By Elias Hazou
Under cross-examination on Tuesday, Charalambos Tsouris, a defendant in the ongoing Dromolaxia criminal trial, sought to distance himself from key decision-making in the suspect land deal.
Tsouris, a member of the CyTA board at the time when the organisation’s pension fund put up €22.5m for four office complexes (the ‘Aero Centre’) in Dromolaxia, denied that his input spurred the fund into investing the money.
Tsouris was also part of a five-member ad hoc committee at CyTA set up to assess the suitability of the investment. Grilled by the state prosecutor, Tsouris denied that the committee’s recommendation for purchasing the four buildings was binding to the pension fund.
Earlier in the trial, a lead police investigator and witness for the prosecution told the court that Tsouris had been instrumental in striking the land deal.
The witness had said it was Tsouris who drafted a report for CyTA which led to a follow-up agreement to buy into the development project in Larnaca. He said Tsouris’ report advocated the purchase of additional surface area, which raised the overall purchase price for the investor, the CyTA pension fund.
According to the same witness, the report was misleading because police later discovered there was no extra surface area. CyTA made another offer for the same parking lots and verandas in the development project. As a result of the updated deal, the witness claimed, CyTA’s pension fund sustained losses of about €4m.
In court on Tuesday, Tsouris attributed the discrepancies in the surface area to an error made by the first architect hired by Wadnic Trading, the company developing the Dromolaxia project.
Tsouris and six other defendants are on trial over the suspicious land deal.
The defendants face 28 charges relating to the alleged embezzlement of €22.5m. The rest of the defendants are former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, opposition AKEL official Venizelos Zanettou, the director of CyTA’s pay-TV arm and SEK trade union rep Orestis Vasilliou, CyTA employee Yiannis Souroullas and his brother Gregoris who worked at the land registry, and businessman Antonis Ioakim, a shareholder in Wadnic, the company involved in the deal.
The trial has heard allegations of backhanders to grease the transaction; the land in question originally belonged to a Turkish Cypriot.