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Outgoing sports watchdog chairman blamed for failure to clean up sports

Tempers flared at the House ethics committee after members of a defunct watchdog set up to clean the island’s sports, mainly football, blamed its outgoing chairman of its demise.

Chairman Andreas Papacharalambous submitted his resignation on Tuesday, accusing the government and political parties of not having the will to tackle corruption in football, preparing a toothless law and not lifting a finger to correct it.

However, committee member Harris Savvides accused Papacharalambous of intervening in investigations and leaking letters to the media.

Before Papacharlambous, three of the five members had resigned, rendering the committee useless.

Akel MP Giorgos Loucaides said the dissolution of the committee appeared to be the result of Papacharalambous’ actions.

Loucaides asked the outgoing chairman why he had decided to withdraw the findings of an investigation into match fixing claims from the Legal Service, thus preventing the police from launching a probe.

The case in question concerns claims made by Omonia FC chairman Stavros Papastavrou in January 2020, accusing the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) and other teams in the football league of corruption and urged the European and world football governing bodies Uefa and Fifa to intervene.

The statement also made serious allegations about people connected to the underworld involved in Cypriot football.

Loucaides said he had been told that Papacharalambous had intervened in the probe, arguing that the findings should have been in the hands of the Legal Service so that an investigation could go ahead by the police.

Papacharalambous suggested that MPs had their own agendas and he had nothing to fear.

“I am neither a candidate expecting votes, nor on a party’s payroll to be accountable to someone,” he said.

Of Papastavrou’s claims, Papacharalambous said after the findings had been submitted to the deputy attorney-general, he was told there were some shortcomings and weaknesses, so he took it back to fill in the blanks.

Savvides however, gave a different account of the events regarding the Papastavrou findings.

On October 13, he said, Papacharalambous had asked to go with him to the deputy attorney-general to submit the findings, along with a cover letter.

Savvides said while all members of the committee felt uneasy with the way Papacharalambous functioned, they stood by him so that the committee could continue with its work.

But everything changed two days later when one television station reported the names of all those the committee had proposed prosecuting including the cover letter. Savvides said only Papacharalambous could have leaked the letter.

After that, Savvides messaged all members trying to find out who had leaked the information, taking for granted that someone in the Legal Service was to blame.

He received a reply from Papacharalambous accusing him of being dishonest and of being behind the leak, MPs heard.

From then on there all trust was lost, Savvides said.

He added that he later spoke with a Legal Service official who told him the findings report had no shortcomings or weaknesses and that they were ready to hand it over to police to launch a probe when Papacharalambous asked to have it back.

“The situation was derailed; I felt that everything I had built was ruined,” Savvides said.

He said he wrote to President Nicos Anastasiades and informed him that he could not continue working with Papacharalambous and was prepared to resign if the president wished him to do so.

The vice chairman of the committee, Nicos Kartakoulis, told MPs that he considered the chairman’s actions unacceptable and that was the reason he had resigned.

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