The Nicosia District court will make a ruling soon on the lawsuit brought by developer Miltiades Neophytou against former President Demetris Christofias, demanding payment of almost €22 million, it said on Friday.
Neophytou, formerly one of Christofias’ closest personal friends, claims he was asked by the former president to take over Omonia – a popular football club with close ties to Akel, the party led by Christofias until he became president in 2008 – and spend ‘whatever it takes’ on it so that he could reap the political benefits and seek re-election in 2013, promising to reimburse any expenditure through the party.
The contractor served as Omonia’s president from 2008 to 2012.
Neophytou also claims Christofias owes him hundreds of thousands of euros for renovation work done on his primary residence in Nicosia and his holiday home in Kellaki.
While not denying that he owes Neophytou money for the construction work – but disputing the amounts, which he has deemed ‘excessive’ – Christofias claims he never asked anyone to take over Omonia, and denies promising to repay him for any money he poured into the football club.
In his closing arguments on Friday, Christofias’ defence lawyer said Neophytou’s sole goal was to expose and blackmail the former president through the lawsuit.
“Even as President of the Republic, Mr Christofias could not possibly pledge millions of euros to Mr Neophytou simply on his word,” the defence argued.
“Why did Mr Neophytou continue to spend millions without asking that the money be returned to him and without having signed any written agreement?”
With regard to the argument that Neophytou did not ask for a written contract due to their friendship and the high office he held, the defence countered that the contractor is lying.
“Is it possible for a developer with so many years of experience, managing a company that has conducted many large projects, to expect the client to tell him whether a written contract is required? Could Mr Neophytou possibly have relied on Mr Christofias’ verbal assurance? Without a document? Without any guarantee? Did Mr Christofias have the financial means to pay Mr Neophytou so many millions?”
But even if Neophytou’s argument that during his first few months at the helm of Omonia he poured a few million into the club, which the defendant did not return, the defence argued, “why did he not protest?”
“Why did he continue to sink millions into Omonia for four years, since the defendant appeared unwilling to honour his supposed commitment? We submit that Mr Neophytou’s claim does not stand to reason.”
It is also an unreasonable proposition, the lawyer added, to claim that Christofias’ primary interest as president was not the Cyprus problem or coming up with a government plan, but only Omonia.
Neophytou’s lawyer argued that the evidence and testimony presented to the court corroborate all of his claims.
“Mr Neophytou’s claim, as proven in court, was that he agreed with Mr Christofias to take over as Omonia’s chairman and execute the president’s instructions to his political benefit,” he argued.
“In return, Mr Christofias pledged to reimburse Mr Neophytou and his company for any expenditure to this end.”
Even though the agreement was made orally, there is sufficient evidence before the court to prove that the proposition is true, the lawyer added.
“The most important testimony relates to the sum of €8.5 million, which was returned to the plaintiffs from various sources,” he said, adding that, after some ambivalence, Christofias admitted that this money came from Akel.
He called on the court to weigh the two competing versions and make a determination on which is most likely true regarding this money.
“Is it money returned to the plaintiffs as part of an agreement they had with the defendant, which was honoured up to a point in time? Or is it money that Akel simply decided to give away to the plaintiffs for no reason, because the company wasn’t doing so well? This is what this court must decide,” Neophytou’s lawyer said.