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Past land reclamation schemes ‘rife with corruption’, audit boss says

Odysseas Michaelides

PAST land reclamation schemes appear to have been rife with corruption, where connected beneficiaries made a killing and ended up owning mansions, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said on Thursday.

He was presenting to MPs the findings of an investigation into nine government land re-parcelling schemes.

In six of the schemes there were indications of possible criminal malfeasance; to date the police have investigated two of these plans, finding no concrete evidence of criminality.

But some of the beneficiaries of the schemes wound up owning luxurious mansions with swimming pools, Michaelides said in parliament.

The land reclamation or consolidation schemes were intended to halt the fragmentation of land holdings due to inheritance, where these small parcels would be swapped with land elsewhere of equal value. The plots thus coming into the ownership of the state were to be consolidated into farming land.

The Land Consolidation Service as a standalone department was scrapped in 2018 and has since been folded into the Department of Lands and Surveys.

Among the schemes the Audit Office looked into, were those in Arodes, Pyrgos (Limassol), Mazotos and Pareklisia.

The probe indicated that among the persons who benefited from the swap were first-degree relatives of civil servants dealing with land consolidation.

The Audit Office also found that civil servants and land developers would buy up small land parcels at low prices, in areas earmarked for reclamation, and would next include these lands in the reclamation scheme and swap them with state lands.

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