Attorney-general (AG) Costas Clerides on Monday called on any member of the public to come forth with information on the Marathounda and Koshi landfill scandals, provided however that their evidence can be documented.
The AG was asked to weigh in on the political maelstrom raging since the weekend, after daily Politis – piggybacking on statements made by Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos – ran a story claiming that the late former President Tassos Papadopoulos and top aides had held three meetings with Greek businessman Georgios Bobolas, in Athens and at Strakka, the Papadopoulos family’s ranch outside Nicosia.
Bobolas is the father of Leonidas Bobolas, CEO of contractors Helector.
Leonidas Bobolas is currently fighting an arrest warrant issued by Cypriot authorities in connection with the scandal involving two waste management facilities in Paphos and Larnaca, which has so far seen 12 suspects indicted.
Asked by the Cyprus News Agency to comment on the Paphos mayor’s latest allegations implicating the former president, the AG said anyone with evidence on the case should come forward.
“I expect that Mr Phedonos or anyone else in possession of evidence on the case should provide this evidence, in detail and in a documented fashion, in a deposition to investigators, and they should rest assured that their information shall be investigated,” he said.
But the AG sidestepped the original question put to him, which was whether Phedonos has already provided this information to authorities.
Phedonos’ latest broadsides implicated not only Papadopoulos, but also top aides, specifically then-Presidential Commissioner Polakis Sarris and Chrysis Pantelides, Papadopoulos’ right-hand man.
Both have since categorically denied ever having attended meetings where the waste management contracts in Cyprus were discussed with the Bobolas family.
In a statement, Sarris – the person evidently alluded to by Phedonos when referring to a well-known Cypriot lawyer who held a senior public post at the time – said he only once briefly met with Leonidas Bobolas during a social function in London, and that they merely exchanged pleasantries.
During his time in office, Sarris added, he was unaware of any ties between Tassos Papadopoulos or any member of the family and Bobolas or Helector.
Likewise Chrysis Pantelides, currently executive director of the Tassos Papadopoulos Research Centre, spoke of unsubstantiated mudslinging hurled at the late former president.
Pantelides did confirm that Papadopoulos and Georgios Bobolas were present at a dinner in Athens in November 2007, but said the function was part of a series of meeting Papadopoulos had with Greek publishers and that the sole topic discussed on that occasion was the Cyprus problem and the upcoming (2008) presidential elections in Cyprus.
“All the rest about supposed secret or other such dinners and meetings in Cyprus or Greece are merely mudslinging, fairy tales and slander, which aim to damage the late Tassos Papadopoulos, who obviously is still irritating some people from the grave,” Pantelides countered.
But Politis, digging up its own archives, reported that Papadopoulos’ visit in question to Athens took place in January 2008, not 2007.
The controversy shifted to social media, with DIKO leader Nicholas Papadopoulos – son of the late former president – speaking of a vile and malicious campaign to smear his father.
Papadopoulos and DISY chief Averof Neophytou jousted on Twitter, after the former challenged the latter to say whether he espoused the “sleaze” hurled by the Paphos mayor, who is a member of the DISY party.
Going on the offensive, Papadopoulos suggested the attacks on his late father emanated from the fact that certain quarters have never forgotten or forgiven his father’s stance on the 2004 Annan Plan.
Meanwhile Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos attributed “political responsibility” for the Koshi affair to Papadopoulos and his successor Demetris Christofias.
On Papadopoulos,Hasikos said he did not see anything untoward with presidents having meetings with businessmen.
“I disagree with some persons’ allegations that the late Tassos Papadopoulos may be linked to bribes. But let me reiterate that, yes, he [Papadopoulos] did have political responsibility, as did the next president, Mr Christofias.”
“The entire handling of the issue shows clearly that on the part of those in government there was inadequate oversight, negligence – and that is all – in relation to the terms of the tender and the tender notices.”
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, DISY’s Neophytou said his party does not adopt any innuendo, sleaze or speculation, wherever it may come from.
“We live in a time of justified outrage in society, amid revelations of scandals and calls to punish the guilty parties. This is understandable and absolutely warranted,” Neophytou said.
“But we should not reach the point of smearing reputations by holding popular courts based on speculation, with statements, with conjecture. We must not abandon the presumption of innocence and instead resort to mudslinging and the presumption of guilt. Self-restraint is required of everyone, particularly when speculation concerns persons who are deceased.”
Also on Monday the controversy took another twist with AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou telling Politis’ radio station he had information that authorities here were playing dirty tricks in order to secure convictions in the landfill case, which is going to trial next month.
According to Kyprianou, he learned that a person “with access to the police investigations” had approached Leonidas Bobolas’ brother in Greece and asked him to intercede so that Bobolas cooperates with Cypriot authorities.
This person, said Kyprianou, hinted that if Bobolas agreed to implicate AKEL cadres in the affair, he would be turned state’s witness and avoid prosecution.
The AKEL leader said he found out about this from a Greek politician – whom he did not name – whom he personally spoke to during a recent trip to Athens. But, he claimed, he does not know the person who had allegedly made the overtures to Bobolas’ brother.
Apparently, the same politician had warned Kyprianou and his party “to be very careful”.
Politis meantime revealed more background into the landfill scam, reporting that the waste-management contracts had been under scrutiny since at least 2007.
The initial contract for the Koshi facility was signed in 2006; the tenders’ process began in 2003.
According to the paper, the matter was discussed at three sessions of the House watchdog committee, after then Auditor-general Chrystalla Chrystalla Georghadji had called into question the robustness of the tender.
Attending two of these committee sessions, held on March 20 and 27, 2007 – the third took place on May 29, 2012 – were Theofanis Lolos and Giorgos Koullapis.
Lolos, a Greek national, is currently wanted on a European arrest warrant. His role is being investigated as he was the director of ENVIROPLAN SA, consultants and engineers then assigned by the interior ministry to oversee the waste management projects in both Koshi and Marathounda.
Koullapis, a former interior ministry official, is among the 12 persons so far charged in the case.
At the time it emerged that the tender was tailored to suit Helector’s bid. Among other things, the tender documents were made available only in the Greek language. ENVIROPLAN also favoured the mechanical biological treatment (MBT) method, and this happened to be the system used by Helector in its waste processing and management projects.