By Sarah Ktisti and Nick Theodoulou
Central prisons director Anna Aristotelous on Friday called for the appointment of independent criminal investigators after she said she was targeted by a senior police officer who she said colluded with an inmate to try and obtain damaging video footage of her.
The allegations had authorities scrambling as Aristotelous said she would file a written complaint with the attorney-general on Monday. Aristotelous will also call for the suspension of the officer because “many issues are raised, including security issues.”
She described what had happened as a “huge corruption scandal”.
“I think it is unprecedented by Cypriot standards,” she added.
The prisons director met for more than an hour on Friday afternoon with Justice Minister, Stephi Dracou, whom she briefed on the evidence she holds.
Aristotelous had first made the revelations to daily Politis and alleged that the officer had sought to obtain footage which would damage her reputation.
“When one officer invades the personal life of another, then surely such acts of corruption should not be hushed up. And neither the gentleman, nor my dignity, nor my morals allows me to let this stand,” Aristotelous added.
The allegations have caused a major stir, with police spokesman Christos Andreou saying that Dracou was currently leading efforts in handling the case.
Aristotelous said she decided not to report the case to the police as the incident concerned a senior officer, adding that the force is unable to investigate itself.
The prison director further stated that she has evidence of the senior officer communicating with the inmate, with local media reporting that the two shared messages on Telegram on an almost daily basis.
Asked how the evidence came into her hands, she said she could not go into much detail. “What I can say, is that we have in our possession heaps of messages that appear to show that the senior officer was persistently asking for videos of my personal life from the convicted felon.”
Responding to another question, Aristotelous said she was in possession of a volume of messages given to a group of lawyers.
Speaking to Cybc on Friday, Aristotelous said that the incident has made her fear that her life could be in danger. Later on Friday she told Sigma that the officer in question was a senior member of the drug squad (Ykan), with whom she had cooperated with in the past on professional terms.
Asked if she felt she was at risk and needed extra security, Aristotelous said that “we will see in the coming days. Because – as I have said – when it is a senior officer who so lightly used his own mobile phone and illegally communicated with a convict, asking for videos of my personal life, with the ultimate aim of destroying me and removing me from the position, you understand that in itself raises security issues.”
Asked about the reason for the officer’s action, she said it was to remove her from the position and destroy her reputation, adding that one’s personal life is no one else’s business, noting that “no such video exists.”
Asked if he had any reason to harm her, Aristotelous replied: “If he had, then you would have to ask him. But what I saw through the messages that there is a rage that the human mind cannot contain.” A sample of the messages, she added, have seen the light of day.
Politis cited well-informed sources as stating that one of the messages read: “It’s rumoured that Anna will soon move on to another job. Send me them [videos] as soon as you can, because I want to do some things before the girl leaves the prison.”
“The only thing I want is some videos which hurt her,” the officer allegedly wrote in a separate message in March.
The case appears to have leaked to Aristotelous as the prison was “buzzing” with talk of the ongoing sting attempt, with inmates discussing it at length.
The director subsequently managed to secure a written admission to the conversations and their content by the inmate who was allegedly involved.
Speaking to Active on Friday afternoon, the police spokesman said that he was made aware of the incident after having read up on it in the press. He added that so far, no orders have been given by the police, explaining that the justice minister is instead currently handling the matter.
The alleged incident raises further questions, such as how an inmate appears to have had such easy access to communication devices over a prolonged period of time.
Commenting about how it is possible for inmates to use mobile phones inside the central prisons where a system to deactivate them was to be installed, Aristotelous said that when it came to the senior officer’s attention that a convict was using a mobile phone inside the central prison, he was obliged to inform prison authorities, as his colleagues do, “which he did not do,” she said.
Aristotelous clarified that a mobile deactivation system is in place, it is in operation, but has not been upgraded.
She added that for the past year and a half, she had sent a number of letters to the competent authority about the mobile phone deactivation system.
“After this incident we are really wondering,” she said.
Meanwhile, police chief Stelios Papatheodorou, who went to the Justice Ministry to meet with the minister immediately after the end of Dracou’s meeting with Aristotelous, was in agreement about the appointment of an independent criminal investigator.
In statements to journalists before the meeting, which the minister had requested, Papatheodorou said that he was only informed about the case today through the media,.
“For objective purposes – I don’t know what the attorney-general’s decision will be – but perhaps it would be better to appoint someone from outside. The decision is his [the attorney-general’s],” he said.
Asked to say how concerned he is about the incident, which Aristotelous described as “unprecedented” and “a scandal of corruption”, Papatheodorou said: “We will see how the case develops”.
He also said that he told Aristotelous that they should also discuss the issue of her safety.
Papatheodorou said it is not a simple criminal or disciplinary case against a member of the police. The complainant and the person against whom the allegations may be directed is different, he added, noting that it cannot be handled by a low-ranking officer.