PAPHOS Mayor Phedonas Phedonos has charged that state and local officials had demanded kickbacks from oilfield service giant Schlumberger, that was looking to set up its base of operations in Larnaca a couple of years ago.
The outspoken mayor was responding to criticism over his failure to give a statement to police in relation with allegations he made on television back in March.
At the time, Phedonos said a large American company had been blackmailed into paying kickbacks while seeking to set up shop in Larnaca.
On Thursday, Phedonos identified the company as Schlumberger, which acquired a building in Aradippou.
The mayor said he did not go to the police because every time he did so in previous occasions, those implicated found out what he had said in five minutes.
Also, he charged that authorities only arrested the people he named and never looked into the allegations further to identify other suspects.
AKEL MP Evanthia Savva, who served as a municipal councillor in Aradippou at the time in question, wrote a letter to the attorney-general in April asking for the claims to be investigated.
In a written statement on Wednesday, Savva said the AG had instructed the police to probe the claims but Phedonos refused to give a statement.
Savva challenged Phedonos to substantiate his allegations and submit any evidence he had to the authorities. Otherwise he should publicly withdraw them because they were nothing more than common slander.
On Thursday, following a session of Aradippou’s municipal council discussing the very matter, mayor Evangelos Evangelides likewise demanded that Phedonos provide evidence backing his claims.
Evangelides added that, irrespective of what Phedonos does from now on, the municipality itself is asking the attorney-general and the police to investigate the graft allegations against it.
Asked whether Aradippou municipality is considering suing Phedonos for defamation, Evangelides said they would first await the actions of the police and whether it turns out the claims are substantiated or not.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail late Thursday, and asked to clarify whether or not he has in fact provided a statement to police, Phedonos said only:
“I have given police sufficient evidence to start an investigation.”
The Mail has learned meantime that CID have in fact launched a probe.
It’s understood that one of the bribes – there were others – allegedly given in the affair amounted to €50,000. The transaction took place approximately two years ago.
In an expose published on November 9, 2014 the Sunday Mail was reporting how both local Aradippou officials as well as state authorities appeared to have granted permits to Schlumberger in record time, bending the rules.
Earlier, on October 23, opposition politicians kicked up a storm at the House plenum when it emerged that Aradippou municipality had granted Halliburton and Schlumberger building permits just two days before a new bill was passed relating to environmental studies for such facilities.
The municipality’s move blew out of the water a tacit deal that no such action would be taken prior to voting on a bill submitted by the Greens mandating extra environmental regulations for hydrocarbons-related activities on terra firma.
Phedonos took over the helm last year from disgraced former DIKO mayor, Savvas Vergas, who is currently in prison for corruption.
He has said that he will run in December’s local elections as an independent, like he did a year ago.
Despite coming from ruling DISY, Phedonos had announced his candidacy without waiting for the party, which declared its support later on.
He went on to beat a candidate supported by three opposition parties – AKEL, DIKO, and EDEK.
(Additional reporting by Elias Hazou)