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Former municipal councillor cops to tax dodging but not bribery

Paphos District Court

Although he left some revenues out of his tax returns, he was never bribed, former Paphos municipal councillor Giorgos Michaelides told the court on Wednesday.

Michaelides, one of five defendants, is accused of taking bribes, and money-laundering, in connection with construction contracts awarded by the Paphos Sewerage Board (Sapa) during his time on the municipal council, from 1996 to 2011.

The other four defendants are former Edek deputy and Paphos mayor Fidias Sarikas, and municipal councilors Efstathios Efstathiou, Vasos Vasiliou, and Giorgos Shailis.

Michaelides told the court that he was able to pay for his children’s university studies with the help of his sister-in-law, Efthimia Anastasiou, and his wife’s three aunts, none of the four married.

Anastasiou, he said, paid 500 to 600 Cyprus pounds per month, and each aunt gave initially 100 pounds (€170), later graduating to 200 pounds.

Asked about a cheque for €20,000 given to him by contractor Loizos Iordanous in 2007, Michaelides said it was a loan he needed direly and his good friend volunteered, which he later repaid.

With regard to a meeting in a restaurant in the Nicosia village of Analyontas, where former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas and former Sapa director Eftichios Malekides – both serving six-year jail terms for their role in the Sapa scandal – testified that a bribery agreement was forged between the Paphos municipal officials and private contractors awarded Sapa contracts, Michaelides denied the nature of the meeting, claiming it had merely been a social gathering.

There had never been any talk of awarding the Sapa contract to Envitec, a Greek firm, in exchange for kickbacks.

He also denied a meeting in his own office claimed by Vergas, Malekides, and Iordanous, insisting he never took or gave any money, nor did he ever travel to Athens to be paid any money by Envitec’s chief Christos Drakopoulos.

He claimed to have met Andreas Chimarides, director of Medcon contractors, at Sapa meetings, but denied having received from him a total €50,000.

Michaelides said he won 200,000 Cyprus pounds in a lottery ticket, of which he deposited in two bank accounts.

He described a business venture he entered with three other partners, which constructed six villas, one of which was sold to a Briton and the rest to Russians.

During cross-examination, Michaelides said discrepancies in his tax returns could be down to omissions, for which there was always some justification.

All the prosecution has to go on is numbers, and the numbers don’t add up, state prosecutor Ninos Kekkos said, noting a difference between his stated revenues and his account deposits of about 14,000 pounds in 2006, and over 100,000 pounds the next year.

Michaelides said the deposits reflect revenues from various sources, in addition to his job, and that not all the money deposited in a bank account should be listed in a tax return.

“You will find a deposit of €18,500 in my account, which is a loan I received from my company, and then transferred to my sister in Australia for her needs,” he said.

Asked why his company gave him cash, Michaelides said it was because his company received cash.

The prosecutor wondered what Chimarides, Vergas, or Malekides, might have had against him in order to implicate him in the case.

The only way Chimarides could have known where your office is, and shown it to police, is if he had, in fact, visited you to give you money, Kekkos submitted.

But Michaelides said Chimarides could have simply tracked down his office via a GPS navigation device.

The case resumes on Monday.

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