By Constantinos Psillides
The Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) trial involving alleged kickbacks paid to municipal officials, and misappropriation of public funds, was adjourned and rescheduled for February 4 by the Assize Court on Friday.
Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported that Judge Dora Socratous granted a continuance request by the defence lawyers so that they could offer their pleas after further reviewing the prosecution’s body of evidence.
This was the second time the judge granted that request, the first one being on January 8.
The six defendants are former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, suspended SAPA director Eftychios Malekkides, former DISY municipal councillor Giorgos Michaelides, former DIKO councillor Efstathios Efstathiou, former AKEL councillor Vasos Vasiliou, and sitting AKEL councillor Giorgos Shailis.
They are facing charges of having conspired to extort money from private contractors awarded SAPA contracts among others.
The Paphos Assize Court comprises president Dora Socratous, Senior District Judge Lia Markou, and District Assize Court judge Michalis Droushiotis.
In its ruling, the court ordered that the defendants remained free on bail – previously set at €200,000 for each – and under conditions, including handing their travel documents to the police, and adding their names to the ‘stop list’ so they cannot leave the country.
The court had also ordered that the defendants appear daily at their local police station. Defence lawyers for Michaelides, Efstathiou, Vasiliou requested that their clients appear three times a week instead, a request which the court granted.
Shialis will also be required to appear at a police station three times a week.
CNA also reported that the court granted the prosecution a request to amend the charges to include new evidence on the alleged kickbacks paid by contractors. The new charges will only be laid out against Vergas and Malekkides.
Defence lawyers representing Michaelides, Efstathiou, Vasiliou and Shialis said that their clients would not plead guilty, in contrast with Vergas and Malekkides. Both are expected to plead guilty on all charges to facilitate the process.
In total, the defendants are facing 153 charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, conspiracy to defraud, bribery of a public official, abuse of power, unjust enrichment, and others.
Of the 153 charges, Malekkides faces 67, Vergas 58, Michaelides 25, Efstathiou 15, and Vasiliou and Shailis 7 each.
Meanwhile, police investigations are ongoing with the an arrest warrant being issued for 73-year-old Greek national Yiorgos Bafas, in connection with the case.
Bafas is wanted for questioning regarding Phase One of the SAPA project. Also suspected of being involved in Phase One is current EDEK MP Fidias Sarikas.
Sarikas was implicated in the case by Malekkides, who in statement in December claimed that the EDEK MP and a former municipal councillor -that is now deceased- approached him and offered him money to award the Phase One contract to a company of their choosing.
Sarikas has officially dismissed all allegations but refused to waive his parliamentary immunity, despite publicly requesting the Attorney-general to file a request with the Supreme Court to do so. Earlier this month Sarikas’s defence lawyer appeared before the Supreme Court and argued that there was not enough evidence to justify the move.
The next court date has been set for February 2.