Attorney-general Costas Clerides has ordered a probe into an alleged scandal after it appears a search and rescue aircraft was grossly undersold by the state for €150,000 though the buyer managed to sell it on for €1 million, it was reported on Saturday.
The case concerns the ‘Ermis’ plane which the Cabinet decided to sell in 2008, following a suggestion from the justice ministry which had said the plane used old technology and was not sufficient to cover search and rescue needs in Nicosia’s Flight Information Region (FIR), Phileleftheros reported.
The ministry had taken on board proposals from police. In September 2009, Cabinet proceeded to call an auction which ended up being cancelled as no bids were submitted.
About a year later, another auction was called but in March 2011 was cancelled yet again because the only offer was perceived to be way too low at €24,700.
In May 2012, the same procedure was called yet again with one bidder submitting an offer for €150,000, divided equally for the plane and the spare parts.
A few months later, the justice ministry’s tender board ratified the bidder following a police evaluation committee proposal, the report said.
Nevertheless, the audit service in September 2013 found the company which had bought Ermis was selling the plane for €1 million, which it successfully managed to do.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou ordered a disciplinary investigation into the matter, according to Phileleftheros, however the police officer that was looking into the case found no wrongdoing and when presented with the evidence the audit service had found, said he had not come across it.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides nevertheless did not let it go, finding a handwritten signed note among the files that said Ermis was not unsuitable for service.
As the police officer investigating the lead up to sale failed to find any wrongdoing, the AG has assigned an independent investigator to get to the bottom of the case.
Earlier this year, another investigation began into the procurement in 2007 and 2008 of five helicopters for the police and the army at a cost of around €76m.
Former auditor-general and current Central Bank governor Chrystalla Georghadji is suspected of knowing the cost of the helicopters was excessive but chose not to divulge the information to the House defence committee.
Andreas Hasapopoulos, a senior audit service official who blew the whistle, said the state had overpaid for the procurement by at least €14m.