Cyprus Mail

Net widens in waste management corruption case

Former Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis

Ten people, including Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis and interior ministry officials, were remanded in custody for five days on Monday in connection with corruption relating to waste management contracts concerning Paphos and Larnaca.

Investigators told the court that according to their estimates so far, around €1.2mln were paid in kickbacks through false invoices.

The arrests started earlier this month after it emerged that the company involved, Helector, was allegedly reporting higher waste volumes resulting in higher charges for local authorities and consumers.

Apart from Louroudjiatis, authorities have detained Paphos municipality’s financial controller Demetris Patsalides – currently suspended for an unrelated matter – Michalis Pantis, the person who oversees the operations at Koshi sanitary landfill, interior ministry officials, Antonis Kourouzides, Stelios Papadopoulos, and Christakis Petrou, who made up the tender committee, former ministry official Giorgos Koulappis and his son Nicos, civil engineer Imad Baqleh, a Jordanian national, and the former director of Helector, between 2007 and 2010, Demetris Yiannakopoulos.

Baqleh and Yiannakopoulos were arrested on Sunday evening at Larnaca airport after they travelled to Cyprus on their own volition.

Authorities were also seeking another suspect, Athanasios Katris, who was CEO of the Greek mother company between 2003 and 2012, and had been involved in the projects.

Disgraced former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas was also implicated in the case. He is also doing a six-year jail term for his role in the town’s sewerage scandal.

The court heard that investigators have tracked down almost all the false invoices received by Patsalides who is however, refusing to cooperate.

Pantis’ name was found in numerous documents concerning the Koshi project, which he coordinated, police said. He was also the man who replaced Koulappis at the ministry.

Pantis has admitted to meeting the current director of Helector, Ioannis Kokotsis, whose testimony prompted the arrests, in a Limassol hotel.

Investigators said that according to Kokotsis’ testimony, Helector was blackmailed into paying the kickbacks or the company would not be paid for their work.
Kourouzides and Papadopoulos were also members of the committee that negotiated the Koshi project since 2005 and the committee that supervised the project along with Koulappis.

Kourouzides and Papadopoulos were not answering all the questions put to them by the investigators, the court heard.

Petrou is also refusing to cooperate, despite offering some explanations initially over €3,000 he had received from Kokotsis.

Louroudjiatis allegedly received €138,000 but he denies ever meeting Kokotsis.

Kokotsis claimed he met Louroudjiatis at the town’s art gallery where the mayor had been meeting with his counterparts from the district.

Police said the gallery meeting with the mayors was confirmed by an entry in Louroudjiatis’ diairy.
Investigators also found out that Giorgos and son Nicolas Koullapis were linked to a company, which struck an agreement with Helector for Nicolas to provide medical services to the Paphos and Koshi waste management plants.

The court heard that bogus invoices issued by the company, Midoriaco, have been found.

Giorgos Koulappis was the one who recommended to the interior ministry permanent secretary to appoint Papadopoulos supervisor of the Koshi project.

Baqleh, who was director of Koshi project and negotiated on behalf of Helector, is refusing to answer any questions, police said.

Yiannakopoulos made some claims, including that the money paid to Vergas were donations.
Police said they have secured court orders to examine the bank accounts of eight suspects and were expecting to do the same for Baqleh and Yiannakopoulos and companies linked with the case.

Police said they were planning to issue a European arrest warrant for Katris.


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