The Nicosia criminal court on Friday will sentence Vasken Shahbenderian, a doctor at the Nicosia general hospital’s ear, nose, and throat clinic found guilty of taking bribes, it announced on Monday.
He had been accused of taking bribes from patients to approve their applications for a government subsidy for a particular ear treatment, and from a private ear clinic for referring patients to them.
Shahbenderian was found guilty for a total of 112 counts of taking bribes and abuse of power, for a total gain of €16,000 over three years, from 2010 to 2013.
In court, he admitted to receiving the money in 25 cheques, but claimed it was all paid to him from the Efthimiades ear clinic as a token of its appreciation for the work he did, and as such no offence could be substantiated.
But in its ruling, the court said “there is no doubt that the defendant received the 25 cheques, which he cashed and thus received money, for himself”, and that “in the course of performing his duties he approved the applications of retirees for a government subsidy (violating due process) for an agreed fee”.
On Monday, his lawyer Pavlos Angelides argued for mitigation.
He said two other individuals involved in the affair in a role more active than his client’s, the owner and accountant of the Efthimiades ear clinic, were not charged and remain without punishment to this day.
The defence lawyer argued that any sentence for his client other than a fine would be rewarding the two.
He added that his client realised that the deal he had with the clinic had been morally questionable, and that he is paying for his honesty and for not cutting deals with the prosecution.
Shahbenderian, his lawyer said, contributed to uncovering the bigger crimes in this affair, by insisting on court hearings that revealed the role of the clinic’s owners.
He added that the doctor did not take public money, since the patients that received the state subsidy were entitled to it, and that he has returned the money he took from the ear clinic.
Angelides noted that his client is now 60 years old and will face great difficulty working again, and the fact that his wife is a cancer patient.
He called for the court to impose a fine, or, at worst, a suspended jail term, since he contributed to uncovering an operation aiming at bribing doctors.
Shahbenderian was the third state doctor convicted over the affair in recent months.
On May 2, the court sentenced the director the Nicosia general’s ENT clinic Yiannakis Kyamides, who pled guilty to 42 counts of corruption and 42 counts of fraud, to two and a half years in prison.
Nine days later, the court handed director of the Larnaca general’s ENT clinic Dafnis Aristodemou an eight-month prison sentence for abuse of power.
Aristodemou had owned up to ten counts of abuse of power and bribe-taking.