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Cyprus

Interior ministry reaffirms it took action over Koshi plant

Minister Socrates Hasikos

The interior ministry tried to amend the terms of the waste-management contract signed with the Helector consortium in 2006 for the plant in Koshi, Famagusta, in light of a police report that found no evidence of unlawfulness, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Helector, a Greek company that bid for the construction and 10-year operation of the Koshi plant as part of a consortium with Elliniki Technodomiki and Cybarco plc, has been found to have paid kickbacks to various ministry officials to turn a blind eye to overcharging by the company.

The Koshi waste-management plant serves the Larnaca and Famagusta districts.

However, the interior ministry added, following the confession of Helector’s director Yiannis Kokotsis that he paid bribes, it sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office seeking the immediate termination of the contract and is awaiting a response.

“The contract in question was signed on December 20, 2006, when Neoclis Sylikiotis was minister, by then-permanent undersecretary of the Interior ministry Lazaros Savvides, consortium representative Athanasios Katris, and two ministry officials – Costas Papamichael (deceased) and Georgios Koullapis (retired), as witnesses,” the statement said.

Koullapis is among the 10 individuals arrested last week over the affair.

The two technocrats – Papamichael and Koullapis – were responsible for managing the procedure, including the relevant tenders documents.

Preparatory work for the Koshi plant began in April 2003, the interior ministry said, and ended in January 2006, the statement said.

During this period, it added, ministers of the Interior were Andreas Christou and Neoclis Sylikiotis, appointed by Presidents Tassos Papadopoulos and Demetris Christofias.

The statement noted that Interior minister Socratis Hasikos, upon assuming his duties, immediately looked into a number of possible scandals, including the Koshi contract, as well as the Dromolaxia case.

An internal disciplinary probe was initiated in July 2013 and completed two months later.

On instructions from Hasikos, the ensuing report was forwarded to the “Attorney General, Auditor General, Director of the House of Representatives, State-aid Commissioner, and Larnaca mayor”.

In November 2013, the Attorney General asked police to investigate whether any criminal offences were conducted, and in June 2015 replied to the interior ministry that, following investigation, no evidence of criminal conduct was found.

It was thus that the interior ministry took it upon itself to renegotiate the terms of the existing contract, with a view to securing a fairer price to municipalities – passing on the savings to the taxpayer.

The renegotiation had sparked a prolonged public row between Hasikos and Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides, who argued that the new terms left the state open to fines by the European Union.

In an interview to the Cyprus News Agency, Hasikos said that the disagreement led to the mutual decision to leave the negotiation to the Central Variations and Claims Commission.

But after the commission failed to agree a new deal with the contractor, he added, it was decided that Hasikos should take over the renegotiation once more, and just as an amended deal was about to be signed, “the arrests started”.

And with regard to the spat with Michaelides, Hasikos said the two men’s cooperation was never interrupted.

“Things are improved through disagreements,” he said.

“This is the only way to improve a state, and the institutions themselves. There was, and there continues to be, close cooperation with Odysseas Michaelides.”

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