By Stefanos Evripidou
THE PAPHOS District Court yesterday reserved judgement until today on the request for an eight-day remand of four suspects, including prominent businessman Theodoros Aristodimou, who spent the night in hospital with high blood pressure.
The four suspects, Aristodemou, his wife Sotiroulla, a former Paphos municipal engineer, and a municipal employee working in technical services were arrested on Thursday night in a case involving suspected fraudulent zoning in Paphos.
After nearly eight hours in session yesterday, the court ordered all four to remain in remand until 11am today when it will decide on the eight-day remand request. Until then, the court prohibited the police from questioning the suspects.
Three of the suspects, were kept behind bars last night, while Aristodimou spent the night at Paphos general hospital under guard after complaining of chest pains yesterday morning.
The court rejected a request by the lawyer of the technical services official to release her on account of having an infant at home.
Aristodemou is the boss of Aristo Developers – one of the island’s largest land developers and the company implicated in the case. His wife works as an architect for the firm.
Following their arrest on Thursday in connection with the demarcation of 177 land plots in Skali, Paphos, the four were due to go to court for a remand hearing, but Aristodemou instead was admitted to Paphos general with high blood pressure. Doctors decided he should remain there for further examination.
His lawyer said his client waived his right to attend the hearing, thereby allowing the proceedings to continue in his absence. The businessman is expected to attend today’s hearing if well.
Aristodemou, who also did a stint as chairman of Bank of Cyprus, is the latest of several prominent citizens of Cyprus who fell ill after being faced with the prospect of spending time behind bars, joining the likes of former defence minister Costas Papacostas, former interior minister Dinos Michaelides and former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis.
The case in question looks at whether Aristo Developers grabbed 2,750 square metres of land earmarked for green spaces and pavements, as well as looking into alleged forged documents relating to planning permission for the Skali area.
Back in July, Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas had tabled Aristo Developer’s file before the municipal council, proposing the approval of zoning and building permits for a total of 177 plots for which the developer had secured a demarcation permit.
Police launched an investigation into the demarcation of the plots in Skali after a complaint was made by Paphos’ municipal secretary regarding the demarcation of the plots, and the possible alteration of initial plans for the area to the benefit of the developer, and at the cost of the public.
Speaking at yesterday’s remand hearing, a police investigator told the court that investigations focused on establishing whether the company had defrauded the public by taking a greater slice of development area in Skali, at the expense of land earmarked for green spaces and roads.
He offered two arguments to support the remand request for all four suspects. First, the police representative argued that police had discovered that a signed and stamped land registry document, dated February 3, 2010, relating to the plots was a fake.
Secondly, he argued that as a result, Aristo Developers got an extra 2,730 square metres of land to build on, at a cost to the public, as the land in question was meant to make up part of the road network and green areas.
The potential crimes being investigated by the police relating to the case range from: conspiracy to commit a felony; conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour; conspiracy to defraud; legalising revenues obtained from illicit activities; forgery and circulation of forged documents; abuse of power; wilful misconduct and abuse of trust by a public officer; issuing of forged certificates by a public officer; securing a certificate under false pretences; and extracting moneys under false pretences.
The alleged crimes are believed to have been committed between February 3, 2010, and December 28, 2011.
Speaking to public broadcaster CyBC yesterday, Vergas rejected claims that the Paphos municipality delayed or refused to comply with police requests to hand over municipal documents.
“Our wish is for this case to proceed as soon as possible,” he said, adding, “The Paphos municipality cooperated fully.”
Some 200 employees of Aristo Developers assembled outside the court yesterday in a show of support to their boss, carrying banners reading: Solidarity to our employers” and “Justice will shine”.
In a written statement, Aristo Developers staff said the case was a stitch up against the Aristodemou family and company to serve competitors’ interests.
Previously, Aristodemou had denied any wrongdoing, arguing that municipality employees, unfamiliar with regulations, had got their calculations wrong.