Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Witness helps unravel methods in SAPA kickbacks scandal

THE cross-examination of former director of the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) Eftychios Malekkides was concluded on Friday at the Paphos Criminal Court, succeeded on the witness stand by civil engineer Charalambos Stilianides, who advised state officials on how the irregularities and kickbacks were implemented.

Accused in the ongoing trial are former municipal councillors Giorgos Michaelides with DISY, Efstathios Efstathiou with DIKO, Vasos Vassiliou with AKEL, sitting councillor Giorgos Shailis, also with AKEL, and former Paphos mayor – and now EDEK MP – Fidias Sarikas.

They are facing charges of graft, taking bribes, and money laundering, in connection with awarding SAPA waste-management projects to specific bidders. Malekkides, along with former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, are serving six-year jail terms after confessing to the charges.

Malekkides was grilled by defense lawyer Yiannakis Thoma, who claimed the former SAPA director had never met his client, Vasiliou, at the clinic where the defendant works, and that the former councillor did not receive a single cent from his involvement in SAPA.

“This is your position,” Malekkides replied.

He claimed that “it is difficult to come back after you start going downhill”, because “it is a matter of threats”.

“It takes great mental strength to reverse course,” he said.

Thoma cited contractor Loizos Iordanous’ statement to the police, in which he claimed that in 2008, Malekkides had asked him for a large sum, which he was to split with Vergas and Vasiliou.

Malekkides denied this ever happened, but Thoma suggested that the witness involved his client’s name in his statements at the suggestion of the police, as well as that in his confession he only revealed a part of his illegal dealings.

The witness denied both claims.

On conclusion of Malekkides’ cross-examination, Stilianides took the stand as the expert who assisted investigators in evaluating German company Awatech’s bid to build and operate SAPA’s biological station.

The witness said he has around 40 years of experience as a civil engineer, in England, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.

He said he was called on by the Auditor-general to assist in establishing irregularities with the contract, noting that his assessment was based on the files he was given from SAPA.

The tender, he added, contained a discrepancy of 400,000 Cyprus pounds, which is allegedly the amount councilors were offered to award the bid to Awatech.

Stilianides said the advising engineers had a duty to implement the tender terms, but instead sent a letter asking what they should do, meaning whether they should evaluate Awatech’s bid, and whether to go with the lower amount.

He wondered what the advising engineers’ concern was, noting that the error they had spotted as evaluators should have been corrected and reported.

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