By George Psyllides
Publication of the statements and allegations made to police by people involved in the waste management scandal in the press this week make for depressing reading for those concerned about the ethics of public officials.
Larnaca Mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis, for example, allegedly received backhanders during meetings in the street and parking lots, according to the executive director of a company managing the Koshi waste plant while former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas acted as the middleman for payments to other officials for the Marathounda plant.
Greek national, Ioannis Kokotsis, the executive director of Helector – the company managing both plants – since 2007, named Louroudjiatis as one of the people his company paid kickbacks to, as part of the operation of the plant in Koshi.
According to daily Politis, which got hold of the statements given to police by Kokotsis and others, Louroudjiatis allegedly received a total of €138,000 in backhanders.
The Larnaca mayor is among 12 suspects held in connection with the case.
Kokotsis, who had been arrested by police initially, claimed that Louroudjiatis called him after his election in 2011 and asked for a meeting.
The meeting took place at a café in Phinikoudes towards the end of 2012 where Louroudjiatis allegedly asked for money to help find a solution to the problems the company was having at the time in receiving its dues – around €4mln.
The mayor also pledged to help the company renegotiate its deal with the state, Politis said.
Referring to documents his wife had sent him from Greece while he was in custody, Kokotsis provided police with all the details of the payments allegedly made to Louroudjiatis.
The first amount, €30,000 in cash, was paid on November 22, 2012, during a meeting in a side road on Phinikoudes.
“I met him in a side road near Phinikoudes, I gave him the envelope and he left,” Kokotsis is quoted as telling police, according to Politis.
Allegedly, Kokotsis subsequently paid Louroudjiatis €108,000 more at various dates between December 20, 2012 and May 28, 2014.
Kokotsis said he always paid in cash in an envelope and most of the meetings were in the Phinikoudes area.
Once they met in the parking lot of the Hilton hotel in Nicosia, and once in the parking lot of the Larnaca airport.
On one of those occasions, on September 26, 2013, Kokotsis allegedly met Louroudjiatis at the temporary parking space outside the departures, opened the rear door of Louroudjiatis’ Mercedes, and threw in an envelope with €5,000.
According to Politis, Kokotsis asked Louroudjiatis to go inside for a coffee but he declined saying there were security cameras.
“On all occasions the mayor was pushing to give him the kickbacks, but in the last two times, one November 21, 2013 and May 5, 2014, he was extremely pushy with repeated calls asking to meet so that I could give him the money,” Kokotsis said.
On the last occasion “I got into his Mercedes, in the passenger seat, and left the envelope in the glove compartment.”
As regards the involvement of former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, currently serving a six year jail term in a separate corruption case for receiving kickbacks in the construction of the town’s sewerage system (SAPA), Kokotsis said he demanded a higher cut, eventually receiving €646,000 in total.
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.
In his March 25 statement to police, Vergas admitted that part of the cash he was given had been used for his election campaign in 2011.
“I remember that in 2011, because I had my election campaign, which was very intense and expensive, I asked Kokotsis and he gave me 20,000 in cash for my campaign,” he said, according to Politis.
Vergas said former SAPA director Eftihios Malekkides, his cell mate after also being convicted for six years for his involvement in the sewerage scandal, advised him to ask for a 5 per cent cut on each payment to the company. That amount would be shared among Vergas, Malekkides, and two interior ministry officials, Stelios Papadopoulos, and one who has since died.
“Meetings were held in Paphos and Greece, during a working trip, at the end of 2008,” Vergas said.
The company told them that the kickback should go to him and he should pay the rest their cut.
“That is, I would get 40 per cent of the kickback and give the rest to Malekkides who would in turn keep 30 per cent and give the rest to” the other two.
The payments started at the beginning of 2009. The first payment to the company from taxpayers was around €2.8mln from which Vergas et al allegedly received 5 per cent, or €144,700.
At some point Malekkides reacted, claiming that the way Vergas had shared the cash was unfair.
Out of €150,000, Vergas was to receive €70,000 and Malekkides €30,000.
The issue was eventually settled with Vergas taking €60,000 and Malekkides €45,000.
Vergas gave investigators the piece of paper with the calculations.
The disgraced mayor detailed the sums he received but noted that he could not be certain if he left any out because he could not remember.
“For myself, as far as I can remember, I took €130,000 from Yiannis Kokotsis in kickbacks and €20,000 for my election campaign,” he told police.
Demetris Patsalides, the municipality’s chief financial officer – currently suspended for a different case – allegedly received €195,000, which he shared with Papadopoulos and the deceased man.
Vergas said he knew that one of them had the money “but I don’t know if Papadopoulos took the entire share earmarked for the interior ministry reps.”
In his statement, Vergas also said he decided to confess his involvement to get it off his chest.
“I want to say that I wanted to speak and get it all out of me since the SAPA case opened,” he said.
He claimed that he made “these mistakes” due to the bad financial condition he was in.
The cash was used to pay off various debts and to reduce the large overdrafts of his two companies.
“I have no account in any European country and no money hidden,” he said, pledging to return the money he got in the form of property he had inherited from his parents.
Meanwhile, Helector CEO Athanasios Katris, another suspect in the case, has allegedly told police that they paid former interior ministry official Giorgos Koulappis €100,000 in kickbacks, paid in three instalments.
Katris owned 10 per cent of Helector’s holding company Elactor,
Citing Katris’ statement to police, daily Politis said Vergas had asked for five per cent of the proceeds and that Koulappis came back asking for more money.
Pantis and interior ministry official Antonis Kourouzides allegedly received €15,000 each, according to Politis.
Apart from Louroudjiatis and Vergas, the authorities have charged 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; former interior ministry official Giorgos Koulappis; his son Nicos Koulappis; Jordanian civil engineer Ιmad Baqleh, an employee of the implicated company, Helector; former head of the Paphos sewerage board Eftychios Malekides; and Demetris Yiannakopoulos, former director of Helector.