannabis to Cyprus in exchange for having his debt wiped clean.
During police questioning Tseros said his instructions were to arrive at Larnaca airport and then take a taxi to Limassol where he was to hand over the drugs to another man.
In passing sentence, Larnaca criminal court took into account Tseros’ financial difficulties, as well as the fact that he cooperated with authorities and aided detectives with the investigation.
The details have been passed on to Greek authorities who are trying to track down the loan shark for questioning.