By Constantinos Psillides
CHRISTOS Drakopoulos, the Greek national who is wanted for his alleged connection to the Paphos Sewage Board scandal, is expected to arrive in Cyprus to answer questions no later than Wednesday, a police source told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
The source told the Cyprus Mail that Drakopoulos’ lawyer contacted authorities upon being informed that a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
“The lawyer contacted police and informed us that his client is willing to cooperate. He said that he didn’t want a warrant for his arrest floating around and that he will come willingly. He is expected on Tuesday, Wednesday the latest,” said the source, adding that police had a backup plan if Drakopoulos did not show up.
“If he is not on the island by Wednesday the latest then we will go and get him. The international arrest warrant is set up and will go immediately into effect if he doesn’t show.”
Drakopoulos is a key person in the case and it has been alleged he is one of several contractors who paid sewage board manager Eftihios Malekkides and Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas money in kickbacks.
Drakopoulos company was awarded a tender for constructing a waste treatment plant in 2007.
According to the head investigator’s testimony in court during last week’s remand hearing, a high ranking official with the sewage board gave a statement to police saying that in 2007, on the day the contract for the waste treatment plant was signed, he met with Drakopoulos who told him that he would give Malekkides the sum of £200,000 (around €340,000) to split between himself, Vergas and two other municipal councillors.
The official told authorities how Drakopoulos left the municipality only to return after a while with nylon bags filled with stacks of money. The official added that the company’s owner stepped into the mayor’s office accompanied by Malekkides and the two councillors.
Drakopoulos’ statement to investigators appears to be the missing component for police to proceed with further arrests.
The sewerage project that Vergas and Malekkides were handling was estimated to cost €78m but taxpayers have so far paid €109m, with contractors claiming around €25m more. The two men are suspected of inflating the project’s budget in order to receive kickbacks from contractors.
While Malekkides and Vergas are still refusing to cooperate with authorities, police are expanding their investigation to an unnamed European country where the two men could have moved their assets. Police are looking for a money trail leading from the board to the suspects’ bank accounts.
Police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou told the media on Monday that the investigation was proceeding well and that police had been granted access to the suspects’ bank accounts.
Malekkides, Vergas and Georgios Michaelides – a former DISY councillor who is suspected of receiving a bribe of €30,000 by a contractor – are expected to appear before court on Friday.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos promised on Monday that this week would be one “of rapid developments” in the matter of early elections for the Paphos municipality. Hasikos has been looking for a way to oust Vergas, who, two weeks ago, held a press conference to announce that he would not be stepping down as mayor because doing so “is the same as admitting that I am guilty”. Vergas has suspended his participation to the municipal council while the councillors have already said that they refuse to sit at a meeting chaired by Vergas.
Hasikos is looking for a way to call for an early election and to that end has asked Legal Services for their input. Legal Services are expected to come up with a lawful way of showing the embattled mayor the door, later this week.