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Police investigating fraud at Tepak, 11 arrested (Update 2)

The Tepak campus in Limassol

Police on Thursday arrested eleven people, including a university professor, in connection with possible fraud in a number of research programmes at the state technical university (Tepak) based in Limassol.

Police had secured 11 arrest warrants as part of an investigation into the possibility of fraud in relation with 23 EU co-funded programmes worth €5 million between 2008 and 2015.

The suspects were expected to appear in Limassol district court on Friday for their remand hearing.

Limassol CID chief Ioannis Soteriades confirmed that authorities were investigating embezzlement and whether the funds went to relatives of university staff without even completing the projects.

He said the research programmes were assigned to a professor, as well as to a number of unqualified individuals, thus making them ineligible for the programmes.

The police investigation, which began some six months ago, uncovered falsified CVs of the beneficiaries – a key component of the scam.

In one case, an individual was found to have submitted three different CVs, Soteriades said.

Among the persons arrested on Thursday was a current Tepak professor as well as a female former employee of the university who managed the research programmes in question.

The other suspects placed under arrest are relatives of the female employee.

 

In a statement, Tepak welcomed the police investigation – but added that the alleged offences date to before 2015 and took place under the watch of the previous administration.

“The university considers that any mishandling in the past by individuals does not represent the current administration, which promotes transparency and the principles of sound governance,” it added.

It said the matter of the female former employee had been the subject of an internal and external investigation taking place in early 2015, the findings of which were made available to government authorities.

The employee in question was subsequently suspended, and she resigned from Tepak in June 2015.

The police probe followed a report by the auditor-general regarding research programmes handled by a specific Tepak employee.

According to the 2015 report, the auditor had conveyed to the attorney-general a copy of an internal audit carried out at the university, which found that family members had taken part in research programmes handled by the employee.

The auditor suggested that criminal offences could have been committed.

It would not be the first time Tepak made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In March, documents submitted to parliament showed blatant mishandling of building rentals costing taxpayers millions every year, as several Tepak officials and building owners involved in the signing were facing trial.

Tepak, which took in its first students in 2007, is funded by the state with an annual grant of over €30m, whereas during its first years it received more than €45m per year.

According to the data, Tepak currently rents 26 buildings housing its schools and various departments at an annual cost of €3.3m, as well as nine buildings used as dorms for an annual €901,000.

The number of buildings has been reduced by eight over the last three years, when the university built one building and bought two more, saving €940,000 in rents every year.

 

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