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 Sixth suspect in alleged waste scam due in court  

IOANNIS Kokotsis, the director of Helector, the company operating the Marathounda waste management facility in Paphos, is due in court on Thursday.

Kokotsis was arrested on Wednesday on arrival at Larnaca airport in connection with an alleged overcharging scam.

The Greek national, against whom a European arrest warrant was issued, is the sixth suspect to be arrested in connection with the same case. He arrived in Cyprus at around noon and he was met by police officers. He was being questioned on Wednesday and is to appear before the Paphos district court on Thursday for a remand hearing.

The other four currently in police custody are Demetris Patsalides, 57, the financial comptroller 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.

Former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, already serving a jail term for the Paphos sewerage board scandal, is the fifth person arrested. Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that Vergas has been questioned in connection with the case and is back in his detention quarters.

The six are suspected of reporting higher waste volumes consequentially resulting in higher charges for local authorities and consumers. They face charges of embezzlement, squandering public monies, corruption and bribery. The alleged offences took place between 2008 and 2015 in Paphos and Nicosia. Protopapa, Helector’s accountant, has already admitted to issuing false invoices on Kokotsis’ instructions.

The story came to the fore in April 2015, shortly after Phedonas Phedonos was elected as the new Paphos mayor. His municipality has refused to pay the fees to Helector since, after it was deemed the rates charged were excessive and the contract suspect. The prices Paphos municipality was called to pay ranged from €28 to €31 per tonne of waste whereas the real cost did not exceed €10 per tonne.

Last week, authorities received a relevant complaint against the suspects, that they were reporting higher waste volumes resulting in higher charges for local authorities and consumers.

Helector Cyprus Ltd, was managing the Marathounda site since 2005 on a 10-year contract, had the agreement extended but has operated since January 15 this year without any contract. Helector is a subsidiary of Ellaktor S.A., a listed Greek company.

The court head last week during the suspects’ remand hearing, that 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.

Meanwhile, the Central committee on changes and claims (KEAA) announced on Wednesday it would recall its decision to extend by three-years the existing contract as regards the Koshi waste management plant, which is also being managed by Helector.

The contract concerning Koshi solid waste management plant, that serves the Larnaca and Famagusta districts, came under scrutiny by Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos last year. Following his initiative, the fee for the Koshi plant was renegotiated last year from €39 per tonne of waste, down from €75 previously. The signing of a new contract has been pending though.

During its Wednesday meeting, in the presence of Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, KEEA decided that they would discuss further the issue on March 15, with the Legal Services.

Until then, KEEA suggested to the management committee of the Koshi waste plant, not to proceed with any payments to the managing company pending, or current.

Hasikos said on Monday that when he took over the interior ministry portfolio he ordered an administrative probe into the Koshi contract, which found possible criminal and disciplinary offences, including by government officials and employees.

It also turns out that Helector was a consultant for the government at the time, and had a say in the tender specifications for the Koshi contract – the very same contract which it subsequently landed.


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