By Angelos Anastasiou
FOLLOWING an eventful hearing on Wednesday, in which former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas collapsed during his cross-examination, he returned to the witness stand on Thursday, from where he told the court that the five defendants were not the only ones involved in the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) scandal.
Under cross-examination by defendant Giorgos Shailis’ lawyer, Vergas said his monthly earnings were €4,000 to €5,000 from rent income, €4,000 as mayor, and “some expenses” he was paid as chairman of SAPA and member of the Derogations Council.
After his election to mayor, he explained, his construction company stopped taking on projects, and the only income it brought him was from renting out flats to friends of his, as well as foreigners working in Paphos.
When the defence counsellor questioned the veracity of his claims, Vergas said the financial crime unit’s investigations into the source of his funds was “unprecedented”.
“I didn’t even know how to hide the sums I received from [SAPA] contractors, which I deposited into my bank accounts,” he said.
In court on Tuesday, Vergas acknowledged having received €0.5 million in kickbacks from contractors who won tenders for SAPA projects.
Once a warrant was issued for his arrest, he claimed, all of his bank accounts were opened.
According to Shaili’s lawyer, two companies owned by Vergas, S.Vergas Ltd and Michal Ltd, showed total deposits from 2006 through to 2014 of €1,560,860.
“The Paphos area was booming at the time,” Vergas replied, but added that he had taken the stand to testify regarding the SAPA case, not to play the role of the Inland Revenue Department.
And when the lawyer suggested that the cash deposits in Vergas’ accounts were the result of bribes from SAPA contractors, the witness replied that the SAPA scandal involves not only the five defendants, but also others, whom he is in a position to name.
Answering questions, Vergas said he had felt insecure because many people were involved in the scandal, and that’s why he was reluctant to tell the truth at first.
He had been arrested in connection with the case on November 26, 2014, but maintained his innocence until December 3, when police arrested his wife over unjustified cash deposits in her account. He resigned two days earlier, on December 5.
“My resignation letter, as well as my confession, were the result of the guilt I felt from the first day of my detention,” he said.
“I need to be punished so that I can face society and ask for a second chance.”
When he became mayor, Vergas said, stealing was not even in the back of his mind, but after the first few months, when he familiarised himself with “the system” and in the absence of scrutiny, he caved.
“I was 39, maybe I wasn’t mature enough to be mayor,” Vergas reflected.
Responding to the defence attorney’s claim that he was trying to frame Shailis, the former Paphos mayor said that, although he wishes what happened to him never to befall another family, he had sworn to tell the truth.
“I don’t want to send anyone to prison, but I have to tell the truth,” he said.
Vergas said the money he had received went towards settling his bank overdrafts and loans.