The Aero Centre project in Dromolaxia is “a serious case of corruption,” the prosecutor in the trial said in her closing arguments in court on Tuesday.
“A feast was held at the expense of the CyTA (Cyprus Telecommunications Authority) pension fund,” prosecutor Elli Papagapiou told the court.
Larnaca criminal court, which has been trying the case for months, has adjourned to December 22, when it is set to deliver its verdict on eight defendants implicated in the case.
The land deal in question involved the purchase by CyTA’s pension fund of office space in Dromolaxia, near Larnaca airport, at a price reportedly several times the going market value.
The land was initially sold to Wadnic Trading, which upgraded the coefficients, built on it and sold it on to the CyTA pension fund for some €20 million.
The alleged offences were committed between 2009 and 2013.
On trial are head of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) trade union Orestis Vasiliou; former CyTA marketing manager Yiannis Souroullas; his brother and land registry official Gregoris Souroullas; AKEL member Venizelos Zanettos; jewellery shop owner Antonis Ioakim; ex-CyTA boss Stathis Kittis; and former Electricity Authority boss Charalambos Tsouris. Private company Polleson Holdings Ltd is also facing charges as a legal entity.
The arrests were made possible after Wadnic businessman Nicos Lillis, a key player in the deal, switched sides and turned prosecution witness.
Lillis, who initially faced charges in a separate but related trial along with two intelligence service (KYP) officers, had the charges against him dropped after agreeing to testify against the other defendants.
The property in question was bought by Lillis from a Turkish Cypriot man in 2010 for €10 million and sold the following year to CyTA’s pension fund for €22m. The land coefficients were upgraded suspiciously fast while several high-ranking CyTA officials resigned in the wake of the investigation. The defendants are accused of receiving kickbacks for greasing the property deal.
In court, the prosecutor described Lillis – on whose testimony the prosecution’s case hinges – as a reliable witness who willingly cooperated with authorities.
Papagapiou said also that whistleblowers like Lillis ought to be encouraged to come forth if authorities are to crack corruption cases.
On defendant Stathis Kittis, the prosecutor said he did not have the pension fund’s best interests in mind; rather, she argued, Kittis’ intention was to receive kickbacks on three occasions.
“Mr. Kittis showed no interest in looking at the agreements signed between Wadnic and the pension fund, he did not visit the land plot in Dromolaxia where the project was to be built, and did not ask for a valuation for the land plot.
“Instead, he made do with the price quoted by Wadnic, a relatively unknown company with no experience in the construction business,” she said.
The prosecutor said the evidence suggests both Kittis and Tsouris intended to defraud the CyTA pension fund. They never properly looked into the matter of extra surface area ostensibly earmarked for the Aero project, which later transpired was a sham.