Cyprus Mail

Blunder or tip-off? Police on the spot over Ayia Napa killings

Police on Saturday denied any suggestion that a police officer might have deliberately mishandled a tip-off from Serbian Interpol alerting them to a possible murder attempt on Ayia Napa businessman Phanos Kalopsidiotis back in March, but conceded an administrative error had occurred.

Serb authorities have informed their Cypriot counterparts they were considering taking them to the Interpol general secretariat for leaking information which endangered lives.

Kalopsidiotis, 51, was shot dead in his Ayia Napa restaurant on June 23 along with three others, one of them a police officer friend who had been dining with him.

But Phileleftheros on Saturday claimed that police had been alerted as early as March that an assassination attempt was going to take place and that it failed to take measures after receiving information from Serbian Interpol.

The paper also claimed that those behind the contract killing were warned that the police were on to them, and this made them postpone the attempt.

According to the report, the police officer in Cyprus who was dealing with the information from Serbia called the man believed to be the mastermind behind the contract killing, apparently thinking he was calling Serbian Interpol. This alerted the man who called off the hit.

In a statement on Saturday, police admitted there had been erroneous communication after police received information on the arrival of Serb hitmen in Cyprus, but insisted it was not intentional. In addition, no names of possible targets had been provided in the warning, police said.

Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos announced that the attorney-general would investigate the way the police had handled the information from Interpol and that an independent criminal investigator would be appointed.

Phileleftheros reported that the officer in Nicosia handling the information received from Belgrade wanted to contact Interpol Serbia and called the number listed for them on his file, but once the phone was answered it was soon clear the number he had dialled was not Interpol.

Once he realised his mistake, the officer hung up, but the paper said the number he had actually rung was the man who had organised the killing who then pulled his men out of Cyprus.

It was not clear when exactly the information was received nor when the phone call was made.

This call, however, had been monitored by the Serbian police who then contacted police in Cyprus to inform them that the so-called mastermind had received a call from a Cypriot number – which later proved to be that of Interpol Nicosia.

The Serbs, the paper said, feel that the way the case had been handled by the Cyprus police had jeopardised investigations in which many officers had been involved in Serbia and other European countries for months.

In Saturday’s announcement Cypriot police insisted that “not in any way did the information given by Interpol Serbia for the arrival of Serb hitmen in the north include the names of the victims”.

Police said it investigated the information it received, and even though no testimony was secured for the possible targets of the hitmen, the force had taken a number of precautionary measures.

In the statement, the police did admit that when the information was received from Serbian police “there had been an erroneous telephone communication, for which an administrative inquiry has been conducted and showed that this communication was the product of misconception rather than deliberate action referring to a matter of corruption”.

According to other documents which the Serbian authorities gave to the Cyprus police, on April 16, three foreign nationals were travelling to Cyprus. The man believed to be the organiser of the assassination, then received a call from a Cypriot man telling him that the local police were monitoring his phone number and urged him to change it.

The would-be hitmen, who had arrived through the north, left the island after meeting with a local gang member who said a Cypriot policeman had informed him of the planned assassination and that Interpol was on to them.

The police on Saturday condemned the leaks of service documents. “We find it to be an unacceptable and condemnable administrative behaviour,” their statement said, adding that an officer would be appointed to investigate the conditions and circumstances of the leak.

Kalopsidiotis, along with police officer Elias Hadjiefthimiou, 46, his wife Skevi, 39, and the couple’s two children were having dinner at the Stone Garden restaurant in Ayia Napa when two gunmen stormed in with pistols and automatic weapons, spraying the area with bullets.

Kalopsidiotis, the police officer, his wife and the Albanian gunman Jani Vogli were all killed in the attack.

Another Albanian, Aleks Burreli, who is still at large and may have fled to the occupied north soon after the murders, is believed to be the other gunman who escaped the scene.

 Six suspects are being held in custody at Nicosia Central Prisons for the Ayia Napa killings, until their trial on September 5.  

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