Former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas will spend his second night in the central prisons on Wednesday after his transfer from outside detention quarters on Tuesday evening as he no longer qualifies for the witness protection programme, sources said on Wednesday.
Vergas, who was found guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit a felony, corruption and bribery, in connection with the Paphos Sewerage Board (SAPA) scandal, had expressed fears for his life after he was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence, in February 2015, and had been, since then, serving his time in separate detention quarters, outside the central prisons.
The former mayor, was placed in a witness protection programme after he struck a deal with state prosecutors and exchanged his confession, as well as information on others implicated in the scam, with favourable detention terms, which he was granted in the form of being held outside the central prisons.
But Vergas is also among 12 persons facing trial in connection with a case involving the waste management facility at Marathounda, in Paphos.
On Tuesday it was announced that Vergas was to be transferred to the central prisons, following a decision by Attorney-general Costas Clerides, on the suggestion of the police.
According to the law, a witness is placed in the protection programme, if he or she possesses information that is crucial for a case, and if his or her life might be in danger should they reveal this information, or their identity is revealed.
The decision is taken by the attorney-general, who takes into consideration the nature of the risk, the significance of the testimony or assistance of the witness, the importance of the case, the cost of the protection to be provided, but also any other factor which the AG deems appropriate.
“In Vergas’ case, the conditions for which he was placed under the witness protection programme, no longer apply,” a source told the Cyprus Mail, without elaborating. The decision to place a witness in the protection programme may be reviewed over time, the source said.
Commenting on whether Vergas will be held in a separate wing from those he implicated in the SAPA case, the source said that he would have the same treatment as the rest of the prisoners.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, had said when the decision was taken for Vergas to be placed in the witness protection programme that the former mayor’s life would be in no danger should he serve his time in the central prisons.
The reasons of his admittance to the protection programme, he had said, rested with the AG and they had nothing to do with the level of security in the central prisons.
On the contrary, Nicolaou had said adversaries who are involved in serious crimes already co-exist in the prison but this does not create any problems and does not jeopardise the life of any convict.