Cyprus Mail

Details emerge of suspected Ayia Napa shooter’s shady past (Updated)

Aleks Burrelli

Police said on Monday that intense investigations both on the island and abroad were continuing into the contract killing of Ayia Napa businessman Phanos Kalopsidiotis and three others last Thursday.

“We have an open line to Interpol on this case,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides told the Cyprus Mail on Monday. “Parallel to the arrest warrant for [Aleks] Burrelli by the Cyprus police an international ‘red notice’ has been issued.”

One of Kalopsidiotis’ bodyguards who was injured in the shooting, and was only well enough to speak to police on Monday, said that there were three shooters who opened fire in the restaurant, not two as originally thought. Police would not confirm last night media reports that two more arrest warrants had been issued.

No further details have emerged about this third shooter, but an international arrest warrant has been issued for the Albanian national, Aleks Burrelli, 48, believed to be injured, for whom an international warrant has been issued in connection with the murder at the Stone Garden restaurant. Kalopsidiotis, a police officer, his wife and another  suspected shooter, Jani Vogli, were all killed.

Albanian authorities have said Burrelli, who lived in Greece, and fellow national Vogli had travelled to Istanbul from Tirana and entered northern Cyprus on May 8.

Greek authorities say they cancelled Burrelli’s Schengen visa due to his involvement in criminal activities. Questions are being asked as to how two travelling alone, if they crossed through checkpoints from the north, managed to slip through, especially as one had a cancelled visa, without raising suspicions as Albanians rarely appear in Cyprus as tourists.

The police are making enquiries to find out where they stayed after arriving on the island, what they did for the period before the killings, what their movements were and most importantly, who they had contact with.

Burrelli was known to the Greek police and had an extensive rap sheet. He emigrated to Greece at a young age and lived in the rough Keratsini area of the port city of Piraeus where he attended gymnasium. In 2006 he was arrested in Piraeus with a kilo of cocaine in his possession for which he was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment of which he served three years following an appeal.

In 2013 he was apprehended following a car chase in which he fired shots at police who had tried to stop the car he and a Greek national were traveling in while investigating a case of stolen gold coins. Their car eventually came to a standstill after overturning at high speed.

The original charge of attempted murder was reduced to the misdemeanour offence of unnecessary discharge of a firearm for which he received a 12-month sentence.

Greek police are looking for people the Albanian associated with in order to ascertain how he was approached by the Cypriot instigators of the contract killings.

Locally, the police are busy studying closed circuit camera footage of the moments leading to and following the killings to throw some light on the escape route used as well as to confirm if any other people, perhaps a getaway driver were involved.

Ballistic reports from the scene due to be completed by Monday should sort out who fired what and at who and clear up the question of whether any of the two police pistols found were used as well as if any of the used ammunition came from weapons not accounted for.

Investigations on Sunday into reported sightings of Burrelli in abandoned houses near the University of Cyprus in Aglangia proved fruitless.

The condition of MMAD (rapid reaction force) member Giorgos Charalambous who was shot at the scene is said to be improving as is that of one of Kalopsidiotis’ bodyguards who was also injured.

Charalambous is still unable to make a statement, but CyBC reported last night that the bodyguard had told police that there were three shooters.

Charalambous, who was at the scene with his service pistol while off duty, is in stable condition in Nicosia General Hospital, after undergoing surgery for gunshot wounds in the arm, chest, neck and leg. He managed to fire back at the gunmen, but it is not yet clear whether it was his bullet that killed the Albanian.

The car believed to have been used for the hit that was found in Ayia Napa burning, with a Kalashnikov in it, just after the incident has now been traced and identified as one reported stolen on June 20 in Nicosia.

The killings have raised questions as to why two policemen should be openly socialising with Kalopsidiotis and carrying arms while off-duty.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicholaou replied to opposition AKEL member of parliament Aristos Damianou description of him as ignorant and afraid of taking responsibility saying “Nobody is hiding and nobody disclaiming responsibility, but it would be very premature and unnecessary to make any comment before the completion of the necessary investigations of such a serious matter.”

Kalopsidiotis along with police officer Elias Hadjiefthimiou, 46, his wife Skevi, 39 and the couple’s two children were having dinner when two or three gunmen stormed The Stone Garden restaurant, said to have been owned by the businessman, spraying bullets with pistols and automatic weapons. Three of Kalopsidiotis’ bodyguards were eating at an adjacent table. Hadjiefthimiou served at the crime intelligence gathering and processing department. Charalambous is reportedly Kalopsidiotis’ close family friend.

The gunmen killed Kalopsidiotis and the couple, before one of them was shot dead. The couple’s children, 13 and 14, escaped without injury.

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