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Cyprus

Two acquitted, nine remain on trial in waste corruption case

The Koshi solid waste management plant

The Nicosia criminal court on Monday acquitted two defendants in the waste management corruption trial but found there is a case against a number of others, including former Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis.

The case concerns waste management company Helector, the operator of two landfills – one at Marathounda, Paphos, the other at Koshi, Larnaca – which is alleged to have overcharged municipalities by reporting higher waste volumes while public officials looked the other way in return for backhanders.

The court cleared chemical engineer Theophanis Lolos and consultants Enviroplan SA of all charges but found there is a case against Louroudjiatis, municipal employee Demetris Patsalides, civil servants Michalis Pantis and Giorgos Koullapis, and doctor Nicholas Koullapis (son), as well as their company, NE Midoriaco Ltd.

Civil servant Antonis Kourouzides, who has since retired, was acquitted of six charges but will have to answer to six others. He was a member of the evaluation committee in both projects and also signed payment orders.

Lolos was faced with a single count of fraud while Enviroplan had been charged with fraud and conspiracy to defraud.

Helector also faced fraud and conspiracy to defraud and was also acquitted.

The charge sheet contains 83 charges relating to conspiracy to defraud, bribery, unlawful acquisition of property, abuse of power, favouritism, money laundering, and obtaining money under false pretences.

The court will reconvene on March 29.

Former Paphos Mayor Savvas Vergas had been sentenced to two years in jail in connection with the scandal. That was on top of a six-year jail term he was doing at the time for bribery and corruption over the Paphos Sewerage Board scandal.

The offences to which Vergas pleaded guilty to were committed between 2009 and 2014.

The Paphos landfill was constructed by a consortium between Greek company Helector and German company Bilfinger Baugesellschaft and was completed in July 2005.

Per the terms of the landfill’s operation, the company agreed to serve an annual 36,000 tonnes of waste, with a five-per-cent margin on quantities, for a fixed fee from municipalities.

In fact, the landfill received almost 70,000 tonnes per year, and the company demanded additional fees.

As head of the committee negotiating the contract on behalf of municipalities, Vergas travelled to Athens in 2009 to discuss the matter.

At the meeting, it was agreed that Vergas receive a five per cent cut on the contract’s annual revenues in exchange for arranging payment for the additional fee demands.

Vergas received a total of €766,000 from the consortium, of which he kept €311,240, splitting the rest among others.

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