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Forty fake invoices worth €200,000 found at Helector offices, Paphos court hears

Paphos court

Ioannis Kokotsis, the sixth suspect in  the case of alleged overcharging related to the Marathounda waste management plant in Paphos, was remanded for eight days on Thursday.

The suspect, a Greek national, who was arrested on Wednesday upon arrival at the Larnaca airport, is the director of Helector, the company operating the Marathounda waste management facility. Police began investigating the case last week, when it received reports against Kokotsis and five other suspects, that they were reporting higher waste volumes resulting in higher charges for local authorities and consumers.

Among the suspects are former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas who is in jail for mismanagement of funds concerning the town’s sewerage system, Demetris Patsalides, 57, the financial controller of Paphos municipality who is currently on suspension in connection with a different probe; Michalis Michael, 52, an employee of Helector; Skevi Protopapa, 50, a female employee of Helector; and Pantelitsa Protopapa, 43, the same company’s accountant. The alleged offences took place between 2008 and 2015 in Paphos and Nicosia.

During the remand hearing at the Paphos district court, Kokotsis’ lawyer, Michalis Pikis, said he did not object to the detention, but that his client denies all accusations.

The court heard during the remand hearing, that so far 40 fake invoices were located at the offices of Helector for sums totaling €200,000 and given as kickbacks to Vergas and Patsalides.

Helector’s accountant, Pantelitsa Protopapa, police told the court, who gave a voluntary testimony after she was arrested last week, admitted to having members of her own family issue fake invoices for alleged services given to Helector following orders of Kokotsis.

The police investigator told the court that more documents are expected to be uncovered detailing how the company was able to justify the money it paid as bribes in exchange for overcharging for waste management.

Paphos municipality as of April 2015 under its new mayor, refused to pay the fees to Helector after it discovered that even though it was called to pay between €28 and €31 per tonne of waste, the real cost did not exceed €10 per tonne.

It also emerged that the company was forcing sub-contractors to issue invoices for services they didn’t offer.

Police secured a testimony of an owner of a company offering earthmoving and excavation services, who claimed he was forced by managing staff of Helector on December 2013 to issue a €17,000 invoice for work he supposedly did at the Marathounda facility, despite the fact he never did that work, the court heard.

He was then asked to cash in the cheque they gave him, keep the money he was to be charged for VAT, and bring them the rest.

The man, police investigators told the court, gave the cash cleared from the cheque to Michalis Michael, who told him he would give it to Kokotsis. The sub-contractor told police he agreed to issue the fake invoice because he didn’t want to lose the company as a customer.

The court also heard that police found invoices issued to Helector, for works carried out in Demetris Patsalides’ private property in Letymbou and at his house.

Kokotsis faces among others, charges of conspiracy to commit felony and crime, bribing a civil servant, money extortion under false pretenses, abuse of power, theft, and circulation of fake documents.

Police said they expect to receive further testimonies from people in Nicosia, Larnaca and Paphos, while court orders were issued allowing a search of the suspects’ bank accounts.

 

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