Edek MP and former Paphos mayor Fidias Sarikas told the district’s Criminal Court on Wednesday that he did not take part in discussions about backhanders because he was on the phone all the time during the meetings in question.
Sarikas, along with former municipal councillors Giorgos Michaelides, Efstathios Efstathiou, Vasos Vasiliou, and sitting councillor Giorgos Shailis, are facing charges of money laundering and taking bribes from contractors awarded Paphos Sewerage Board (Sapa) projects.
Grilled by the prosecution, Sarikas on Wednesday denied taking kickbacks during his stint as mayor between 1997 and 2002.
Sarikas had been named by former Sapa director Efthymios Malekides as taking part in two meetings with contractor Loizos Iordanous — one at the latter’s home and one at a tavern – where kickbacks were discussed.
Malekides, along with former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas are already doing six-year prison terms after pleading guilty in the same case.
Sarikas conceded that he had been present at the two meetings with Iordanous but had not taken part in the kickback discussions, claiming that he frequently left the other two to answer phone calls.
Asked why would Malekides implicate him, Sarikas suggested he was seeking revenge because he had expected the Sapa case not to be discussed in parliament.
The MP also conceded going to Athens with Malekides and the late councillor Andreas Omirou, brother of the former House president Yiannakis Omirou, but denied receiving bribes on behalf of a Greek company.
Prosecutor Ninos Kekkos put it to Sarikas that he went to Athens twice to collect €20,000 each time.
During the lengthy cross examination, Kekkos questioned Sarikas, an architect, over the sale of four villas in Peyia.
Sarikas had presented a document in court to prove that he had sold one of the villas to a Russian national in June 2005 for £250,000 CYP (around €427,000).
The prosecution however, disputed Sarikas’ claim, arguing that no profits from the sale of real estate had been recorded in 2005 and 2006.
In 2004, Kekkos said, the amount of £146,671CYP was recorded as the proceeds from the sale of a villa or villas in 2004 or earlier and not 2005 and 2006.
Sarikas said he would ask his accountant because he could not remember. Kekkos went ton to tell the court that according to a report prepared by the Legal Service’s accountant, the income from Sarikas’ architectural office was low. In his statement however, the former mayor had told police that he had one of the biggest architectural offices.
“The income you declared does not reflect the real income you had from the partnership,” Kekkos said.
He also asked Sarikas why his 2005-2006 tax return did not show the sale he had claimed he made and why he used to declare £500 CYP per month as his income from the office when it was one of the biggest on the island.
Sarikas told the court that he had always given his accountants all the revenues without hiding anything.
The prosecutor also raised the issue of Sarikas’ rent revenues, which showed a significant discrepancy.
In 2001, Kekkos said, Sarikas had declared €5,130 in rent revenue, €38,071 in 2002, and €5,150 in 2003.
Asked about the spike in 2002, Sarikas said he could not remember.
The trial continues on October 18.