A state doctor was jailed for eight months for corruption on Thursday, following his arrest last year in connection with taking backhanders to refer patients to a private hearing clinic.
Dafnis Aristodemou, who was the head of Larnaca hospital’s ENT clinic, was found guilty on 10 charges concerning abuse of power and bribery concerning offences that took place between 2008 and 2011.
Court heard that he had received €2,685, in kickbacks which he returned back to the state, following an agreement of his with the owner of Efthymiades Audiology Centre in Nicosia to refer patients to the private company to be fitted with hearing aid in exchange for commission per patient.
Part of Aristodemou’s duties was to examine patients with hearing problems and to propose hearing aid if he deemed it was necessary. The kickbacks he received concern the referral of 13 patients to the private clinic.
The court ruled out a suspended sentence, as, it said, the nature of the offences, and the fact that they concern a high ranking civil servant “notably his dishonesty” did not justify opting for that option.
Offences of this nature, aimed at financial profit, court said, “plague the country and uproot any trust of the citizens to the public sector and its officials”.
It added however that it counted as mitigating factors that fact that the defendant did not mislead his patients, his clean criminal record, the small amount he had collected and that he had terminated this illegal practice in 2011.
Aristodemou is the second state doctor to be sentenced for the same case.
Earlier in the month, the head of the Nicosia general hospital’s ENT clinic, Yiannakis Kyamides, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after being found guilty of corruption and extortion. Kyamides had received some €128,000, which he also returned.
The case emerged after the management of the audiology centre in Nicosia reported to police that the suspects had been paid more than €100,000 in kickbacks between 2008 and 2016.
They were allegedly taking advantage the state’s policy of subsidising various programmes for people suffering with hearing problems.
Specifically, for people who were born deaf, the state paid a €2,730 subsidy every four years and for pensioners over 65, €175 every four years.
The state also granted €23,000 per implant but to be eligible, patients needed to have the approval of a state ENT, and their director.
Patients were taking tests at the health centre in question and were then visiting Kyamides at the Nicosia general hospital, where he signed relevant approvals to authorise state aid for their treatment.
The court heard that the doctors allegedly received between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of the sale price of the hearing aids.