There has been no evidence to support corruption claims against the drug squad chief Michalis Katsounotos, after he was accused of colluding with a convict in the central prisons, the Attorney-general (AG) said on Wednesday.
Instead, Katsounotos was trying to obtain information as part of his job and tried to uncover potential offences carried out by members of the prison service, a joint statement from the AG George Savvides and his deputy AG Savvas Angelides outlined.
“Neither [investigator] Mr. Emilianides nor the legal service that studied the evidence, found there was evidence of corruption against Mr. Katsounotos, in the sense that he may have tried to gain something out of the situation.”
Rather, the investigation suggests he may have abused his authority and may have committed the offence of conspiracy. Both offences carry a two-year prison term and / or a fine up to €2,562 but there is no public interest in beginning a criminal prosecution against him, the legal service determined.
Nonetheless, Katsounotos’ actions could be examined in a disciplinary case in the way he communicated with the convict and carried out his job. The legal service will send the material to the appropriate authority to decide whether disciplinary measures against him would be justified.
The legal service added that it felt the need to clarify the situation after numerous media reports. Independent investigator Achilleas Emilianides was appointed to examine the case after prison director Anna Aristotelous went public in June, with her charge that Katsounotos had been colluding with an inmate to try and secure damaging footage of herself and her assistant.
When the story broke, Politis had reported the text messages suggested Katsounotos had offered the convict a number of leniencies including a shot at parole, to try and convince him to obtain the footage.
“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.
Explaining how the legal service reached its conclusion, the statement noted that Katsounotos as well as other police members had “personal knowledge over the situation at the prison service, which we do not wish to get into at the moment, nor do we think is necessary.”
“It is enough to say that from the witness material of the criminal investigation, Katsounotos prepared in record time a number of official reports to the police leadership in which he outlined matters he was aware of, including the organisation and execution of crimes from within the prison service, while he warned of dangers involved.”
According to the legal service Katsounotos had received information from a convict there had been videos depicting “personal moments” and videos of drugs in the prison.
“These videos had come to the hands of people that could have taken advantage of them by exerting pressure to the director of the central prisons,” the legal service said citing the informant.
“An analysis of the contentious messages (between Katsounotos and the convict) shows a clear picture of Katsounotos’ real intentions while the selective presentation in the media, changes the picture.”
When trying to weigh whether Katsounotos had committed a crime and whether a criminal prosecution would be in the public interest, the legal service took into account his motives, his efforts to avert serious offences “and the absence of evidence pointing to corruption.”
“Public interest is not a broad and vague concept but is assessed on a case-by-case basis.”
Last month, the AG’s office published a damning report about the Nicosia central prison, saying its management is “neither adequate nor effective”. Savvides outlined the facility is rife with drugs and criminal activity including witness intimidation both inside and outside the prison, leading to an “uncontrolled and extremely dangerous situation.”
The report came after the death of Turkish Cypriot Tansu Cidan, who was allegedly murdered in his prison cell in Nicosia. Three prison guards on duty were remanded in connection to the case and face charges of manslaughter and neglect of duty.