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Four remanded in alleged Paphos waste scam

File photo

An eight day remand order was handed to four individuals on Saturday, suspected of conspiring to commit a crime and fraud, as well as bribing a public official over the Marathounda waste disposal unit.

Along with a fifth suspect police are still on the hunt for, and former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, who is already incarcerated, the six are suspected of reporting higher waste volumes consequentially resulting in higher charges for local authorities and consumers.

After his arrest warrant was issued, Vergas was taken for questioning and is so far refusing to cooperate, the Cyprus News Agency reported.

Paphos municipality financial controller, aged 57, who was  suspended from his post in a separate case, the chief of waste management company Helector, 52, and two female company employees aged 50 and 43 were on Saturday taken before Paphos district court.

Granting the eight day remand, the judge told police to utilise every minute of the time they had for their investigation.

The lead investigator told the court the alleged offences took place between 2008 and 2015 in Paphos and Nicosia.

Helector, managing the site since 2005 on a 10-year contract, had the agreement extended but operated since January 15 this year without any contract, court heard.

The company, of Greek interests belongs to a group of companies ran by a well known Greek businessman –  the suspect police are on the hunt for.

A statement given to police said Vergas –who used to be the chairman of the Paphos sewerage board, along with the 57-year-old financial controller had conspired with Helector “committing offences, embezzlement, and squandering public money through operating a criminal group.”

The statement went on to say Paphos municipality recently decided not to pay its dues to Helector after it realised the prices they were called to pay ranged from €28 to €31 per tonne of waste whereas the real cost did not exceed €10 per tonne.

Speaking to state radio, current Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos said the company was making some €40 million in profit and their payroll for briberies included state officials.

The lead investigator went on to tell court an extension for the landfill site was assigned directly to Helector in 2011 for €1.7 million without adhering to the tender process, dealings arranged between Vergas and the financial controller.

The work cost the company €600,000.

The 52-year-old suspect admitted Helector was assigned the project without a tender process and made a clear profit of about €1m.

Police have already searched the offices of the waste disposal unit in Marathounda, Helector offices and the homes of all suspects.

Receipt blocks were taken from the 52-year-old suspect’s home and invoices, computers, and documents were seized from the Helector offices.

The financial controller claims he has nothing to do with the case and all he did was pay the invoices sent from the waste management unit to Paphos municipality.

The 50-year-old employee also denies any connection to the case. She is the secretary of the suspect police are still on the hunt for.

The 43-year-old woman however admitted she too issued “false invoices on the instructions of the wanted man”, the court heard.

Between 2010 and 2011, under the same orders, they issued various cheques for various names, including the 50-year-old suspect for varying sums of money, and their books showed a deficit.

The court rejected objections to the remand order over claims eight days was too long and not justified.

Police are expected to take another 75 statements and their investigations span from Nicosia, Larnaca and Paphos.

Not ruling out the possibility of more arrests, police are also waiting for a court order granting access to bank data of all the suspects.

 



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