By Angelos Anastasiou
A 38-YEAR-OLD employee of Aristo Developers, the fifth person to be arrested in relation to a case of falsifying Land Registry documents and conspiring to defraud the state, appeared before the Paphos district court on Wednesday and was remanded for eight days.
The man is employed in Aristo’s architectural design department and appears to be implicated in a suspected attempt to increase the demarcation area under development by forging the documents submitted to, and approved by, the Land Registry.
The forged document, which relates to Aristo’s planned development at the Skali area, Paphos, had green areas and the road network on the approved plans reduced by some 2,700 square metres, allegedly in order to allow Aristo a larger area for development, resulting in an estimated additional gain for the company of €1.1 million.
According to police investigators, the 38-year-old designer scanned the official stamp from the original plans submitted to the Land Registry, as well as the Land Registry official’s signature, and pasted the images on the new, falsified documents.
During the remand hearing, the suspect admitted only to having transferred plans to a different scale, which he claimed is standard procedure followed by architects.
But the lead investigator argued that the suspect created a fake Land Registry plan, which was subsequently submitted to municipal authorities for land demarcation approval.
Following the arrest of four individuals last week, including Aristo’s founder and CEO Theodoros Aristodemou and his wife Roulla – who heads the company’s architectural design department – as well as two municipality officials, testimony and evidence have been obtained by investigators implicating the 38-year-old in the creation of the falsified document.
The man is being held in custody at the Paphos police station, along with Roulla Aristodemou and former Paphos municipality civil engineer Savvas Savva.
Theodoros Aristodemou remains in treatment at the American Heart Institute clinic in Nicosia since Tuesday due to high arterial pressure and chest-pain, while Paphos municipality technician Soula Kouspou is being treated at the Limassol general’s psychiatric ward following signs of depression and a fainting incident upon exiting the courthouse that ordered her remand on Saturday.
According to the police, under questioning Roulla Aristodemou admitted that some changes had been made to the approved plans.
But these, she claimed, were not intended to defraud the state, since the Land Registry would perform subsequent checks and rectify any discrepancies, as it had done in previous similar instances.
Aristo’s CEO has yet to give a statement to the police, and press reports on Wednesday said his doctors informed the police he would be unable to do so before Friday as his treatment would require anesthesia.
Sensing a manoeuvre, police decided to activate an old cabinet decision that had been designed to combat faking illness to evade law enforcement, and procured a state-appointed medical council to examine Aristodemou and determine whether he was fit to give a statement. Reports last night said the board gave the green light for Aristodemou to testify today.
CyBC reported that the doctors decided that his health was satisfactory and after a final examination he could even be discharged.
The medical board is composed of private doctors and a representative of the Cyprus Medical Association.
Kouspou gave an incomplete statement in which she claimed her actions in the case were carried out on instructions from Savva.
Paphos police resumed investigation on Wednesday, which will include access to the suspects’ phone records and bank accounts as soon as a court order lifting confidentiality for all involved in the case is issued.
But in an effort to portray confidence, Aristo came out with large advertisements in Wednesday’s press, in which it claimed that the case is fabricated and designed to hurt the company.
“Recently, and over the last few days more intensely, Aristo Developers fell victim to an unprecedented and organised scheme, which aims at destroying everything we have built over the last three decades with integrity, honesty, and hard work,” the ad read.
“We are certain that the truth will shine in the end,” it added.
The ad went on to inform the public that the company’s operations continue as normal.
Meanwhile, the Paphos municipality handed over to investigators 12 additional files with information on development companies headed or owned by Theodoros Aristodemou.
Among the files turned over was the file containing the original blueprints to a commercial development, which had been reported missing on Sunday.
According to Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, the file was found in a box spotted by a municipality employee on Wednesday, and contained the architectural plans with due original seals and signatures.
Vergas said he ordered a search against the municipality officials who reported the loss of the plans before searching the storage area.
State radio reported on Wednesday that the Attorney General’s office has asked to be furnished with the meeting minutes of the municipal council and the two subcommittees that examined Aristo’s Skali development.
On Tuesday, Vergas had confirmed that a second case was reported to the Paphos municipality relating to another company, noting that he has instructed the municipality’s civil engineer to examine the file and ascertain whether the case stands, before advising the municipal council accordingly.