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Cyprus

AG to decide about antiquities irregularities

Ancient tombs in Kato Paphos have often been raided by thieves

AUDITOR-general Odysseas Michaelides will hand over to the attorney-general information collected by his office about irregularities at the Paphos Antiquities Department.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the evidence collected by the audit service appears to implicate at least one employee.

Michaelides told the agency that it was up to the AG to decide “whether, based on the information, the case should be referred to the police for a criminal investigation.”

Last week, the audit service carried out two surprise inspections in Paphos, following reports about inadequate storage procedures for antiquities found during the course of excavations, as well as possible wrongdoing in relation to proceeds from ticket sales at archaeological sites.

He told CNA on Thursday that the “collection and processing of information collected during the recent inspections” has been completed.

“What can be said now is that the need has been confirmed to inform the AG about the part of the report regarding irregularities in relation with the proceeds from visitors,” he said.

He said evidence has been collected against at least one employee, which will be put before the AG.

Measures will also be proposed to address the weaknesses detected; job rotation, introduction of procedures to ensure schedule compliance and presence at workplace, security cameras, and so on.

Michaelides said weaknesses were also spotted in the safekeeping procedures, both at archaeological sites and the storage of artefacts.

The auditor said the antiquities department was making efforts, with the help of the police, to protect sites from looters, especially in Paphos and Limassol, where they were particularly active.

Recommendations will also be made in relation with storage, he said. Weaknesses appeared to be bigger in smaller museums, like the one at Kouklia.

Michaelides said the antiquities department has already put measures in place, like transporting high value artefacts to the museum in Nicosia.

“It must be said though, that securing additional storage space is absolutely necessary.”

In August, Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos claimed organised criminal gangs from Limassol were primarily responsible for all the antiquities being looted and sold.

He even suggested that prominent Limassol families had bank safety deposit boxes full of these artefacts.

Phedonos claimed that of the around 20,000 ancient artefacts stored in the Paphos museum basement, only 5,000 have been catalogued and digitised in the last seven years.

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