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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-01-12

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>


  • [01] Officials deny reports of Varosha deal
  • [02] Noisy spat over pseudo microphone
  • [03] Cyprus ‘now a European problem’
  • [04] Pandayias controversy ‘closed’
  • [05] Stock market rebounds as institutional investors step in
  • [06] Prosecution witness claims he was bullied into testifying
  • [07] Ex-bishop charged with attempted fraud
  • [08] Suspect’s father deposited £22,000 after bank hold-up
  • [09] Lawyer suggests foundry may refuse to close down
  • [10] Lawyer claims he was beaten by police
  • [11] Government slams Bases ‘commando’ action on boreholes

  • [01] Officials deny reports of Varosha deal

    By Jean Christou

    OFFICIALS closed ranks yesterday to issue blanket denials that Varosha's abandoned hotels would be opened up by Greek Cypriots in return for lifting the economic embargo on the north.

    Athens newspaper Exousia claimed a plan was afoot to get hotels in the abandoned Greek Cypriot resort in the fenced off area of Famagusta working again, in exchange for the lifting of the embargo on the Turkish Cypriots.

    The Turkish army has controlled the area since 1974, but UN resolutions say the town's status quo must not be altered. Unficyp patrols are allowed only limited access to the fenced off area and the Turkish Cypriot side has in recent years made repeated threats to settle the town.

    Exousia said the plan was backed by British envoy Sir David Hannay and by the US and was being viewed positively but cautiously by Nicosia and Athens.

    But Nicosia and Athens yesterday officially and categorically denied any knowledge of such a proposal.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, responding to questions, said the British and the Americans had not approached the Greek Cypriot side with any such confidence-building measures.

    His Greek counterpart Demetris Reppas was slightly less negative, saying there was no "official" proposal on the issue.

    "There are just a few ideas, which have some positive aspects, but all this should be a general framework for a fair and just solution to the Cyprus problem," Reppas said in Athens.

    Speculation surrounding the report in Exousia was fuelled by a meeting between Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis and UN permanent representative James Holger.

    But Rolandis told the Cyprus Mail the issue had not been raised during his meeting with Holger, and that he thought it unlikely it would be raised at any time in the near future.

    "The meeting was not related. We are old friends," he said.

    Rolandis added that as a minister he was aware of what had been discussed at the proximity talks in New York, and "there was no such thing".

    "Whether the US or the UN are preparing something for Varosha to be included in the next round of talks, we don't know," Rolandis said. "But I would say this is not the case at this juncture because the next round in Geneva is proximity talks and such a matter would not arise during proximity talks."

    Speaking after his meeting with Rolandis yesterday, Holger said he was slightly more optimistic for the second round of talks due to begin in Geneva on January 31.

    "The important thing is for the dialogue to continue and not be interrupted as it has happened in the past so many times," he said.

    Calling for patience, he said: "It's going to be a long process."

    [02] Noisy spat over pseudo microphone

    By Jean Christou

    GREEK Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday stepped into the minefield of Cyprus problem protocol when a Turkish Cypriot television crew was told to remove its logo from a microphone.

    Papandreou was about to hold a joint news conference with his Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Cassoulides at the Foreign Ministry in Nicosia when the political storm erupted.

    The incident was seen as an embarrassment to the Greek Minster who had come to promote the positive climate now existing between Greece and old rivals Turkey, which it is hoped will help in efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem.

    The trouble began after a Greek Cypriot journalist complained about the logo on a microphone from Turkish Cypriot state television BRT.

    The BRT crew was asked by Press and Information Office (PIO) officials to remove the station's logo from the microphone which was to be placed in front of the two ministers.

    It was felt that displaying BRT on the microphone might be misconstrued as recognition of the breakaway regime in the north.

    Annoyed at the action of PIO officials, more than a dozen Turkish Cypriots who had been invited to cover the press conference left the room and waited in the corridor.

    Several phone calls later they were told they should return, but when they again went to place the BRT microphone on the table PIO officials tried to hide it behind the mini Cyprus flag and the decorative flower arrangement.

    "They want us to hide the logo but if there is no logo then we won't stay," said BRT reporter Mete Tumerkan. The Turkish Cypriots again left the room in protest. "It is obvious they do not want us here," said one.

    "They are acting like schoolboys. How can they deny that BRT exists? If they can't accept our logo how can we live together?" said television reporter Metin Catan.

    After the news conference began an hour later than scheduled, Cassoulides, although he said it was regrettable the Turkish Cypriots were not present, said the move to ban the BRT logo had been a "political decision". But he declined to say who had actually given the order.

    Two local TV stations said the instruction to remove the offending logo had come directly from President Glafcos Clerides who was consulted in a flurry of phone calls from the Foreign Ministry.

    "What happened shows the paradox of the status quo with the existence of a pseudo state claiming it is a state through various ploys," Cassoulides told journalists during the press conference.

    He said the incident was the "symptom of a disease which should not exist", and added that every night BRT opens with the message: "This is the voice of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus."

    [03] Cyprus now a European problem

    CYPRUS is now a European problem and the principles of Europe must be applied, Greece's Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday.

