The hearing against Larnaca’s municipal secretary began on Monday for corruption charges in relation to €35,000 he allegedly received from a businessman.
Lefteris Empedocles, 55, faces charges of theft and obtaining money under false pretences.
Police officer Menelaos Antoniou who headed the investigation took the witness stand at Larnaca criminal court and explained that Empedocles was arrested in 2016 after Theodosis Chrysostomou, a businessman who owns a restaurant in the Mackenzie beach area in Larnaca, told police that he had paid the municipal secretary €35,000 in cash to correct building irregularities.
He had initially met with Larnaca mayor at the time Andreas Louroudjiatis who suggested the businessman should pay €15,000.
A few days later, Chrysostomou met with Empedoclis who apparently said that as the size of the establishment was quite large, the amount would actually be €35,000.
The businessman agreed and paid up but the money was never officially received by the municipality and no procedures were initiated to correct the irregularities since September 2015 when Chrysostomou paid the money.
The problem at the restaurant was that at the time of the purchase, eight years ago, the establishment had a steel pergola, which covered the entire front of the building. The area was used as an extension of the restaurant and Chrysostomou used the pergola as a veranda for the first floor of the building.
According to the existing legislation, all additions to the restaurant are illegal, while Chrysostomou believed the expansion of the restaurant was legal because he was paying an amount to the management committee of the building as rent for the use of public spaces.
When he learned the extension was illegal, Chrysostomou approached the municipality which said he had to pay €35,000.
Chrysostomou produced evidence in the form of bank statements that he withdrew the money on September 8, 2015. He allegedly handed it over to the suspect but did not get a receipt.
While the businessman was in the UK, he was informed that Larnaca municipality had initiated court proceedings over the irregularities at Chrysostomou’s restaurant. Upon hearing this, he returned to Cyprus and filed a report to police.
The court also heard that the audit service found Empedocles had deposited €20,000 in his bank account that could not be traced, during the contested period.
Empedocles’ lawyer argued that the day the municipal secretary allegedly received the money, he had been in Nicosia with Louroudjiatis attending the House commerce committee over relocating oil and gas firms from Larnaca.
The case will continue on Tuesday.