IMPRISONED former Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas, serving a six-year term after admitting to bribe-taking in the Paphos Sewerage Board (Sapa) trial, took the witness stand for the prosecution in the ongoing trial of the Koshi and Paphos landfills on Friday, saying he wanted to serve his sentence with dignity.
Vergas had two more years slapped on to his jail-time after pleading guilty of taking bribes in this case, too.
In court on Friday, the disgraced former mayor described the arrangement he had with Demetris Yiannakopoulos, former director of Helector Cyprus, the operator of the two landfills, and then his successor Ioannis Kokotsis.
According to the arrangement, Helector would return 5 per cent of all payments received to Vergas, of which the former mayor would keep 40 per cent and would hand 30 per cent to former Sapa director Eftichios Malekkides, the rest to be split equally between Interior Ministry officials Stelios Papadopoulos and Costas Papamichael, who has since died.
When Kokotsis replaced Yiannakopoulos at Helector’s helm, Vergas testified, the arrangement was retained but Malekkides was replaced by former Paphos municipality financial director Demetris Patsalides, who had been responsible for sign-off on payments to landfill operators.
Vergas claimed that the arrangement for kickbacks was proposed to him in 2009 by Malekkides, who said Yiannakopoulos had informed him that Helector was willing to pay to ensure its payment claims were processed promptly.
Malekkides, Vergas told the court, suggested that they ask for 5 per cent on every payment to Helector and told him that Yiannakopoulos wanted to meet the former mayor.
Shortly thereafter, he added, Malekkides informed him that Yiannakopoulos would only pay the kickbacks to Vergas, who would then be responsible for splitting it among the others.
In early 2009, he said, a kickback of €150,000 was split according to the agreed percentages among the four.
Thereafter, Vergas said, he had various meetings in Nicosia with Yiannakopoulos, who gave him money, always in cash, which he always shared with Malekkides as agreed.
He said that he took from Yiannakopoulos a total €110,000 for himself, as well as €35,000 which he then donated to a Paphos football club, while €165,000 was handed to Malekkides, which he shared with Papadopoulos and Papamichael.
By mid-2010, Yiannakopoulos was replaced by Kokotsis, Vergas said, who did not get along personally with Malekkides and asked the former mayor to replace him with Patsalides.
According to Vergas, in 2013 Kokotsis started complaining that due to the crisis the kickback agreement should be ended and paid much less than the agreed 5-per-cent.
Overall, he said, Kokotsis paid Vergas personally €130,000 in kickbacks and made a €20,000 contribution to his re-election campaign in the 2011 municipal elections, while the others shared a total of €195,000.
At some point during his testimony, when Helector’s lawyer Yiorgos Papaioannou suggested that the prosecution was leading the witness, Vergas replied with a brief indignant speech.
“I have been in prison for three years and do not wish for any one of the defendants here today to find themselves in my position,” he said.
“After the initial shock of my incarceration, I have made some decisions. I did not come here to be led, nor do I want others to go through what I’m going through. But since I have spoken about myself and have decided to cooperate with the authorities in these cases, I have maintained an attitude by which I have not even appealed my sentences. I serve my time with dignity and it cannot be suggested that I came here to mislead the court.”
In addition to Vergas, Yiannakopoulos, Malekkides and three others, who have been convicted and sentenced, nine more individuals and two companies, including Patsalides, Papadopoulos and Helector, are facing charges of bribery and corruption.