By Evie Andreou
A ‘GANG of four’ headed by former Paphos Mayor Savvas Vergas allegedly “threatened and blackmailed” the CEO of MEDCON constructions with whom a contract was signed for phase E of the Paphos sewage system, demanding €300,000 in kickbacks in return for the project running smoothly, the court heard yesterday.
The allegations were heard during one of two separate remand hearings. Vergas, the head of the Paphos Sewage Board Eftychios Malekkides and former DISY municipal councillor Giorgos Michaelides were re-remanded for eight days for the third time.
The second remand hearing concerned the fourth suspect Efstathios Efstathiou a former DIKO municipal councillor and heads of the Paphos Medical Association, who was arrested on Friday and remanded for eight days yesterday.
One of the officers investigating the case, Sergeant Yiannos Constantinou, told the Paphos court that MEDCON CEO Andreas Chimarides had told police in his statement that Vergas had called him into his office around 2010 during Phase E of the project, and in the presence Malekkides told him that he had to pay €300.000 to a group consisting of Vergas, Malekkides, Efstathiou and Michaelides.
Constantinou added that Chimarides, in his statement, said that after consideration, and “feeling threatened and blackmailed” over possible obstacles to the execution of the contract, agreed to pay up.
“They wanted to have their cake and eat it” was the phrase Chimarides used, according to Constantinou.
The court heard that Vergas had handed a piece of paper to Chimarides with the the name of the ‘team of four’ next to each one, the sum they were to receive; €100,000 each for Vergas and Malikkides and €50,000 each for Michaelides and Efstathiou.
In 2010, after the contract was signed, Chimarides, Constantinou said, had been taking money from the company’s bank account and had visited each of the four men in turn delivering envelopes stuffed with cash at different times.
In the case of Efstathiou, who police told the court was refusing to cooperate, Chimarides had gone to his practice at the Ayios Georgios clinic three or four times to take him envelopes with money.
The police investigator also told the court that during a search of Efstathiou’s house and office they found documents with money transfers abroad including a bank account in Greece where between 2004 and 2009 transfers were made amounting to €90,000.
A new warrant is expected to be issued to reveal his personal bank accounts, his companies – he was a director in at least four – and his family members. Constantinou said that police would also try and locate bank accounts or property in his name abroad.
Efstathiou, 65, is facing 14 charges including committing a felony, conspiracy to defraud and fraud among them. The doctor had been named by Vergas in connection with the sewage board scandal.
Police told the court they expected more arrests following additional statements they planned to take from members of the supervisory committee responsible to oversee the board’s affairs and others who were aware of Efstathiou’s bribe taking.
Without any objection from their lawyers, Vergas, Malekkides and Michaelides were re-remanded also remanded at a different court hearing for eight days for the third time.
The judge justified the remand by saying that based on Vergas’ testimony, 46 new statements needed to be taken.
During their hearing yesterday the court heard from police investigator Inspector Eleftherios Kyriakou that Vergas had told them in his testimony that he was approached by Malekkides who suggested the formation of a group that would act as mediators to give contractors projects in exchange of financial benefits.
He also allegedly proposed that the group be formed by municipal councillors from each of the four main political parties.
Vergas also said in his testimony, Kyriakou said, that when MEDCON had signed the contract for phase A of the construction of the sewage system in 2007, Chimarides had visited him in his office to inform him that Malekkides had asked for money on behalf of the group of four, to ensure the process would go smoothly.
Vergas allegedly replied that he had just been elected as mayor and was no longer part of the group, that he had reprimanded Malekkides for using his name and that if he did that again he would report him to the police.
The former mayor said later however, that he had received money from MEDCON between 2008 and 2010 for various cultural events and also €50,000 for his personal benefit, Kyriacou told the court.
Chimarides himself, along with AKEL’s Paphos municipal councillor Giorgos Shailis and Nemesis Construction’s managing director Kyriacos Chrysochos were arrested last week but the Paphos court refused to remand them. The state legal service filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against the remand rejection.