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 11 by the Assizes Court on Wednesday.
The continuance request was submitted by the defence lawyers but the court said this was the third and final one that would be granted.
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.
Defence lawyers for both Vergas and Malekkides told the court that their clients were ready to plead guilty on all charges.
Costas Efstathiou, Makekkides’ lawyer, told the judge that his client wanted more time to come to a settlement with the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS) on how much money he would have to pay back to the state. The lawyer argued that if his client admitted his guilt he would be jailed until sentencing, which would make it much harder for him to settle his affairs with the state.
Efstathtiou’s claims were supported by prosecutors Christina Vrachimi and Andreas Aristidou, who verified that the defendant was indeed cooperating with MOKAS.
Vergas’s lawyer Giorgos Georgiou told the court that since he faces the same charges as Malekkides, it would be best if they both pleaded together.
The prosecutor informed the judge that the former mayor had agreed to plead guilty.
Defence lawyers for Giorgos Michaelides, asked for a continuance claiming that they received a 1000-page evidence report on Tuesday and didn’t have time to go through it.
Michaelides’ lawyers were not the only ones who had problems with the body of evidence. Fofo Georgiadou and Yiannakis Thoma, defence lawyers for Vasos Vasiliou also claimed the same thing and asked the judge for a continuance.
Costas Shiailis and Alexandros Alexandrou, representing Giorgos Shialis argued the same.
The Paphos Assize Court comprises president Dora Socratous, Senior District Judge Lia Markou, and District Assize Court judge Michalis Droushiotis.
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, among others.