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Former Edek MP, four others guilty of corruption (Updated)

Former Paphos mayor Fidias Sarikas

Former Edek MP and ex Paphos mayor Fidias Sarikas and four others were found guilty of corruption on Friday relating to the construction of the town’s sewerage system (Sapa).

Along with Sarikas were former Paphos municipal councillors Giorgos Michaelides, Efstathios Efstathiou, and Vasos Vasiliou, and sitting councillor Giorgos Shailis. The court adjourned until May 3 when defence lawyers will argue for leniency.

The five faced 61 charges relating to bribes, money laundering, abuse of power, and conspiracy, but after some charges were dropped, Michaelides was found guilty on 19 charges, Sarikas on six charges, Efstathiou on 14 charges, Vasiliou on seven charges and Shailis on six charges.

Following the announcement of the verdict, the five were taken into custody.

The case relates to the dealings of the Paphos Sewerage Board (Sapa), which is administered by the Paphos local authorities. According to investigators, kickbacks were paid out by private contractors to Sapa members in a bid to secure construction and operation waste-management contracts.

Former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, and former Sapa director Eftychios Malekides have already pleaded guilty in the same case and are currently doing a six year stretch in jail. Both were used as prosecution witnesses.

Sarikas faced charges relating to Phase I of the Sapa project.

According to the prosecution, between 1999 and 2003, while serving as Paphos mayor, Sarikas received the sum of €55,000 to arrange for Awatech, a German company bidding for Sapa contracts, to secure the job of constructing and operating the Paphos sewage treatment station. He was charged for receiving around €40,000 in kickbacks.

Shailis was charged for receiving €27,500 in bribes. According to the prosecution, he had conspired with Vergas sometime between December 2012 and January 2013 to authorise payment of a contractor’s invoices promptly, in exchange for from the contractor.

Michaelides was charged for receiving around €300,000 in kickbacks from private contractors associated with the Paphos sewerage system, while Efstathiou was charged for having been bribed with €110,000, and Vasiliou with €60,000.

The court said that it noted that all defence lawyers, on the basis of their suggestions, agree, and accept that most of what has been mentioned draws the true picture of the facts surrounding the case.

The judge said that he found Vergas and Malekides to be honest witnesses and that he did not detect a vengeful attitude on their behalf, nor that they intended to involve the defendants in order to alleviate their position.

He also rejected the position that Vergas and Malekides had been guided by the prosecution.

The court dismissed the testimony of the defence witness Neofytos Koutalianos who took the stand in support of Sarikas, as, “he has come to justice to present events that do not correspond to reality”, following inconsistencies in his testimony.

If Sarikas, as a member of the House Ethics committee, court said, was a supporter of legitimacy, he should not have turned a blind eye over Malekides’ actions but should report to the competent state bodies. Malekides had implicated Sarikas in the case, by saying that the kickback scandal begun when the latter was town mayor.

The judge also rejected the claim of Shiailis that he was being targeted for political reasons, as, he said, “everyone is equal before the law”.

In the meantime, the anti-money laundering unit Mokas, is to file a petition for confiscation of property in connection with money laundering.


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