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Attorney general to join probe into helicopter pricing

Attorney General Costas Clerides has been called to sit in a meeting on Wednesday which aims to decide on action over allegations that important data was withheld from the House defence committee eight years ago causing the state to pay double the price for five helicopters.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, House President Yiannakis Omirou said he had invited the AG to attend a meeting between the chairmen of the House defence and watchdog committees.

The reason behind the move stems from claims made by Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides that eight years ago when the House defence committee was discussing a government request on purchasing five helicopters, important information was withheld from the deputies, Omirou said.

Fingers have been pointed at the former auditor general and current Central Bank governor Chrystalla Georghadji.

Back in 2008, director of technical audit Andreas Hasapopoulos had sent her a report saying the prices of the helicopters were quite high and he had reservations on the amount of the contract.

Two separate purchases were made of five AW-139 helicopters from the Italian company Agusta; three for the National Guard for €45m – double the price the government had estimated to pay – and two for the police, at €31.5m where the estimated costs were €28m.

Michaelides last week attached the report to a letter sent to the two committees and the AG.

“I want to reassure you that Parliament will in no circumstances act in a way which prevents transparency, control or complete implementation of the law,” Omirou said.

Asked to comment on the fact he was chairing the defence committee at the time, Omirou said he had been abroad and thus, not chairing the committee on the day the decision was taken.

Nevertheless, the House speaker said legislation Michaelides mentions in his letter “in this case, in light of the eight year lapse from when the decision was taken, it seems on first glance, that legislation does not apply.”

“We will examine on the basis of which other legislation the matter could be referred to the AG.”

Both the AG and the House would be investigating the matter, Omirou reassured.

AKEL’s deputy Aristos Damianou said they were “very serious” accusations which needed to be thoroughly investigated while Green’s MP Giorgos Perdikis said Georghadji “until today maintains a strange silence as to why she didn’t present this data before the committee.”

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