The claim that he could have had the time to concern himself with the minutiae of Omonia football club’s day-to-day running while in office was ludicrous, former president Demetris Christofias told a court on Wednesday, in response to claims by contractor Miltiades Neophytou, formerly a friend and close confidant to Christofias.
Neophytou, who served as Omonia’s chairman from 2008 to 2012, filed a lawsuit for damages in excess of €22m against Christofias, claiming that, while he was president, he had instructed the contractor to take over the club and inject money into it freely, as its success would strengthen the former president’s reelection bid in 2013, and promising to make sure it was eventually returned.
The football club has always had close ties to Akel, the communist party Christofias led for over two decades prior to being elected president.
The contractor also claimed that Christofias did not pay for renovation work done to his main and holiday residences, in Makedonitissa and Kellaki, as well as to the headquarters he used in his presidential campaign.
What little money he did receive was in cash during the lockdown period in March 2013, when banks had been closed due to emergency measures taken to address the banking crisis, Neophytou said.
“I am well aware that whoever is in public life is subject to criticism, which can often cross the line of what is considered appropriate, and is not confined to political beliefs or actions, but also extends into personal and family matters,” Christofias read from a prepared statement.
“But I must admit I never expected to hear the false and slanderous accusations I heard in this room in the course of these hearings.”
Christofias said he was “hurt and surprised by what Miltiades Neophytou said about me”
Neophytou, Christofias said, for his own purposes, either through lies or half-truths, is trying to advance his lawsuit in order to claim money he is not entitled to, and to attack the former president personally.
“First of all, it would make no sense for me to pledge to repay Neophytou for the cost of renovating the campaign headquarters,” Christofias argued.
“It is well known that Akel candidates never pay a single cent for their election campaigns – it is all paid for by the party.”
With regard to Omonia, Christofias said he was, and continues to be, a fan, but the assertion that he had the time to deal with the club’s playing tactics or signings was simply ludicrous.
“And anyone who knows the plaintiff even a little, cannot believe that he is gullible, simple-minded, and subservient, as he tried to present himself before the court,” Christofias said.
With regard to the claim that he had arranged for a €2m loan to Omonia to be summarily approved by RCB bank, Christofias admitted to introducing Neophytou to bank CEO Kiril Zimarin, but denied any further involvement.
“And I certainly never promised [Zimarin] a casino licence,” he added.
“It is well-known, because I said it publicly on several occasions, that I was against the government licensing a casino – and I still am.”
On work done in the Makedonitissa and Kellaki homes, Christofias said Neophytou routinely decided and carried out additional work without consulting anyone, but, in any case, the money he is demanding is excessive.
“I asked a quantity surveyor to estimate the true cost of the work done,” he said.
“Neophytou’s side did not accept our proposal for a mutually-acceptable valuer to settle the dispute.”
The former president flatly denied Neophytou’s claim that he had instructed former Interior minister Neoclis Sylikiotis to upgrade the building coefficient of an area in which Omonia owned a large plot, so that it could be sold, the proceeds to be used to repay the club’s debts.