By Angelos Anastasiou
EDEK MP Fidias Sarikas and AKEL municipal councillor Yiorgos Shailis pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, after their request to be charged and tried separately from the other three defendants in the SAPA trial was turned down by the Paphos Criminal court.
Sarikas and Shailis had asked to be charged separately from former Paphos municipal councillors Giorgos Michaelides, Efstathios Efstathiou, and Vasos Vasiliou. All five are facing charges of bribery, corruption, and conspiracy.
The three former councillors have also pleaded not guilty.
Announcing the ruling, presiding judge Angelos David said all five defendants had a common aim to personal gain, while the offences committed were of the same nature and made use of the same means and ends, thus justifying a joint trial.
David conceded that this arrangement would likely cause time delays in concluding the trial, but argued it would be premature at this time to predict the progress of the proceedings.
In addition, he said, the existence of common testimony to be given in court is not conducive to holding separate trials, noting that justice would be best served by a joint trial.
The trial hearings will resume on October 14, and the defendants were released on conditions.
The case relates to the dealings of the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA), which is headed and run by the Paphos local authorities. According to investigators’ findings, kickbacks were paid out by private contractors to SAPA members in order to secure construction and operation waste-management contracts.
The five defendants are facing a total 58 charges.
Former Paphos mayor and EDEK deputy Sarikas faces seven charges relating to Phase I of the SAPA project.
According to the prosecution, between 1999 and 2003, while serving as Paphos mayor, Sarikas received the sum of €55,000 to arrange for Awatech, a German company bidding for SAPA contracts, to secure the job of constructing and operating the Paphos biological station.
Shailis, the prosecution said, had conspired with former mayor Savvas Vergas sometime between December 2012 and January 2013 to authorize payment of a contractor’s invoices promptly, in exchange for €27,500 from the contractor.
Former DISY councilor Michaelides faces 25 charges, former DIKO councilor 12, and former AKEL councilor 6.
According to the charge sheet, Michaelides appears to have received €327,000 in kickbacks from private contractors associated with the Paphos sewerage system, while Efstathiou has been accused of having been bribed with €110,000. Vasiliou was said to have received €60,000.
Former Paphos mayor Vergas and SAPA director Eftichios Malekides are each serving a six-year jail sentence, after confessing to having abused their power and taken bribes from contractors vying for SAPA contracts.
In all, Vergas confessed to having received €250,000, while Malekides received kickbacks of €489,000.