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Sarikas immunity hearing adjourned (Update)

Fidias Sarikas (right) wi

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to postpone its ruling on lifting the parliamentary immunity of EDEK MP Fidias Sarikas for February 9.

The former Paphos Mayor is suspected of being involved in the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) scandal.

His name came up after Paphos sewerage board director Eftychios Malekkides – himself facing trial on corruption charges – fingered Sarikas as having taken bribes during construction of the first phase of the sewerage project.

According to Malekkides, Sarikas took kickbacks from a representative of a German company which had won the contract to build a sewerage treatment plant.

Giorgos Bafas, a greek academic who supposedly acted as an representative for the German company, is currently in custody regarding the case. Bafas surrendered last week, after Cyprus police issued an international arrest warrant.

Back in December, when Sarikas was first implicated in the case, the MP himself sent two letters to the Attorney-general giving his consent to the lifting of his immunity so that he could be questioned by police in a bid to clear his name.

However, last month when it came to the crunch at the first Supreme Court hearing, Sarikas did a U-turn, and objected to the move. His lawyers challenged the request filed by the Attorney-general’s office for lifting the immunity.

The top court allowed the Attorney-general time to submit additional evidence arguing for lifting the MP’s immunity as well as time to Sarikas’ lawyers to file an objection to the motion.

Chris Triantafyllides, one of Sarikas’ defence team, told reporters that the evidence presented to the court was insufficient to warrant lifting the immunity.

Moreover, Triantafyllides said, his client does not feel there was anything on which he ought to give explanations. Should something come up at a later date, then Sarikas would review his position, the lawyer said.

Six people, including Malekkides and former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, are currently facing trial on charges ranging from conspiracy to committing a felony, conspiracy to defraud, bribing a state official, extortion, abusing authority, corruption, to acquiring property by illegal means in the sewerage board scandal. The specific charges relate to a subsequent phase of the sewerage construction project, where kickbacks allegedly resulted in massively inflating the end-cost to taxpayers.

Under the constitution, only the President of the Republic and MPs enjoy immunity. Even if authorities have an airtight case, their hands are tied as they cannot question or prosecute unless immunity has first been lifted, following a ruling by the Supreme Court.

There have been two other cases when an MP has lost his immunity: Lefkios Rodosthenous in 1963 (extortion charges) and Georgios Georgiou in 1985 (forgery-related charges). Both were prosecuted, tried, found guilty and handed prison sentences.

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