Cyprus Mail

Greek national remanded in waste scandal (Updated)

GREEK national Theofanis Lolos, believed to be a key suspect in an ongoing probe into the waste management scandal, was remanded for four days on Friday by the Nicosia district court.

Lolos, who had been wanted on the strength of a European arrest warrant, is the director of Enviroplan SA, an engineering consulting firm implicated in the suspect awarding to Helector, another Greek outfit, of two contracts to build and operate waste management facilities in Paphos and Larnaca. He arrived in Cyprus on Thursday evening escorted by Cypriot police, and was taken for questioning.

Enviroplan is suspected of tailoring the tender to suit Helector’s bid, in their capacity as government consultants, hired to help with drafting the tender specifications. The court heard that police are expected to conduct an investigation at the offices of Lolos and take around 40 depositions.

The case relates to the waste management facility at Marathounda, Paphos, for which Helector won the contract in 2003, and during the course of investigations authorities discovered that Helector was overcharging the municipality, while certain officials looked the other way in exchange for skimming off the top. Subsequently, police uncovered a similar scam with the landfill site at Koshi, Larnaca, a contract also awarded to the same company, Helector. The Koshi contract was awarded in 2006.

The court heard from the police investigator that according to testimonies of Helector officials, the budget Enviroplan had estimated for the Koshi waste management plant was ‘extremely low’ taking into consideration the real volume of waste but also the location of the plant.

The location required a number of technical and infrastructure projects which would increase to the maximum construction and operational costs, the court heard, but Lolos had instead advised Helector to offer their services at €54 per ton of waste, and to justify the increased price in its report.

The court also heard that Lolos had asked Helector to conceal from the interior ministry that his company made a wrong estimation and also to refrain from mentioning that the proposed construction budget was small and that it was due to that reason that the price was increased.

The specific report was then used by Lolos to justify the company’s bid to the ministry, and winning Helector the contract.

He had also asked Helector’s CEO, according to the investigator, to sign an agreement for the environmental supervision of the Koshi unit, together with a Cyprus-based company of which he is a shareholder. Helector agreed and signed with the specific company.

Lolos, the investigator told the court, while acting as a consultant to the interior ministry, and despite knowing that the real construction and operation costs of the specific project were much higher, had concealed this fact so that a specific company was given the environmental supervision of the Koshi landfill causing the Republic of Cyprus more than €7.6m in damage.

It also emerged that the suspect had received large sums from the signing of this contract.

For the specific case, the court heard, more than €1m was paid in kickbacks, while more than 100 false invoices have been located that aimed to cover up the bribes.

Lolos denies any involvement in the investigated offenses, the court heard, and has made a number of claims which are also being investigated by the police.

The lead investigator also told the court that new testimonies have revealed more clues and implicate the indicted suspects, as well as other people who are expected to be questioned.

So far, 12 people have been indicted on bribery and corruption charges, including former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas – already serving a jail sentence for another corruption case – and sitting Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis.

The 12 are facing trial before a criminal court in Nicosia, with proceedings scheduled to begin on April 26. Despite the indictments, a police investigation is ongoing. Still wanted on a European arrest warrant is Leonidas Bobolas, the CEO of Helector.

Bobolas has been served the warrant; he is currently challenging in Greece a request by Cypriot authorities for his extradition.

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