Cyprus Mail

Paphos councillor got £27,000 for SAPA, court hears

By Elias Hazou

FROM 2006 to 2008, former Paphos municipal councillor Yiorgos Michaelides (DISY) was the beneficiary of three bank cheques worth a total of 27,000 Cyprus pounds (€45,900) from one of the companies awarded a contract for the town’s sewerage system, a criminal court heard on Thursday as the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) trial got underway.

CID officer Yiannakis Manouris, a witness for the state prosecution, testified that during the course of investigations he obtained three original bank cheques made out by Loizos Iordanou Construction to Michaelides, one of five defendants in the case.

The first, in December 2006, was for 2,000 Cyprus pounds, followed by a second in April 2007 for 20,000 pounds, and a third in April 2008 for 5,000 pounds.

Under cross-examination by Michaelides’ trial lawyer, Manouris denied the imputation that police exercised undue pressure on former SAPA director Eftichios Malekkides in extracting a confession from him.

Malekkides, a key figure in the corruption case, has taken a plea bargain, having confessed to taking bribes in exchange for giving contracts to private companies and is serving a six-year jail term, as is former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas who has confessed to the same.

According to the CID officer, he never threatened Malekkides, who was being advised by a lawyer when making his confession.

The witness was next grilled by the defence lawyer of defendant Yiorgos Shailis, a sitting AKEL councillor.

He confirmed that Shailis was under suspicion of taking bribes, both as a municipal councillor and a member of the SAPA board, from Christos Drakopoulos, director of the construction company Envitec S.A. which won one of the SAPA contracts.

The defence lawyer countered that Drakopoulos never made a statement to that effect. Responding, the witness said he would not know, as he did not personally take the statement.

The defence lawyer put it to the witness and the court that police had asked to lift Shailis’ bank confidentiality dating back to 2006. This did not make sense, the lawyer argued, since Shailis did not become a municipal councillor until 2008.

The trial began despite the continued absence of defendant Efstathios Efstathiou, formerly deputy mayor of Paphos and DIKO municipal councillor.

Efstathiou is convalescing after undergoing angioplastic surgery to fix a narrowed artery. He is expected to be ready to appear in court sometime in December, after he has been fitted with an implantable defibrillator.

The trial continues on Friday.

The defendants are Michaelides, Shailis, Eftstathiou, EDEK MP and former Paphos mayor Feidias Sarikas, and former municipal councillor Vasos Vasiliou (AKEL).

All the defendants have posted bail. They face a total of 58 counts, on dozens of charges ranging from corruption, conspiracy, abuse of authority and money laundering.

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