By George Psyllides
PROMINENT land developer Theodoros Aristodemou, his wife, and two other suspects, were remanded in custody for eights days on Saturday in connection with zoning violations in Paphos.
The court said the police request to detain them pending the investigation of the case was justified, rejecting defence claims about the existence of ulterior motives.
Aristodemou, who had been admitted in hospital with high blood pressure the day before, was still receiving treatment in the intensive care unit on Saturday.
Doctors said his condition was improving and he could be released on Sunday.
The arrests, which include Aristodemou’s wife Sotiroulla, former municipal engineer Savvas Savva, and Elisavet Kouspou, who works for the municipal technical services, followed a police investigation into the demarcation of 177 land plots in Skali, Paphos in 2010.
The case was first brought to the police’s attention by a Paphos municipality officer.
It subsequently emerged that the plans for which the demarcation permits were issued were switched with new plans, which seemed to cede approximately 3,000 square metres, worth hundreds of thousands of euros, previously designated as green space, back to Aristo.
Police said they were investigating the four in connection with conspiracy to commit a felony; conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor; conspiracy to defraud; legalising revenues obtained from illicit activities; forgery and circulation of forged documents; abuse of power; willful misconduct and abuse of trust by a public officer; issuing of forged certificates by a public officer; securing a certificate under false pretences; and obtaining moneys under false pretences.
Aristodemou had denied any wrongdoing, arguing that municipality employees, unfamiliar with regulations, had got their calculations wrong.
He also claimed it was all a conspiracy.
Kouspou, 36, who has a 12-month-old child, fainted at the end of Saturday’s hearing.
He lawyer had asked for her release on account of her child.
She was taken to hospital for treatment. Kouspou also complained of being ill on Friday but she was returned to the holding cell after receiving treatment in hospital.
The court was once again filled by relatives, friends, and supporters of the suspects.
The remand hearing had been held on Friday but the court reserved its decision until Saturday.
In a show of support to their boss, employees on Friday held banners reading: “Solidarity to our employers” and “Justice will shine”.
During a news conference earlier this month, the entrepreneur suggested the allegations of malfeasance were being orchestrated by competitors, since the issue regarding the demarcation of these particular plots surfaced in 2014, whereas the permits were issued back in 2010.
One of the best known businessmen in Cyprus, Aristodemou is the founder and chairman of Aristo Developers Ltd. He has held many positions in both the private and public sectors, including on the Paphos Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors of telecoms utility CyTA, the board of Cyprus Airways and chairman of the board at Bank of Cyprus.
He became the latest of several prominent citizens of Cyprus who fell ill after being faced with the prospect of spending time behind bars.
He joined former defence minister Costas Papacostas, former interior minister Dinos Michaelides, former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, and businessman Akis Lefkaritis.