    Papandreou, who is on the island for a two-day visit, was speaking at a joint news conference in Nicosia with his Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Cassoulides.

    He hailed the outcome of the European Union Helsinki summit last month which not only set the stage for Cyprus' accession with or without a political solution but also accorded Turkey EU candidate status.

    This has helped to increase the thaw pf previously icy relations between Greece and Turkey since both countries were hit by devastating earthquakes last year.

    Papandreou said decisions taken at Helsinki offer new opportunities for decisive progress on Cyprus which should be made use of.

    "The Cyprus problem is now an important issue for each EU country," Papandreou said, adding that Europe's principles must now be applied and walls which divide people, property and free movement must vanish. "Cyprus is now a European problem," he said.

    The Greek Minister said that Turkey's elevation to the status of candidate for EU membership has highlighted the Cyprus problem and the need to solve it.

    This holds out new possibilities and new tools to deal with the Cyprus problem, he said.

    "This has greatly advanced our national interests and elevated the Cyprus problem to an issue which is going on the agenda of our European partners as an issue which must be solved."

    Referring to the thaw in relations between Athens and Ankara, which Papandreou is due to visit later this month to sign co-operation agreements on cultural ties, tourism and fighting terrorism, he said: "I hope we will be able to build a better climate of no tension on these agreements... That does not mean we have solved our problems. We have opened the door of opportunity and it must remain open."

    On his arrival yesterday Papandreou said that during his visit he would be reviewing the present situation on the Cyprus problem in advance of the second round of UN-led proximity talks, due to begin in Geneva on January 31.

    He last visited the island in late November for consultations on the first round of proximity talks which were held in New York in early December.

    Welcoming the Greek Minister at Larnaca airport yesterday, Cassoulides said: "The shoulders of both governments bear the burden of trying to make the most out of all the positive signs that emerged from the meeting (New York) in the best possible way as far as efforts for a Cyprus settlement and the role the EU can play in this respect, as well as our bid to join the Union."

    Today Papandreou will have consultations with President Glafcos Clerides, Attorney-general Alecos Markides, and political party leaders before leaving the island this evening.

    [04] Pandayias controversy closed

    THE GOVERNMENT said yesterday it considered closed the controversy over an article by an adviser of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis that seemed to suggest that Athens was open to a confederal solution to the Cyprus problem.

    The article, published on Sunday, caused uproar among opposition parties in Cyprus.

    It was written by George Pandayias, press adviser to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, and appeared in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia.

    Pandayias wrote that any solution to the Cyprus problem should be based on equality and a series of measures for rapprochement.

    He said on Monday that his words had been misinterpreted as backing a confederation -- the long-standing demand of the Turkish side -- when in fact they did not.

    Pandayias was backed by Greek government spokesman Demetris Reppas, who said the contents of the article were not different from the long-standing position of the Greek government on the Cyprus problem.

    Yesterday, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said that after Pandayias and Reppas statements, the government considered the case closed, and that clarifications from visiting Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou would not be necessary.

    "The important thing is the fact that there has been no change in the common line for a bizonal federation," Papapetrou said.

    [05] Stock market rebounds as institutional investors step in

    THE CYPRUS Stock Exchange rebounded strongly yesterday, with a 4.17 per cent rise that partly recouped Monday's 9.4 per cent plunge, aided by institutional investors placed firmly on the bid side.

    Interrupting a skid has shaved 87 points off the all-share index from the start of this year, most sectors moved higher with the exception of investment and tourism stocks, which retreated marginally.

    Analysts said the market performed well after intervention from mainly institutional buyers, taking positions vacated by many small investors who liquidated their holdings on Monday.

    The market opened lower at 585.39 points and slipped some two per cent in pre-trading and very early into the session before regaining ground to close at 626.69, the highest point of the day.

    Some 5,086 trades were posted on a turnover of £30 million, almost £10 million higher than Monday.

    Traders said it was difficult to predict where the market would be heading over the next few days.

    "Technical analysis points to an uptrend, but the market still lacks momentum so it might be difficult for the rise to be sustained," an analyst at a large Nicosia brokerage said.

    Traders also cautioned investors not to be carried away by low prices, which could prompt a rush to buy the cheapest stocks in sight.

    "Investors should be very careful and look at economic fundamentals. Some are at attractive levels but there shouldn't be an uncontrolled buying spree again," said stockbroker Neophytos Neophytou.

    Monday's retreat, the most serious setback on the bourse for months, prompted calls from bourse officials for state intervention to arrest the slide.

    Traders said they saw such a move as unlikely, apart from state pressure on the Central Bank to lift a ban on loans for portfolio investments as the market has suffered a liquidity squeeze for a month.

    However, Central Bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou told one newspaper yesterday that such a possibility was remote at present. The only way that could happen was if the market retreated even further than Monday's plunge, he told Simerini.

    "If the problem is the liquidity crunch, then a solution is to lift restrictions imposed by the central bank on loans," Finance Minister Takis Klerides said yesterday, adding that some incentives were under consideration to boost the market.

    Options under consideration, he said, included increasing the number of staff at the CSE for more efficient processing of company applications for flotations, and providing incentives for mergers and acquisitions.

