Cyprus Mail

Seven found guilty in lucrative Paralimni sunbed scam

Seven Paralimni municipality workers were found guilty by a court in Larnaca on Wednesday of pocketing tens of thousands of euros in takings for sunbeds and umbrellas in the summer of 2012.

Judge Thomas Thoma found them guilty of multiple charges, 100 in total, concerning theft by an employee, deceit, abuse of trust, keeping false accounts and money laundering.

Five defendants were found not guilty and one was never charged as he left the country for Sweden in 2012.

The case came to light from checks made to the software accounting system used to keep track of sunbed and umbrella rentals of the municipality after huge holes appeared in the expected takings.

The case was reported to police at the beginning of July 2012 and investigations kicked-off immediately. It was found that in the period from May 21 to August 14 of that year the municipality was ripped-off a total of €96,000.

The employees were able to fiddle with the electronic ticketing machines and pocket the takings. When a massive gap in revenue from the municipal-controlled beaches broke all records, the local council decided to take their suspicions to the police who examined electronic data stored in the machines, comparing them with the municipality’s computers. The examinations came up with a number of irregularities

The most popular method used was the re-issuing of receipts. Tourists would pay for their sunbed and umbrella and the workers would reprint the previous customer’s receipt. Other methods used included handing out handwritten or blank receipts.

The suspects were caught after the municipality decided to alter its checking system, making the workers report on a monthly instead of a daily basis. This made it harder for workers to keep check of what they were doing and they started handing over different amounts to those registered on the machines’ software system.

Police, who also worked undercover and posed as beachgoers to investigate, told the court the suspects had also issued blank or handwritten receipts. Often they didn’t even issue a receipt.

On being arrested, police found €25,926.18 in cash on them in total, with one suspect having around €10,000 in his pocket.

Among the witnesses was mayor of Paralimni Theodore Pyrillis whose mandate had just begun in 2012. The court described his testimony as sincere, objective and impartial.

The names and amounts appropriated by the guilty men are as follows: Manolis Motis, 64, €27,457, Christakis Tameno, 51, €32,377, Costas Philippou, 37, €17,865, Neophitos Neophitou, 48, €16,930, Christakis Pericli, 51, €26,957, Christakis Nicholaou, 55, €20,775 and Andreas Sophocles, 58, €15,292.

The men were taken to Nicosia Central Prisons where they will be held until they are back in court on July 13 for mitigation and sentencing.

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