Cyprus Mail

Twelve in waste scandal referred to criminal court

Larnaca Mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis (smoking) is among those found guilty

Twelve people were on Thursday referred to a criminal court where starting on April 26 they will stand trial on corruption and bribery charges in connection with an overcharging scam at the landfills at Marathounda, Paphos and Koshi, Larnaca.

The 12 are: suspended Paphos municipality chief financial officer Demetris Patsalides; interior ministry official Michalis Pantis, the person who oversaw works at the Koshi landfill; interior ministry officers Antonis Kourouzides, Stelios Papadopoulos, and Christakis Petrou, all members of the tenders committee; Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis; former interior ministry official Giorgos Koulappis; his son Nicos Koulappis; Jordanian civil engineer Ιmad Baqleh, an employee of the implicated company, Helector; former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas; former head of the Paphos sewerage board Eftychios Malekides; and Demetris Yiannakopoulos, former director of Helector.

Helector landed the contracts to build and operate the two landfills in Paphos and Larnaca, where it has emerged that the company overcharged by reporting inflated waste volumes in cahoots with interior ministry and local municipality officials.

Nicosia district court ordered the suspects released pending their trial, but they were ordered to surrender their travel documents, their names have been placed on a stop-list, and they must report twice a week to their local police station.
The suspects were also required to post bond ranging from €100,000 to €200,000.

To date the charge sheet comprises 106 counts. The charges include: conspiracy to commit a felony, active bribery of a public official, corruption of a public functionary, abuse of power, obtaining unlawful pecuniary advantage by a public functionary, fraud and abuse of trust by a public official, forgery, obtaining money under false pretences, and money laundering.

The offences span the time period between 2003 and 2015, and were committed in the districts of Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia.
Meanwhile Cypriot extradition requests are pending for two Greek nationals: Leonidas Bobolas, CEO of Helector, and Theofanis Lolos, director of ENVIROPLANT, a firm assigned by the interior ministry to oversee the waste management projects in Marathounda and Koshi.

According to the filed charge sheet, the case over the Marathounda landfill dates back to 2003, when tenders were invited. The site began operating in 2005.
During the course of investigating Marathounda, police uncovered similar practices at the waste management site at Koshi. The initial Koshi contract dates back to 2006.

Police had earlier arrested five other persons, but they were subsequently released without being charged and are likely to take the stand as state’s witnesses.
They include Ioannis Kokotsis, the executive director of Helector since 2010.

During an earlier remand hearing, the court heard that police had located 40 fake invoices at the offices of Helector for sums totalling €200,000 and given as kickbacks to former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas and to Demetris Patsalides, chief financial officer of Paphos municipality.

However it is thought the bribes to various officials could run in the millions since Helector first landed the waste management contracts.
Helector is a subsidiary of Ellaktor SA, a multinational Greek construction group.

Phedonas Phedonos, the current mayor of Paphos, estimates that the contractor may have raked in more than €30 million from overcharging.

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