The arrests of an interior ministry employee tasked with repossessing illegally gained Turkish Cypriot properties and two men involved in arranging a passport for a Russian woman are only the tip of the iceberg, Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos said on Wednesday.
The three men were arrested on Tuesday night in Paphos and remanded for two days, police said in a statement.
According to Phedonos, who was speaking to Alpha TV station, the case under investigation by police relates to a Russian woman, married to a Greek Cypriot, who has been living in Cyprus for more than 15 years and has two children, aged nine and five.
The woman’s application for a Cypriot passport, Phedonos said, had been sitting in the interior ministry for five years. Frustration at the long delay led her husband to offer a €1,900 bribe to the 54-year-old interior ministry official. The husband had been directed to the official by two 48-year-old men after they claimed to be able to expedite the processing of the passport.
When he realised that the ring had not pushed the application through, the husband filed a complaint with the police leading to Tuesday’s arrests.
“There is a lot of depth to this case, but, since there is an ongoing police investigation underway, let us let police deal with it,” Phedonos said.
“As far as I am aware, there is a ring operating in relation to the issuing of passports, mostly to women married to Cypriot men, who are forced to pay a bribe to have their application processed.”
There is also a ring operating illegally with regard to Turkish Cypriot properties, the mayor added, promising evicted users to award them to Greek Cypriot refugees who are willing to lease them back to them.
“And there is also a ring engaging in illicit trading of antiquities,” he said.
“Some people are involved in all three rings.”
Phedonos said the rings are usually small, with three or four members.
“There is the ring-leader, the person with contacts in ministries,” he explained.
“There is also the person who handles the bribe money, and the one who gets the ‘customers’ in the marketplace.”
The Paphos CID are investigating cases of fraud, bribetaking, money-laundering and corruption.