By Angelos Anastasiou
THE trial of a suspicious land development deal in Dromolaxia – the ‘Aero Centre’ – involving a multi-million euro investment from the CyTA Employees’ Pension Fund, resumed yesterday with the testimony of Nikolas Georgiades, currently a member of CyTA’s board of directors.
Georgiades, member of the pension fund’s administrative committee and chairman of Cytavision at the time the land deal was made, testified in defence of Orestis Vasiliou, then head of CyTA’s employee union and director of Cytavision, who is accused of having been bribed with a total of €450,000 to refrain from inciting opposition to the investment from the unions.
Georgiades told the defendant’s lawyer that he had a “productive and close cooperation” with Vasiliou, who “worked outside working hours and cared for the company.”
He denied that the defendant attempted to influence him on issues relating to CyTA’s pension fund or any other body he had been a member of.
“Certainly not,” he said categorically. “Our cooperation revolved strictly around Cytavision issues, he never spoke to me about anything other than Cytavision.”
Georgiades added that Vasiliou never inquired, nor did he ever try to influence him with regard to the Aero Centre investment.
In response to further questioning on his acquaintance with Nikos Lillis – the developer who initiated the project – the witness said he met with him personally twice and that their relationship strictly related to his chairmanship of Cytavision. That is because, he said, many football club presidents and officials routinely contacted him and other CyTA board members regarding sponsorships – at the time, Lillis was president of Alki football club.
He also said that Lillis had been “substantially aggressive on issues of sponsorship to Alki.”
“However, CyTA would not consider sponsoring any club for which it had not acquired the television rights,” he said.
Georgiades said that Lillis “insisted strongly” on a €15,000 sponsorship for the academies of Arsenal football club in Larnaca, which used Alki’s training grounds. He added that he tried to explain to Lillis that Cytavision was not interested in engaging in such sponsorship, and that the issue of Arsenal’s academies was never brought before the company’s commission.
With regard to Alki’s request for a sponsorship of €250,000, Georgiades said that his own proposal was for the amount of €150,000, while Vasiliou suggested the amount of €90,000. In the end, Cytavision decided on a €150,000 sponsorship.
“Alki received much less in sponsorship compared to other football clubs during my time as chair of Cytavision,” he said.
He added that in 2013, Lillis “pushed hard for further sponsorship to Alki by Cytavision and more money for the football academies.”
At this point, a document was submitted to the court as evidence, listing Lillis’ incoming and outgoing calls to and from Georgiades.
During cross-examination by Yiannakis Thoma, attorney to defendant Charalambos Tsouris, former chairman of semi-state electricity company’s EAC and member of CyTA’s board at the time of the Aero Centre investment, Georgiades said there had been “lengthy and detailed discussion and exchange of views by CyTA board members regarding the Aero Centre investment” and added that in the final board meeting that made the decision, every member present voted in favour of the investment.
He described the project “a new development that carries more risk and offers higher yields, that was discussed by the board for 16 months.”
Georgiades said this was the only project for which it was decided that no contract would be paid before a zoning permit was issued.
Asked why construction work had ceased, Georgiades said that was due to “differences between the construction company and Lillis on certain additional work,” and added that if they are not resolved soon, “CyTA will intervene so that the project is completed and goes on the market.”
Asked to comment on Charalambos Tsouris’ involvement in various CyTA projects, the witness said that “he had the time, the willingness and the experience with arbitration, and so CyTA’s board decided to ask him to resolve differences between the company in various projects.”
He added that Tsouris “acted on instruction and authority of CyTA’s board of directors with no reimbursement, and he enjoyed the board’s immense trust.”
With regard to the revised contract signed between Lillis’ company Wadnic and CyTA’s pension fund, Georgiades said that around the end of 2011 or early 2012 it was discussed that the project presented some problems and Wadnic had made some demands.
Asked by Thoma to comment on leaks to the press from CyTA, the witness said “leaks to the media were a cancer to CyTA and the Aero Centre project in particular suffered many such leaks.”
He added that many CyTA projects and tenders had been cancelled due to leaks to the media.
The hearing process will resume today with Georgiades’ cross-examination by the prosecution.