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Paphos mayor accuses landfill board of victimising whistle blowers

Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos

Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos has accused the chairman of the board responsible for the Paphos landfill (HYTA) for acting vindictively against individuals who blew the whistle on the overcharging scandal.

In a letter this week addressed to the ministers of agriculture and the interior, and copied to the auditor-general, Phedonos charged Andreas Chrysanthou, chairman of the HYTA board, of ordering that four employees of Helector – the company operating the landfill – be barred from entry to the landfill’s premises.

The four persons denied entry, according to an April 5 letter addressed to Helector from Chrysanthou are: Michalis Michael, Helector’s manager; Ioannis Kokotis, the company’s executive director since 2010; and employees Skevi Protopapa and Pantelista Mappoura.

When the landfill scandal broke some two months ago, the above four were charged but later released. Most or all are expected to take the stand as state’s witness in the upcoming trial into the Marathounda and Koshi landfills.

In particular, Michael is said to be a key whistleblower, and the person who passed on a great deal of information to the Paphos mayor.

Two weeks after Chrysanthou’s letter, specifically on April 21, Helector notified Michael that he was being made redundant. In the same letter, the company cited Michael’s “involvement in criminal offences related to the [landfill] projects”.

The Paphos mayor, who has built a reputation as an anti-corruption crusader, claims both Chrysanthou and Helector are striking out at whistleblowers.

Phedonos went on to slam the HYTA board for not terminating its contract with Helector, pointing out that as a result the municipalities served by the Marathounda landfill continue to be overcharged for waste processing.

He called on the ministers to take action.

Responding to Phedonos, Chrysanthou cited legal complications, as well as trade union regulations, for not yet terminating the board’s collaboration with Helector.

In the wake of the police investigation, the plan was for the HYTA board to directly take over the running of the landfill; this has not happened yet.
The HYTA governing board comprises nine members, including the mayors of the four districts and four councillors. The current operator’s contract originally ran out on July 15, 2015 and was renewed for six months by the board despite Phedonos’ opposition.

Phedonos refused to pay for the original six-month extension because of previous allegations of corruption. He also argued that the board was paying too much for the service.

Phedonos and Chrysanthou have long been at loggerheads. In late January, on a Sunday, the mayor ordered garbage trucks to dump their loads outside the entrance of the landfill. Phedonos claimed his action was prompted by the facility’s new policy not to accept trucks on Sundays.

Chrysanthou hit back, saying that during the previous 10 years the landfill took in trucks on Sundays only as a courtesy to the municipality.

“The mayor has lost his mind and is becoming dangerous for Paphos,” Chrysanthou told the Cyprus Mail at the time.

The case, to be tried by the Nicosia Criminal Court, concerns accusations that taxpayers had been overcharged by Helector, which used the cash to pay kickbacks to state and local authority officials.

The case will be heard at the Nicosia criminal court on June 15. The attorney-general’s office has indicted 12 persons, and plans to add another three individuals to the charge sheet.

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