Cyprus Mail

CyTA jailbird still on salary

Despite being incarcerated since December 2014, Orestis Vassiliou still receives his CyTA salary

By Angelos Anastasiou

ALTHOUGH Orestis Vasiliou, the former director of Cytavision – the cable TV arm of semi-state telecoms company CyTA – has been incarcerated since December 2014 after being convicted to nine years for his role in the ‘Dromolaxia’ scandal, he was paid his January salary and may yet continue to do so until the courts issue a final ruling on his appeal, sources have told the Cyprus Mail.

According to a CyTA insider, the organisation’s legal advisors have been looking into whether regulations mandate that an individual convicted of a crime is immediately terminated or suspended until a final decision is made on the appeal.

Pending legal advice, CyTA’s management has decided to forego discontinuing Vasiliou’s salary payments for fear of infringing on his rights, thus leaving the organisation open to a future lawsuit.

But the fact that legal advisors are looking for the answer more than a month after the verdict notwithstanding, there is also a question of why the issue had not been addressed in the ten months since the case went to trial last March.

Since Vasiliou was originally remanded as part of initial police investigations into the case, he has been paid half his salary, as per standard suspension procedure relating to public servants.

Along with four others, Vasiliou was found guilty on December 31 of taking bribes, extortion and legalising ill-gotten gains, in connection with a case of fraud involving a decision for CyTA’s employees’ pension fund to invest millions in a construction project in Dromolaxia, near Larnaca, and sentenced to nine years in prison.

“A cheque was issued for Vasiliou’s January salary,” the source from CyTA said. “But for all we know at this point, the money may end up with [money-laundering combating unit] MOKAS.”

This is because, in its ruling, the court ordered that Vasiliou’s assets to the tune of €200,000 – taken as bribes – are seized by the state.

The state telecoms company issued a brief statement yesterday, saying it was following regulations with regard to Vasiliou’s case.

“As regards Orestis Vasiliou’s conviction by the Assize Court, CyTA announces that it has initiated disciplinary procedures, as stipulated by staff regulations, in order to settle all outstanding issues,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, a similar blunder relating to the same case was noted by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides in his 2013 annual report on CyTA.

One of the accused, CyTA’s marketing director Yiannis Souroullas – eventually acquitted – was suspended in October 2013, following his remand in connection with the Dromolaxia case.

Per regulations, following his suspension CyTA’s board should have launched a disciplinary probe against him within a month, otherwise he would be fully reinstated.

Instead, no probe was launched, but neither was Souroullas allowed to return to his job, prompting him to tender his resignation.

But because no disciplinary probe had been pending, he was allowed to claim his full pension rights, which he would not have been entitled to had he been indicted, pending the outcome of the probe.

Adding insult to injury, in February 2014, Souroullas sought legal redress, asking the court to reverse his resignation, claiming it was submitted under psychological duress caused by CyTA’s refusal to allow him to return to his post after his month-long suspension.

Michaelides concluded that CyTA’s board may have fumbled the handling of the case and failed to act in the company’s best interest.

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