By Angelos Anastasiou
The community leader of Kato Pyrgos village, Costas Michaelides, has been asked to abstain from his duties pending the conclusion of police investigations into claims of abuse of power and misappropriation of public funds, interior minister Sokratis Hasikos said on Tuesday.
The interior ministry said Hasikos had written to Michaelides on November 5, suggesting he abstain from his duties “until investigations have concluded, but without prejudice to the outcome of said investigations.” Michaelides has thus far ignored Hasikos’ urging.
The letter was also forwarded to the police chief and the local councils’ union, as well as the Attorney General, from whom an update was requested on the course of the investigations.
“It is further clarified that, on the strength of a court order issued on Monday, police have seized the archives of the Kato Pyrgos local council, in order to collaborate with the Interior ministry’s Internal Audit Unit in investigating allegations of irregularities in land demarcation, expenditure on constructing a local-council building, and revenues from concerts and other events organised by the council,” the statement said.
Hasikos said the ministry’s Internal Audit Unit has investigated over 350 cases.
The issue surfaced in May 2013 when local council members reported suspicious goings-on, including payments authorised only by Michaelides in breach of due process, assigning projects arbitrarily without inviting tenders, and organising wedding ceremonies on the grounds of the village’s primary school with no revenue reported.
At the time, Michaelides had also been found to have held the post of council secretary – in addition to council leader – for a monthly salary of €854 for 2.5 years, without appropriate authorisation by the District Officer.
Speaking on Sigma TV, Michaelides dismissed the claims as unfounded mud-slinging.
“This vilification campaign is not new – it started around three years ago by a group of locals when they lost the elections for a seat on the council,” he said.
“When I took over in 2007, they were all in jail,” he added, referring to an old scandal of illegally selling Turkish-Cypriot land involving the previous council. “I was handed the keys to an empty office that needed people to staff it. We hired a secretary but had no money to pay her with, so for 2.5 years she was paid out of my salary.
“Mr Hasikos claimed I ignored his urging, but said nothing about the other 18 local councils currently under investigation,” he added.
“He believes I should abstain from performing my duties because some who served time in prison think I should.”
By Angelos Anastasiou