By Angelos Anastasiou
THE court orders for the seizure of personal assets of four of the six found guilty in a land scam involving the illegal purchase by the CyTA Pension Fund of Turkish Cypriot property in Dromolaxia, Larnaca, and the construction of an office-space complex at an inflated price, will only be suspended for the balance if the liquidated assets do not cover the requested amounts, the Assize Court has ruled.
Former CyTA chairman Stathis Kittis, CytaVision boss Orestis Vasiliou, Land Registry official Grigoris Souroullas, and legal entity Polleson Holdings Ltd – all found guilty of participating in the scam – were ordered on Wednesday to return a total €750,000, representing kickbacks received.
Kittis was found guilty of having received €300,000 from businessman Nicos Lillis in order to arrange for the project to be funded by CyTA’s pension fund; Vasiliou, a former union boss at CyTA, was found guilty of having extorted €200,000 from Lillis in exchange for not raising employee resistance to the investment; and Vasiliou, Souroullas and Polleson were deemed guilty of having been paid €250,000 in order to ensure the project runs smoothly. All were ordered to return these funds in cash, otherwise assets belonging to them for the equivalent would be seized by the state.
Although two more individuals – former CyTA board member Charalambos Tsouris and AKEL member Venizelos Zannetos – were found guilty of participating in the conspiracy, the court ruled they had not received any money, thus they were exempted from the asset-seizure orders.
The court also said it would announce sentencing for all six on Monday at noon.
But following argumentation by Vasiliou’s lawyer, Michalis Pikis, who asserted that his client’s assets were worth less than the prosecution claimed, the court issued a second order suspending the seizure of the two amounts relating to Vasiliou – €200,000 in personal kickbacks and €250,000 received jointly with Souroullas and Polleson – but only to the extent of the balance remaining after his assets are liquidated.
According to Pikis, properties in Vasiliou’s name in Kato Drys village and Protaras, Famagusta, are currently valued at a total €135,000.
In its ruling, the court said it fully agreed with the prosecution with regard to asset seizures and approved its requests, but issued a suspension of payment in case the liquidated assets fell short of covering the repayable amounts.
In other words, if Vasiliou’s properties are indeed sold off for a total €135,000, the court order for the remainder to be suspended.
Meanwhile, the court decision – made public on December 22 – made extensive reference to allegations by Zannetos that AKEL’s long-serving deputy and top party official Nicos Katsourides, as well as his son Alexandros, were somehow involved in the case.
In the course of the trial, Zannetos had repeatedly hinted at Katsourides’ and his son’s involvement, but always fell short of substantiating or elaborating on his claims.
“The defence never explained fully and explicitly what it was that these two persons were being accused of, beyond any friendly or business relation they may have had with Nicos Lillis,” the court said.
“Neither did the defence demonstrate that any omission by police investigators in connection with Katsourides has infringed on the defendants’ rights in any way,” it added.