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Cyprus

Money laundering investigations over monk scandal underway

avakum monastery christos photo 2
Avakoum Monastery (Christos Theodorides)

The two monks embroiled in a sex and cash scandal at Osiou Avakoum monastery may be called to testify before the church’s investigative committee, it was reported on Monday.

It has been almost a month since the monks were allegedly found with €800,000 in cash and captured on camera engaging in sexual activity with each other.

A six-member investigative committee within the church appointed by the Holy Synod has been working at a ‘feverish pace’ taking statements from those involved.

The monks however have yet to be called in. The committee said they were saving them for last, however a source close to the matter said their time may come this week.

“This is what I understand.”

The legal team for the monks has disputed the process the Holy Synod chose to follow, arguing it goes against the church’s law.

“It appears they’re trying to subvert the process. This might mean the monks may not even appear,” the source said.

Police investigations are still underway, and also include a video purportedly showing a monk beating a woman at the monastery. The monks dispute the authenticity of the video, however officers are also examining a separate report of sexual harassment.

The financial element of the scandal is currently being scrutinised by police’s financial crime unit as well as the anti-money laundering unit (Mokas).

Authorities are investigating money laundering in the matter, as well as obtaining money with false representations.

MPs have called for a thorough investigation of church donations for money laundering. The interior ministry has also shared information over fundraiser applications made by the monastery – including one of €3 million, where it failed to submit the necessary financial statements.

Specialist investigators are also exploring a number of videos captured on CCTV. The burning question is the sound that was being recorded. The monks have argued the sound was disabled – with their legal team suggesting Tamasos Bishop Isias called in a favour with his brother who works at the secret service to remotely activate the sound.

Police will call in the company that installed the CCTV to explore the matter, while the servers are being combed through.

A number of faithful have made statements of being ‘cheated out of money’ for which police have begun securing bank statements linked to the monks.

They are also exploring land registry records for property allegedly in their name.

Police denied giving special treatment to the church because of its powerful influence, both for the lack of any arrests and the fact that officers accompanied the transfer of €800,000 in cash from the monastery to the Tamasos Bishopric.

 

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