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Waste scam whistleblower explains why he confided in mayor

Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos has accused parliament of cheap populism ahead of January’s presidential election

The man who blew the whistle on corruption at Paphos’ waste management plant said he confided in mayor Phedonas Phedonos because he didn’t dare go to the police.

Michalis Michail took the stand on Monday at the start of the corruption trial relating to the waste management systems in Paphos and Larnaca that involves former mayors and other public officials.

Michail was the man who told Phedonos about the kickbacks, prompting an investigation into the affair.

Michail said he gave three statements to police implicating former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, the municipality’s former financial controller Demetris Patsalides, and doctor Nicholas Koulappis, who allegedly issued fake invoices to relatives on the instruction of Ioannis Kokotsis – the director of the managing company, Helector – in a bid to cover the kickbacks to Vergas and Patsalides.

Cross-examined by the defence, Michail said he went to Phedonos because he didn’t dare go to the police and because he believed the mayor would expose the scandal.

Michail told the court that the invoices were always issued on the instruction of Kokotsis.

His cross-examination continues on Tuesday.

As operator of two landfills – one at Marathounda, Paphos, the other at Koshi, Larnaca – the company is alleged to have overcharged municipalities – and ultimately the taxpayer – by reporting higher waste volumes while public officials looked the other way in return for skimming off the top.

In total, 16 defendants had been indicted in relation to the scam. The defendants include former Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis and Vergas.

They – individuals and three companies – faced 104 charges including conspiracy to defraud, bribery, abuse of power, breach of trust by a public official, conspiracy to commit a felony, money laundering, and obtaining money under false pretences.

Vergas has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in jail in addition to six he was already doing for a similar case concerning the Paphos sewerage system. Former head of the Paphos Sewerage Board Eftychios Malekkides is also doing six years for the same case.

The former director of Helector, Demetris Yiannakopoulos pleaded guilty and was given a suspended 18-month jail sentence.

Yiannakopoulos admitted giving Vergas between January 9, 2009 and April 21, 2010, €310,000 as a kickback to exercise his influence so that the company would be paid delayed dues.

 

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