By George Psyllides
PAPHOS MAYOR Savvas Vergas was arrested on Monday in connection with irregularities over a music concert held in Paphos in August, police said.
Vergas had already been in custody for the past four days in relation with threatening texts sent to witnesses in a suspicious land zoning case involving prominent developer Theodoros Aristodemou.
Two others, Vergas’ close associate Maria Solomonidou, who had also been earlier detained for the text messages, and her husband Constantinos Sifantos were arrested late in the afternoon.
The mayor’s arrest follows accusations by a municipal councillor that an events company belonging to Solomonidou’s husband got a tax break on condition of making a donation to charity. No donation had been made, said the councillor, Vasos Demetriou.
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.
Vergas was initially arrested after admitting buying the mobile phone used to send threatening messages to four people including himself and two witnesses in a suspicious land zoning case involving Aristodemou, the owner of Aristo Developers.
Threatening messages were also sent to a journalist covering the case.
Before his admission, police had arrested Solomonidou, who was in possession of the phone. They also arrested her father, 64, who sought to take the blame for the messages but did not convince investigators.
Phone records showed that Solomonidou and Vergas were at the same location when the messages were sent. Both phones received signals from the same cell tower, a fact indicating that they were within a 60-metre radius of one another at the time.
The facts contradicted Vergas’ statement to investigators last week. He claimed that he was in the municipality when he received the threatening text.
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.
Beyond these two cases, the mayor may have to answer questions regarding claims of mismanagement and waste of public monies in the construction of the town’s sewage system, which eventually cost €109 million instead of the estimated €78 million. Contractors had demanded an additional €35 million.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said the case of the Paphos sewerage board (SBP), chaired by Vergas, was by far the worse.
“You understand we are talking about a huge excess,” he told the state broadcaster.
One of the main features of the apparent wastefulness is the processing plant, which will cost €40 million for 10 years.
Michaelides said that it cost around €15 million more than it should have and users would have to pay for it.
The auditor-general said the mayor had insisted everything was right and proper concerning the station, a view his office opposed.