By Elias Hazou
Prominent developer Theodoros Aristodemou, his wife, and two others, were acquitted on Tuesday in connection with a suspicious land development project in Paphos.
Aristodemou, wife Roulla, company draftsman Christos Solomonides, and former municipal engineer Savvas Savva had been charged in relation with the demarcation of land in Skali.
Speaking with journalists later, a jubilant Aristodemou hinted that, despite the acquittal, he would have the last word.
The court had heard that the company had been granted a permit for 177 plots but this was allegedly falsified later by replacing the approved architectural plans with amended ones, which ceded the company an additional area of 2,730 square metres for development at the expense of the legally mandated green space and road network.
The land was estimated to be worth around €1.1m.
In its verdict, the Paphos criminal court cleared the defendants of all charges. These included forgery, circulation of a forged document, conspiracy, abuse of authority, and obtaining property under false pretences.
Reading out the ruling – which itself lasted three hours – presiding judge Dora Sokratous said the state prosecutors had failed to prove intent to defraud the public beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court concluded that, despite “certain irregularities” in the paperwork and the manner it was compiled, there was no deliberate intent on the part of the accused to secure a town planning permit under false pretences or to conceal the true dimensions of the green area within the land in question.
“We have heard several witnesses testify and analyse situations, and their sincerity was not questioned,” Socratous noted.
“The difficulty in this case lay in the interpretation of the motives behind the recorded facts of the case. The witnesses relayed the events as they understood them.”
The court noted that during the initial police investigation, a deposition by a Paphos municipality technician had pointed to discrepancies in the company’s architectural blueprints as these were submitted to the municipality.
It subsequently emerged during the trial that the police investigators had incorrectly transcribed the numbers cited by the technician.
The technician, Savoulla Kouspou, took the stand for the prosecution. During the end-stage of the trial, the state prosecutor had asked the court to strike her testimony from the record.
The court took note of this: “It cannot be that any witness for the prosecution expressing views that lend credence to the account of the defence should be declared untruthful.”
On the alleged bribery of former municipal engineer Savvas Savva by Aristodemou, the court likewise said this was not proven.
According to police findings, Aristodemou cashed a cheque for €20,000 in €500 notes in August 2010.
Two days later, Savva was found to have deposited the same amount, in notes of identical denomination, to his own bank account.
The court said that although the proximity of the two dates “may create suspicion, it is not sufficient, based on the defendants’ testimony, to lead to a certainty of guilty.”
Savva, who was facing charges of corruption, claimed the money had come from his aunt and uncle.
Speaking to the media later, Aristodemou hailed the decision, saying that justice had been served.
The developer spoke of his trials and tribulations, contending that a conspiracy had been concocted to ruin him, his family and his company.
“We hope that…we are the last victims of such organised endeavours. It is a pity for innocent people to be pilloried and destroyed,” said Aristodemou.
“The injuries that remain, despite today’s ruling, are too great, and I am not sure how these injuries can be healed,” he added.
“All that we ask for is that no more people are victimised through similar persecutions and machinations. This is why, and not for vindictive reasons, that we shall look into moving legally against those who deliberately participated in committing this crime.”