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State owes €430 for appropriated property

Auditor general Odysseas Michaelides

By George Psyllides

The state owes €430 million for properties that have been appropriated, MPs heard on Tuesday, as authorities try to end disorderly practices of the past still causing serious problems today.

Officials said the state rescinded appropriations worth €140 million between 2012 and 2014, which ended with the state owing €480 million.

Government officials conceded that the procedures in the past were uncontrolled but stricter criteria have been put in place to tackle the phenomenon, which caused the state to waste millions on properties held for years and not used for the purpose they were appropriated for.

A case in point refers to 54 plots in Erimi that sold between 2002 and 2003 before the area was declared to be of archaeological importance.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said no evidence was found to prove criminal offenses had been committed in connection with Erimi.

However, he added, there was clearly a matter of people being misled and negligence.

Committee Chairman Giorgos Georgiou questioned how such a large stretch of land can be reserved since 2004 when even the most ignorant individual knows it has archaeological value.

The head of the community said the problem was that plots of land were being held without an appropriation order. He said it was a major scandal and that residents were desperate.

MPs heard that land can be held for three years. It must be returned if it is not appropriated or the owner is not compensated during that time.

Around €25 million of the total concern appropriations carried out by the Antiquities Department, the committee heard.

The office of the ombudsman said it has received many complaints concerning the requisition of land deemed to be of archaeological importance. Owners must be notified promptly and excavations carried out quickly, the office said.

The head of the Antiquities Department admitted there were financial difficulties but it did not mean there must be a problem in protecting the island’s cultural heritage.

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