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Vergas grilled by Paphos police

Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas

By George Psyllides

PAPHOS Mayor Savvas Vergas spent more than six hours yesterday giving a statement to police who are investigating threatening text messages sent to four people, including himself, which were connected with a suspicious land zoning case involving Aristo Developers.

Paphos police told the Cyprus Mail late last night that Vergas had left the station following the marathon session and that his statement was now in the hands of the legal services, which would make an evaluation.

Earlier the Paphos district court extended for an additional three days, the remand of a woman and her father held in connection with sending the text messages.

Maria Solomonidou, 33, and her 64-year-old father were arrested in connection with sending the messages to four people including a municipal councillor and a municipal employee, expected to testify in a land zoning case involving prominent developer Theodoros Aristodemou.

Messages were also sent to Politis reporter Costas Nanos. Vergas also claimed he had received a threatening message. It later transpired that the phone used to send messages had been bought by Vergas and given to Solomonidou.

Vergas, who admitted buying the phone in August, has denied any wrongdoing, was called for questioning by police yesterday afternoon at 4pm.

The session lasted over six hours, during which Vergas answered investigators’ questions.

According to news site Sigmalive, which cited sources, Vergas was questioned about any contact he had had with Solomonidou and her father after he received the threatening text and prior to their arrest. Reports said police had already obtained phone records connected with the investigation.

Last night, TV channel MEGA reported that immediately after the four threatening texts were sent, Solomonidou’s SIM card was used on the same phone for a three-second conversation with Vergas.

Along with Solomonidou and her father, police had detained her husband, Constantinos Sifantos, 36, but he was expected to be released after nothing suspicious came up. They were arrested last Tuesday.

Solomonidou is the sister of Aristo Developers designer Christos Solomonides, arrested along with his boss, Theodoros Aristodemou, the latter’s wife Roulla, and former municipal engineer Savvas Savva, in connection with forgery and fraud in the demarcation of 177 plots of land on behalf of the company.

The arrests followed a police investigation into the demarcation that took place in Skali, Paphos, in 2010.

It 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 Developers.

Vergas was also in the spotlight yesterday after claims that an events company linked with Solomonidou’s got a tax break on condition of making a donation to charity but had failed to do so.

Municipal councillor Vasos Demetriou reported to the auditor-general that Vergas had suggested waiving the entertainment tax for a concert given by Greek singer Sakis Rouvas on August 8.

The condition was that the company would donate part of the net proceeds to the municipal food bank. The suggestion was approved by the council.

Demetriou said that so far no money had been donated to the food bank, “not one cent” and no explanation had been given.

Speaking on state radio, the councillor revealed that the company was controlled by Solomonidou’s husband.

“The main shareholder of the private company that organised the concert is Constantinos Sifantos, the husband of Mrs Maria Solomonidou,” Demetriou said.

Demetriou said he had provided the auditor-general with a bank account, linked with the company, where money had been deposited by Solomonidou who appeared to pursue private business interests during working hours.

Solomonidou, a temporary worker at the municipality, collected the money and put it in the account.

Demetriou also charged that Solomonidou was constantly being upgraded by Vergas at the expense of the municipality’s cultural and PR officer Ermina Mai.

Mai was also forced by Vergas to sign for various payment orders linked with the Rouvas concert.

EDEK MP and former Paphos mayor Phidias Sarikas spoke of claims that companies had been pressured to sponsor concerts.

“Money trails should be investigated because there are suspicions it was not used for the purpose it was granted,” he said.

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