By Angelos Anastasiou
The Paphos District Court on Sunday rejected a police request for the remand of three suspects arrested in connection with allegations of bribery relating to construction work at the Paphos Sewerage Board (PSB).
The three suspects, AKEL municipal councilman Giorgos Shailis, Medcon Constructions CEO Andreas Chimarrides and Nemesis Construction managing director Kyriacos Chrysochos, were named by former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas in his statement on Friday, along with two deputies – EDEK’s Fidias Sarikas and AKEL’s Andreas Fakontis – in connection with the corruption case, and were arrested late on Saturday.
During Sunday’s remand hearing, police investigators told the court that Vergas stated that he, PSB director Eftichios Malekkides, municipal councilmen and contractors had set up a corruption ring that approved bogus additional construction work for PSB projects, thus racking up the cost, in order to split the profit among themselves.
According to the police, Vergas also admitted to taking bribes by almost all PSB contractors, and a total amount north of €0.5 million from Medcon and Nemesis alone.
He also claimed that Shailis received from Christos Drakopoulos, owner of Envitec – another contractor – €100,000 in exchange for his approval of additional construction work, which he then shared with Vergas.
The indicted ex-mayor also said that Chimarrides and Chrysochos had bribed municipal councilmen through nominal ‘donations’ to the Paphos municipality in exchange for their approval for additional construction work for the PSB.
But, the court denied the remand request after it ruled that investigators failed to verify Vergas’ claims concerning Shailis – ostensibly through Drakopoulos – even though they had the opportunity to do so, while the remand of Chimarrides and Chrysochos was deemed unjustified.
The case investigators and the Attorney General’s office will likely appeal the decision.
“We will review the court’s decision, and there is a strong possibility that we will appeal it,” Attorney-general Costas Clerides told deputies on Monday.
In a statement on Monday, the legal services said they were awaiting the court’s ruling in writing before making any decision, and warned that the inevitable media exposure of all involved means nothing to their guilt or innocence.
“We stress once more that the inevitable publicity surrounding this case cannot, and should not, lead us to any conclusion on the innocence or guilt of anyone, through the media, nor is it acceptable, on our part, for any scrutiny of the case to take place in public,” the statement said.
“Such conclusions and scrutiny may only be presented in a courtroom,” it added.
This is the second time in as many months that police investigators are embarrassed by a rejection of a remand request.
Back in October, the Paphos District Court had heard investigators ask for the detention of Vergas, his close associate Maria Solomonidou, and her husband Constantinos Sifantos, for eight days over suspected irregularities relating to a music concert featuring Greek pop singer Sakis Rouvas, held in August.
Although investigators had presented the court with evidence that the concert had been misrepresented as a charity event but no donation had yet to be made to any charity organisation, the court rejected the police request, describing the investigator’s testimony as “vague and incomplete,” arguing that it had been presented with no evidence that an offence had even been committed.
Meanwhile, in light of Vergas’ leaked statement implicating Sarikas and Fakontis in the scandal, the AKEL MP on Monday asked Clerides to investigate his finances in order to clear up his name.
In a letter, Fakontis advised Clerides that he waives the immunity from prosecution afforded to all deputies by the Constitution, authorising him to look through his financial dealings and assets.
“I consent to you investigating the bank accounts and assets of myself, my wife and my three children,” wrote Fakontis.
He also complained of Vergas’ allegations finding their way to the press, and asked for the results of Clerides’ investigation to be made public within 15 days.
“I must express my objection to the way information is channelled to the press in connection with this case, thus tarnishing my image, honour and integrity,” he wrote.
“I expect of you to fully investigate Vergas’ slanders against me without delay, and announce the result of your investigation publicly within the next 15 days, in order to clear this matter up and protect the institution I have been elected to serve,” he concluded.
By Angelos Anastasiou