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Police question 18 over links to organised crime (Update 4)

Police on Wednesday were questioning 18 suspects arrested in Larnaca overnight for suspected links to a criminal organisation and money laundering as a crackdown on organised crime continued across the island.

Force spokesman Andreas Angelides said the suspects were Cypriots who had been known to police from past cases.

Angelides said the operation in Larnaca that kicked off on Tuesday evening was launched after the police secured arrest warrants against the suspects. They were all released on Wednesday evening.

Some 100 officers from various branches took part.

The spokesman said the suspects were under investigation in connection with participation in a criminal organisation and money laundering.

He declined to comment on the details used in court to secure the arrest warrants.

Three more suspects were arrested in Limassol and searches were carried out in Paphos.

No one was remanded in court.

The operations are part of a police crackdown on organised crime launched after an officer was critically injured in a gunfight with suspected criminal elements on May 5. The officer has since recovered while three men involved in the incident are facing trial.

Angelides tiptoed around a journalist’s suggestion that public opinion had criticised the force over the ‘sudden interest’ in stamping out organised crime, which many people are also saying was being done for show.

The spokesman said measures have intensified and included were the checks and searches carried out across the island.

“Our actions are continuous and without interruption,” he said.

At the same time Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou repeated his call to parties to afford police the ability to monitor telephone communications so that it can reach the highest echelons of organised crime, especially relating to drugs trafficking.

Following a meeting with Citizens’ Alliance chairman Yiorgos Lillikas, Nicolaou said he had also sought to allay any concerns over the potential for human rights violations.

“Police should be given the capability so that it can reach the top of the pyramid in investigating these rings,” them minister said. “And to reach this point, police are asking the state to afford this ability to monitor telephone communications under any strict conditions the state judges necessary to restrict abuse.”

 

Alexis Mavromichalis, also known as Alexoui, who was Cyprus’ most wanted a few years ago was also hauled in for questioning this week. In a Facebook post he said the traditional enemies of the underworld had actually resolved their differences but police were trying to blame them for some of the drugs behind some of the most recent crimes – the shooting of police officers, the double murder in Strovolos and the elderly woman in Aglandjia who was found dead after a robbery.

He said people largely involved in the drug trade boasted of good ties with high ranking police officers.

 

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