Larnaca’s municipal secretary on Tuesday denied corruption charges in relation with a €35,000 payment made by a businessman after it had been determined that his restaurant violated the building code.
Lefteris Empedoclis, 55, faces three charges, theft, obtaining money under false pretences, and acquiring the €35,000 knowing they were the proceeds from the commission of predicate offences.
Empedoclis denied all charges and the court adjourned until October 17.
The defendant was released on a €50,000 bail. He has surrendered all his travel documents and must report to the police three times a week.
Empedoclis was arrested in May after Theodosis Chrysostomou, a businessman who owns a restaurant in the Mackenzie beach area in Larnaca, told police that due to irregularities found at his establishment, he paid the municipal secretary €35,000 in cash to make sure the problem was settled.
The money was never received by the municipality and no procedures were initiated to correct the irregularities since September 2015 when Chrysostomou paid the money.
At the time of the purchase, eight years ago, the restaurant had a steel pergola, which covered the entire front of the building. The area was used as an extension of the restaurant and Chrysostomou used the pergola as a veranda for the first floor of the building.
According to the existing legislation, all additions to the restaurant are illegal, while Chrysostomou believed the expansion of the restaurant was legal because he was paying an amount to the management committee of the building as rent for the use of public spaces.
When he learned the extension was illegal, Chrysostomou arranged a meeting with the Larnaca mayor where Empedoclis was also present.
At the meeting, it was suggested that Chrysostomou pay a fine of € 15,000, but he said he needed to think it over. A few days later the municipal official told him the fine was €35,000.
Chrysostomou produced evidence in the form of bank statements that he withdrew the money on September 8, 2015. He allegedly handed it over to the suspect but did not get a receipt.
Earlier in May, Chrysostomou was informed that he had to appear in court in connection with the case. When he asked Empedoclis what would happen he reportedly replied “the papers will come back to me and I will sort it out.”