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Phedonos goes ahead with police testimony in property row (Update)

Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos

PAPHOS Mayor Phedonas Phedonos called everyone’s bluff on Friday afternoon and submitted information to the police about at least 30 cases of mismanagement of Turkish Cypriot property.

Speaking to reporters before he handed over the information to the investigation officer at the Paphos police station, Phedonos said he hoped that his testimony would help start a general effort to remove all these injustices and mismanagement and to “crush this huge scandal that has grown around the Turkish Cypriot property since 1974 up to now.”

Since the war and the displacement of populations 43 years ago, all Turkish Cypriot property where the owner is not resident is administered by the state as guardian, collecting low rents, mainly from Greek Cypriot refugees who are deemed as eligible beneficiaries because they lost their own land from the Turkish occupation.

“Property worth billions of euros has been managed in a scandalous way, which has led to some people being favoured, either to a small or a large extent, or to an enormous extent, and in some cases, has let them getting rich by the favourable treatment they had or by the illegal occupation of property with the consent of the state,” Phedonos said.

According to the mayor, the state itself is estimated to have lost several hundred million euros from the mismanagement of this enormous property, adding that all this money could have been returned to refugees who lost their properties in the 1974 invasion.

Instead, he added, a few people who are not refugees and some other refugees managed to get their hands on such property and sublet them and get rich, while some other refugees not only did not get anything, but they were blatantly wronged.

Phedonos also spoke of “party clientelism”. As he claimed, “they were holding property in a totally subjective way, with party interventions of various kinds, with the Turkish Cypriot property administration service being understaffed and thus vulnerable to interventions and pressures, while the law was clear”, adding that there is no lack of legislation.

Meanwhile, Paphos police announced after Phedonos’ testimony that it has set up a task force, headed by Sergeant Zonakis Georgiou, to investigate the allegations, adding that officers from the criminal investigations units of Paphos and Limassol would be added to the team.

The association of friends of the police earlier on Friday demanded protective measures for the Paphos mayor, saying he could be in danger after his latest revelations relating to the mismanagement of Turkish Cypriot properties.

In a letter to the president, the justice minister, the attorney-general, and the chief of police, the association said Phedonos must be afforded a security detail because of his revelations about the properties and the waste management scandal in the past.

The association said he was the only politician in history who dared to investigate and substantiate criminal cases against state officials.

“The hate and vengefulness are increasing exponentially and there is a strong possibility of him suffering a premeditated and ruthless attack against life and limb if the protective measures demanded by us, his relatives, and friends are not put in place,” the association said. “It is everyone’s duty and obligation.”

On Wednesday, Phedonos went public with the names of people, including a prominent businessman and a former minister, who allegedly held Turkish Cypriot property worth millions without being eligible.

The mayor said there had been political intervention in the way the properties were allocated and authorities had also turned a blind eye to unlawful acts.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said on Friday he would launch an in-depth investigation into the Turkish Cypriot property mismanagement, on the basis of what is available and what has been revealed recently.

Initially, the investigation will cover the period from the year 2000 onwards and, if necessary, go back until 1991, when the administration of the Turkish Cypriot property was legislated by the interior minister.

The extension of the investigation will also depend on the initial findings, he said.

Speaking on state television CyBC, Michaelides mentioned a number of cases where places were bought and sold or were sublet, and where people some made an enormous profit such as in Paphos, Larnaca’s popular McKenzie area and in Limassol.

Following the 1974 Turkish invasion, properties abandoned by Turkish Cypriots in the south were, by law, put under the protection of the interior ministry, or the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties.

Because of the need to house Greek Cypriots who were displaced from the north, it was decided to allocate such properties to them – usually for a small fee – on condition that the owners would not lose their rights.

Phedonos named businessman Nicos Shacolas, former defence minister Elias Eliades, and a number of other people, including Dionisis Malas, father of Akel’s presidential candidate Stavros Malas.

The mayor said Shacolas had been given 230 donums of Turkish Cypriot land next to his golf project in the area of Limni, near Polis, for which he paid €2,085 per year when according to the use, he should have been paying €66,482.

He said the company was not eligible to be given Turkish Cypriot land.

The company that owns Limni resort said all its dealings were above board, adding that it was looking into suing Phedonos.

The mayor responded on Thursday evening, pointing out to Shacolas that the information he gave was already published in the auditor-general’s report for 2015.

“It is certainly everyone’s right to respond to public accusations that concern them,” Phedonos said. “The Shacolas Group is trying to prevent investigation of my reports by announcing that it will take legal measures against me. The announcement aims at preventing the mass media from reporting on the matters concerning the group in question. Let me stress one thing, these methods not only fail to stop me, but they provide me with the strength to continue.”

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