Former interior ministry official Yiorgos Koullapis on trial over the Paphos and Koshi landfills overcharging and bribery scandal, appointed himself a member of the ministry’s project review committee even after his secondment to the Interior ministry had ended, the Nicosia criminal court heard on Monday.
Taking the stand as a witness for the prosecution, human resource official at the Interior ministry’s town-planning department Andreas Agathocleous testified on a 2009 letter by the ministry’s permanent secretary to the department’s chief, in which it was claimed that Koullapis had presented himself to local community leaders as a member of the ministry’s review committee.
Koullapis, the letter said, had failed to mention that his stint as a seconded official to the interior ministry had ended in 2007, and that the power to appoint members of the review committee rested solely with the ministry’s permanent secretary.
The prosecution then called Evanthis Demosthenous, an employee of the Paphos landfill administration council, to take the witness stand.
Demosthenous testified that the problems at the Paphos landfill started when the contractor – Helector Cyprus – had to process much more solid waste than the contract called for, continuously asking for payment of the excess processing.
A subsequent deal with local authorities was never implemented because the case went to court.
However, he told the court, the price for processing excess waste today is €12 per ton, while the price agreed with Helector, which was never enforced, was €16 per ton.
Demosthenous said he prepared and made payments to the contractors on instructions from the Paphos Sewerage Board’s chairman, who at the time had been Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, currently serving two jail terms for corruption, abuse of power and bribe-taking.
A third prosecution witness, Paphos municipal secretary Themis Philippides, testified that, at a dinner hosted by the municipality for foreign guests in Kato Paphos, he saw Paphos Sewerage Board official Demetris Patsalides, also on trial for the landfill case, sitting at a separate table with Helector Cyprus then chief Demetris Yiannakopoulos, yet another defendant.
Philippides also described having received two payment instructions from the Paphos municipality to Helector, €21,000 and €80,000, signed by unauthorised individuals and not properly sealed by the municipality’s internal audit department.
But, he ceded, the issue of internal auditors being sidestepped was a municipality issue and did not relate to the contractors in any way.
The trial resumes on July 5.
In addition to Koullapis, Patsalides, and Helector, on trial over the Paphos and Koshi landfill scandals are former Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis, six other former officials and companies Enviroplan and Midoriaco Ltd.
Vergas, Yiannakopoulos, former Interior ministry official Christakis Petrou, and engineer Imad Bagle, have already pled guilty to corruption charges and been handed sentences.