By Angelos Anastasiou
Former Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) director Eftichios Malekkides denied on Monday that he had set up and led the ring of public officials that took bribes, but said he should be punished for taking part.
Malekkides took the witness stand for the prosecution at the Paphos Criminal Court, in a case that has already landed him six years in prison along with former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, following their confessions that they took bribes.
Accused in the ongoing trial are former municipal councillors Giorgos Michaelides with DISY, Efstathios Efstathiou with DIKO, Vasos Vassiliou with AKEL, and sitting councillor Giorgos Shailis, also with AKEL, and former Paphos mayor – and now EDEK MP – Fidias Sarikas.
Around the year 2000, Malekkides recalled, he was invited to the home of “a person no longer alive”, whom he said he did not wish to name. Present at the person’s house, he testified, was also then-mayor Sarikas.
The two told Malekkides – according to his testimony – that they knew a Greek man who represented a German company interested in bidding for a Paphos waste-management project, and that they could all have significant financial gains if the Germans’ bid were to be successful.
The unnamed host was then Paphos municipal councillor Andreas Omirou, brother of House president Yiannakis Omirou, who died in 2007.
Malekkides said this was the first time he was offered a kickback, and he was initially hesitant, but he caved after some pressure.
He also recalled a second meeting, which took place at contractor Loizos Iordanous’ home, in the presence of “the Greek” Omirou and Sarikas had mentioned – Georgios Bafas, a university professor in Athens – who told them that the German company, Awatech, would pay them 3 per cent of the project’s total cost.
Iordanous’ construction company, Malekkides noted, would go on to become Awatech’s sub-contractor for construction.
Bafas also told them that Awatech’s bid would be written up in such a way that the total project cost that would be announced – 4,400,000 Cyprus pounds – would exceed the sum total of individual sub-contracts by some 400,000 pounds, of which half would go to the company, and the rest would be split between Malekkides, Sarikas, and Omirou.
After the project was awarded and construction started, Malekkides added, the three of them travelled to Athens, where Bafas took them to a down-town bank and gave them €20,000 apiece.
Proceedings continue with Malekkides’ cross-examination by the defence.
The witness recalled asking Sarikas what they would do with euros, since the currency in Cyprus had still been the pound. The MP advised Malekkides to open a bank account in Athens, as he would be doing.
Malekkides then recounted a third meeting in Athens, after the project was completed and operational, where Bafas brought each man another €20,000.
He then spoke of a new ring, this one formed near the end of 2007 or in early 2008, after Vergas had replaced Sarikas as mayor.
This group, he said, which featured three of the five defendants, had come to an agreement with one of the contractors of the waste-management deal, for additional claims by the company, in return for a kickback of 200,000 Cyprus pounds, to be split among Vergas, Vassiliou, Efstathiou, and Michaelides.