By Angelos Anastasiou
Police on Friday arrested Savvas Vergas’ wife Sofia Apostolidou, following testimony from a fourth implicated individual linking her to the sewage board scandal while Paphos court heard that the former mayor had approximately €6 million in his bank account.
Following his wife’s arrest, it was widely reported late on Friday that the former mayor gave a lengthy statement to investigators in which he allegedly admitted guilt on all charges and went as far as to name two MPs, and one current and two former councillors who allegedly also received kickbacks from contractors on the sewage project. At a press conference three weeks ago Vergas had promised to talk, “when the time is right.”
He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, conspiracy to defraud, fraud, bribing a state official, abusing authority, money laundering, acquiring assets through unlawful practices, interfering with a criminal investigation, theft and corruption.
Earlier on Friday Vergas was re-remanded for eight days, along with Sewage Board Manager Eftihios Malekkides and former DISY councillor Giorgos Michaelides.
Greek businessman Christos Drakopoulos, director of construction company Envitec which won one of the PSB’s contracts and claims to have been extorted by the three under remand, arrived in Cyprus on Thursday night and was questioned overnight.
According to state radio, his testimony embroiled Vergas’s wife in the PSB case, after he claimed Vergas pressured him into donating CYP50,000 to the Paphos municipality, which he was asked to deposit into Apostolidou’s bank account.
This was right after Envitec secured a PSB contract and received the first payment instalment of CYP920,000, Drakopoulos claimed.
“I was forced to dole out the money when Vergas implied that, had I not, the contract I signed with the municipality would be discontinued,” Drakopoulos testified.
He added that he tried to negotiate a smaller amount but Vergas insisted on CYP50,000, and Drakopoulos relented.
“The mayor told me that the donation would go to the Paphos municipality and gave me the name of Sofia Apostolidou, who he claimed was his associate.”
But when the case found its way to the courts, Drakopoulos added, he found out from press reports that Apostolidou was not Vergas’ associate but his wife.
He also claimed that he repeatedly asked Vergas for a receipt for the donation, to no avail.
Drakopoulos furnished police investigators with a copy of the donation’s deposit slip at a Greek bank.
After her arrest, Apostolidou was transferred to the Paphos police station for questioning, and is expected to be brought before court for remand on Saturday.
Meanwhile, during the remand-renewal hearing for Vergas, Malekkides and Michaelides, the lead investigator said that a probe into the bank records of Vergas and Malekkides revealed deposits of approximately €6 million in the former mayor’s account and €1.9 million in the PSB director’s account.
The lead investigator also said that in recent years Malekkides appears to have made several transactions of large amounts, such as the construction of a house appraised at €0.5 million, and the purchase of land worth approximately €400,000, while his salary, deposited into his account on a monthly basis, remained untouched.
Michaelides was found in possession of a winning lottery ticket, investigators said, prompting suspicion that it was bought to justify illegal proceeds, as this is a common method employed in money laundering.
Investigations into the two suspects’ bank accounts continue overseas in collaboration with financial crime police branch MOKAS.
The court ordered the renewal of the trio’s remand for a further eight days.
Once the ruling was heard, Michaelides claimed he felt ill and asked to be transferred to the Paphos General hospital.
By Angelos Anastasiou