By Angelos Anastasiou
Despite being held at an undisclosed location outside the Central Prisons following his imprisonment for six years, former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas is making headlines again with his request to be allowed to leave the confines of his detention on a regular basis in order to study at a private college, daily Phileleftheros reported on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Vergas, who was placed in a witness protection programme after he decided to blow the whistle on those implicated – in addition to himself – in a scam where public funds had been used to pay kickbacks to municipal officials by contractors vying for a piece of the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) construction and operation action. Ex officio as Paphos mayor, Vergas had also chaired SAPA.
But not long after the lid was blown on the case, Vergas struck a deal with state prosecutors, and exchanged his confession, as well as information on others implicated in the scam, with favourable detention terms, which he was granted in the form of being held outside the Central Prisons.
According to acting director at the Central Prisons Anna Aristotelous, in a letter sent some three weeks ago, Vergas informed authorities that he wished to enrol and study at a private university. To this end, Aristotelous was quoted as saying that he had submitted the relevant application, which has yet to be reviewed. According to the prisons’ director, Vergas will receive a response to his application some time next month.
In cases of inmates wishing to pursue academic studies, the Central Prisons can only allow distance-learning courses, with tutors being allowed to visit the studying inmates three or four times per semester to check on their progress.
But although Aristotelous was adamant that no exceptions can be made to the rule that no detainees can be allowed to leave the prisons on a regular basis to pursue their studies, Vergas’ status is something of a grey area.
“While Mr Vergas was sentenced to imprisonment, he is being held outside the Central Prisons and is guarded by police, as he has been placed in a witness protection programme,” the prisons’ boss said.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said such requests by protected witnesses are dealt with by the Attorney-general’s office, rather than the prisons’ management.
But the AG himself said the issue has not yet made it to his desk.
Vergas appears to have studied at the Democritus University of Thrace from 1985 to 1990, graduating with a civil engineering degree.
His application did not specify what line of studies the former mayor wishes to pursue.