Prison guards have been instructed to carry out thorough checks on inmates to find illicit mobile phones as the justice ministry is trying to clampdown on organised crime unfolding in the facility, minister Anna Procopiou said on Tuesday.
Briefing MPs at the House finance committee where the ministry’s budget was being discussed, Procopiou acknowledged a slew of court decisions illustrated there were crimes being organised from within the prisons.
A long-discussed system aimed at blocking phone signals around the central prison has yet to be implemented, and as such, there are more and more inspections, she added.
“Our approach as a ministry is that when we have information and warrants, police have to get into the prisons and carry out the necessary checks.” She was responding to a question by Disy MP Harris Georgiades, who sought to address news reports linking organised crime to the prison.
“We have seen this unfold over the past few months,” Procopiou conceded, stressing there should be an open channel of communication between police and prisons.
In a seemingly loaded reference, she said “there is a different approach than what happened previously.”
The minister sought to clarify that the increased inspections have nothing to do with the recent murders and said police have mapped out Cyprus’ underworld and its activities.
“Organised crime existed, exists and will exist across all EU countries,” she said.
“This is a discussion we have every time at the council of ministers at the EU, on how to combat organised crime, the way it creates income, and the fact that they are always a step ahead of authorities, because they now use technology, cryptocurrencies and new ways of transporting drugs.”
Delving into the contentious issue of the system which should disable phones across the prison, Procopiou said the contract with the service provider had been contested by the legal service.
“We believed that this particular provider could not meet everything the agreement set out for them,” she said and the transport ministry is looking to find a new system.
This however “will take time, it’s no easy feat.” To this end, this is why more inspections for mobile phones across prisons are being carried out, the minister specified.
Deputies also heard of the inclusion in next year’s budget for purchasing an anti-drone system.
Procopiou specified the intelligence service will become independent from the police and as such will not only deal with drugs but also organised crime, football violence, and the issue of poaching, which can generate millions in revenue for organised crime, she said.