By Constantinos Psillides
PAPHOS District Court ruled on Friday that the police be allowed full access to mayor Savvas Vergas’ bank and Land Registry records, to determine whether he has any ties to Aristo Developers, the company under investigation in a suspicious land zoning deal.
Vergas was remanded for four days in custody on Thursday in connection with the threatening text messages sent to witnesses in the Aristo case. Four SMS messages were sent in total: one to a municipality employee, one to a municipal councillor and one to the Paphos correspondent of the daily Politis. Vergas was the fourth recipient, although investigators believe this was to throw them off-track.
Police are also looking into the activities of Vergas’ close associates, especially his 33-year-old assistant Maria Solomonidou and her husband Constantinos Siphantos, 37.
Solomonidou underwent further questioning on Friday by Paphos CID, since the threatening texts originated from her phone.
Siphantos was questioned in relation to a separate case regarding a charity concert by popular Greek singer Sakis Rouvas on August 8. Municipal councillor Vasos Demetriou reported to authorities that Siphantos filed for an entertainment tax exemption – granted by Vergas – on the grounds that all proceeds would go to the municipal food bank. According to Demetriou, no money was ever handed to the food bank.
According to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), Solomonidou and her husband declined to answer police questions. Solomonidou was supposed to have been accompanied by her father, Elias, who had earlier confessed to sending the texts.
The 64-year old wasn’t summoned to CID headquarters in the end and no reason was given. Police investigators believe the man only admitted to the crime to protect his daughter.
CyBC reported on Friday that Vergas would be summoned to the CID later in the evening. The mayor is also uncooperative, according to a police report.
Vergas found himself in a tight spot, after phone data analysis showed that he lied to investigators regarding his whereabouts on the day he received the threatening text.
The mayor told police he was in his office in the municipality, but according to the analysis his phone was within a 60 metre radius of Solomonidou’s phone. Vergas also admitted to having bought the phone for Solomonidou on August 3 claiming that it was a necessity as her job included updating the municipality’s social media profiles.
At Vergas’ remand hearing on Thursday, investigators said that immediately after the texts were sent, Solomonidou’s SIM card was inserted in the phone and that there was a brief call to Vergas’ mobile.
The mayor faces charges of conspiring to commit a felony, conspiring to commit a misdemeanour, sending written death threats, interfering with a court procedure and sending harmful texts.
According to CNA, police investigators have so far questioned 50 people and are planning to quiz 26 more, most of them related to either Vergas or Solomonidou.
Solomonidou’s brother, Christos, is also under custody in relation to the Aristo case. Christos, a draftsman at Aristo Developers, is being held in relation to forgery and fraud in the demarcation of 177 plots of land on behalf of the property company. 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 euro, previously designated as green space, back to Aristo.