Police are soon expected to wrap up a criminal investigation into functionaries at the Department of Town Planning and Housing as well as municipal councilors over potentially unlawful property developments, daily Politis reported on Tuesday.
The case has been brought to the attorney-general’s attention by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides. In March last year, the attorney-general ordered the police to initiate a criminal probe of which the findings, Politis said, are due soon.
The investigation relates to developments undertaken by a contractor in the Ayia Thekla beach area, in the municipality of Sotira, and within or in close proximity to a Natura 2000 protected area.
Moreover, the company undertaking the developments – mostly beach resort properties – happens to be owned by an individual designated as a Politically Exposed Person.
The Audit Office found that construction went ahead without all the necessary permits having been secured, while there were also serial breaches of zoning regulations.
Michaelides let the attorney-general know that he identified potential violations of the law by both town planning officers and the Sotira municipal council.
He noted that he found actions which “at first sight constitute a violation of, and in some cases contempt for, not only national law but also EU law and which, if left unaddressed, will create an alarming precedent for arbitrary conduct.”
Michaelides then asked the attorney-general to look into whether any criminal, civil or disciplinary offences were committed.
These findings appear in the Audit Office’s recently released report on the agriculture ministry – given that the violations in question apparently also involved the Department of Town Planning not seeking approval for the developments from the Department of the Environment, which comes under the agriculture ministry.
Politis contacted the mayor of Sotira as well as municipal councilors, who all denied allegations of wrongdoing. They said that after spotting the irregularities, they had taken corrective action.
The newspaper said this case was one of three tracked by the auditor-general regarding potential unlawful actions at the Department of Town Planning.
For the three cases – all involving zoning breaches – the auditor-general wrote to the interior ministry, responsible for the Department of Town Planning. Michaelides called on the ministry to launch disciplinary proceedings against department functionaries. After a back-and-forth, the ministry reportedly declined to carry out any disciplinary probe, arguing that the auditor-general’s allegations were “generic and vague.”