By Constantinos Psillides
FORMER Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas’ fall from grace started last September, after a suspicious land-zoning case involving construction company Aristo Developers, came to light.
While the mayor wasn’t directly involved in the case initially, police later discovered that Vergas’ close associate Maria Solomonidou sent threatening texts to people who brought the case to light.
A forensic study carried out by UK experts showed that Vergas had spoken to Solomonidou seconds before she sent the threatening texts and that they were within close vicinity of each other when the texts were sent.
Further investigation of municipality affairs revealed more alleged shady dealings involving the former mayor, including granting a tax exemption for a charity concert whose organisers kept the money, and building a personal swimming pool on public land next to his home.
Vergas was first arrested on October 10.
On October 23, he issued a statement saying that he would not resign but would abstain from his duties pending the outcome of the case.
On November 4, he gave a much anticipated press conference where he insisted he was innocent of all accusations and that he didn’t intend to resign because doing so “would show that I was guilty.”
On November 27, Vergas along with Sewerage Board director Eftychios Malekkides and former DISY municipal councillor Giorgos Michaelides first appeared in court in relation with the SAPA scandal. A week later, on December 2, Vergas’ pledge to keep hold of the municipality’s reins came to an end. In a letter addressed to Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, while in custody, Vergas stepped down as mayor but still maintained that he was innocent.
That also didn’t last long.
On December 5, police arrested his wife Sofia, after Greek businessman Christos Drakopoulos told police that he had deposited €85,000 in her bank account so that his company Envitec could secure a contract to build a waste management plant. The very next day, Vergas requested a meeting with police investigators and admitted to all charges. His statement, along with that of Malekkides, who cooperated with authorities three weeks after Vergas did, allowed the legal services to build a case against the municipal councillors.