By Angelos Anastasiou
THE land for a €7 billion property development in Yeroskipou, which had been announced by Archbishop Chrysostomos earlier this year, will be leased out to the highest bidder, according to Interior minister Sokratis Hasikos.
His comment came after daily Phileleftheros ran a story on Thursday claiming the government had already agreed to lease the property – comprising 600,000 to 700,000 square metres of state land – to the Archbishopric for 99 years, despite its earlier protests and calls for open tenders in a similar case during the previous administration.
According to the newspaper, the government came to the agreement in private consultations with Chrysostomos, who acted as a proxy to his Hungarian associate, who has already participated in other investments in the Paphos district.
The associate is Sandor Kenyeres, a property developer and the man behind Antara Palace – a five-star wellness and spa centre in Paphos completed in 2013.
Kenyeres founded Atum Developments Ltd in 2014, which was slated to undertake the creation of Eden City (Cyprus), a multi-billion euro project that would include the construction of apartments, hotels, a marina, and even an artificial island.
The Hungarian developer reportedly plans to attract wealthy businessmen from his own country, as well as from other countries, and convince them to permanently move their companies’ offices to Cyprus.
But Hasikos dispelled the report before the day was over.
After addressing a House Interior committee session on Thursday afternoon, in which he explained the provisions of a government-sponsored bill governing the sale of state land, he told reporters that no specific investors have expressed any interest for state-owned plots of land, with the exception of the Yeroskipou property, for which “an open tenders procedure will be held.”
“That is a procedure that will be followed in all future cases,” he said.
A cabinet decision this week paved the way for speculation of back-scratching between the government and the Archbishopric.
“The Council of Ministers in [Wednesday’s] session, decided the utilisation of state property in the Yeroskipou municipality, in the form of a land license/lease agreement,” a statement read.
The cabinet said the decision was a response to the expression of investor interest to develop land in Yeroskipou and was made in the context of the Council of Minister’s action plan for the privatisation of state land with a focus on developing large commercial plots, approved in 2013.
“Today’s Council of Minister’s decision specifically relates to state land in Yerokipia, in the Yeroskipou municipality, and aims at attracting and encouraging investments, a policy that is part of the state’s effort to revive the economy,” the statement concluded.