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Cyprus

Larnaca municipal secretary gets additional jail time

Former Larnaca municipal secretary Lefteris Empedocles was sentenced to five months in prison on Thursday after he was found guilty of interfering in court proceedings.

Empedocles had been charged with attempting to bribe a municipal official, a witness in a case of corruption, theft, and attempt to obtain money under false pretences involving himself. Empedocles is currently doing a five year stretch for that case.

He was first 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 Empedocles 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 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 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.

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