Larnaca municipal secretary, Lefteris Empedocles, 57, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption on Tuesday in connection with taking money to sort out building code infractions but eventually pocketing the cash.
He was found guilty on March 1 of theft, obtaining money under false pretences, and money laundering, after extorting €35,000 from a businessman.
In September 2015, he took €35,000 from businessman Theodosis Chrysostomou to allow certain code violations at his restaurant in the Mackenzie area in Larnaca, without, however, taking any action.
Empedocles was arrested in 2016 after Chrysostomou reported the case to the police.
Chrysostomou said he had initially met with Larnaca mayor at the time, Andreas Louroudjiatis, who suggested the businessman should pay €15,000 for this purpose.
A few days later, Chrysostomou met Empedocles, who 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 rectify the matter.
The problem at the restaurant was that at the time it was acquired, nine years before, it 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 were 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.
The court referred to the seriousness of the offence which decided the penalty.
Offences by public officials are on the rise and it is the duty of the court to dissuade others by sending a message via the penalty.
The ruling also took in consideration Empedocles’ clean criminal record, his age, his personal circumstances and the fact that the offence was an isolated incident.
The defence counsel suggested the court should consider suspending the sentence but the court refused to consider this.
“The court has not neglected the damage and loss the criminal act caused to the victim as well as the fact that the victim was not compensated,” the ruling said.
Of particular importance is not just the amount the accused has stolen, but the fact that he exploited and misused his position as a municipal secretary, the court noted.
“It is inconceivable that persons holding public positions and offices, but also key positions of power, act defiantly towards the institutions they represent and afflict them crucially by abusing their position.”