    Commercial stocks showed the highest percentage again, adding 8.4 per cent, followed by companies in the "other" category, which rose 7.7 per cent.

    Banking stocks climbed 3.9 per cent. The heaviest turnover in that sector was in Bank of Cyprus shares, which climbed 49 cents to close at £9.79 on a volume of £624,737. Popular Bank climbed 35 cents to £12.75 and the Hellenic Bank closed at £4.39, 30 cents higher.

    Universal Life Insurance was suspended from trading after a public takeover bid by financial services firm Severis and Athienitis (SAFS).

    SAFS launched a public offer to acquire between 20 and 100 per cent of Universal, but its bid appeared to run into a legal hurdle after objections raised by the Central Bank.

    Since Universal are owners of banking subsidiary Universal Savings Bank, any takeover bid must be put on hold to be cleared by the central bank first, governor Afxentis Afxentiou said in a letter to the CSE.

    "Once the application is filed it will be examined with due diligence, but it must be said that the Central Bank does not favour the direct or indirect control of banks by brokerages or its affiliates," Afxentiou said in his letter.

    [06] Prosecution witness claims he was bullied into testifying

    By Martin Hellicar

    A PROSECUTION witness in the trial of `pink slip' suspect Andreas Tsangarides yesterday told a Nicosia court that police had bullied him into testifying.

    Kyriacos Ioannides told the Nicosia District Court he had been put under "severe pressure" by police and threatened with arrest if he refused to testify against the former organisational secretary of Disy.

    Tsangarides, who worked as a labour agent, faces 27 charges relating to illegal employment of foreigners, charges he denies.

    Tsangarides was arrested after the launch, in October, of a police probe into claims of corruption at the Immigration Department.

    Ioannides appeared as a witness for the prosecution in yesterday's second day of Tsangarides' trial.

    He was meant to testify about how Tsangarides had arranged for Moldavian Irina Lavrit to work on the island. But he answered "I do not know" to almost all of the questions put to him by state prosecutor Costas Nicolaides.

    The prosecution, which is trying to prove that Tsangarides routinely arranged for foreigners to work on the island illegally, called Lavrit as a witness.

    But defence lawyer George Georgiou objected, saying the same person who translated Lavrit's statement to police would have to translate her court testimony.

    The court upheld the objection and adjourned till this morning, to allow time for another translator to be found.

    During the first day of the trial on Monday, Nicolaides told the court that Tsangarides had told a prosecution witness he "considered himself a God" and therefore ignored laws and regulations on the employment of foreigners.

    Nicolaides said Tsangarides brought in foreign workers illegally with the aim of making a quick profit.

    Tsangarides' lawyer has dismissed Nicolaides' claims, charging the prosecutor with "playing to the media."

    According to police, Tsangarides' scam was to arrange for foreigners to arrive on the island as visitors and then to arrange work and permits for them when their visitor permit expired. The former Disy man is also suspected of enticing a public official to abuse his position.

    He is one of a number of `big names' netted by the police probe into allegations that police officers and others in positions of authority were abetting underworld prostitution rackets by providing pink slips, sometimes forged, for cabaret dancing girls.

    The probe led to former Immigration chief Christodoulos Nicolaides being charged for allegedly accepting bribes to "fix" residence and work permits (pink slips).

    Similar charges have been brought against senior Immigration officer Nicos Vakanas.

    Limassol police officers Efstathios Theodorou, Demetris Himonas and Pelopidas Evgeniades are also suspected involvement in the permits scam.

    And the twin brother of Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades, Bambos, is charged with supplying fake pink slips, at £170 a shot.

    In early November, Tsangarides made the headlines by claiming President Clerides himself was somehow linked to the permits scam. The government flatly denied his claims.

    [07] Ex-bishop charged with attempted fraud

    FORMER LIMASSOL Bishop Chrysanthos was yesterday charged with trying to defraud a British investor of $3.7 million.

    Chrysanthos will face the court on February 15, charged with conspiring to defraud and attempting to obtain money under false pretences.

    He is accused of offering British investor Gerald Chambers a 200 per cent return on his investment, but Chambers withdrew from the deal after suspecting foul play.

    Chrysanthos stood down in November 1998 after the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus met to decide his fate amid mounting allegations of financial scams.

    In the end, the Holy Synod suspended Chrysanthos from carrying out church services for two years.

    The former Limassol Bishop, who was the centre of media attention for a long time, faces possible expulsion from the Church if he is convicted.

    The state prosecutor told reporters that Chrysanthos could face other charges if there were solid enough evidence of similar fraud cases.

    Police are still looking into another case where Chrysanthos is alleged to have swindled two Portuguese investors of $1.5 million.

    [08] Suspects father deposited £22,000 after bank hold-up

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE FATHER of a bank robbery suspect deposited £22,000 in a bank less than a month after one of the two hold-ups his son is accused of having carried out, a Limassol court heard yesterday.

    The father, 48-year-old restaurateur Minas Tantis, from Kiti in the Larnaca district, was remanded for eight days by the Limassol District court.

    His 22-year-old son, Demetris, is being held in connection with last Wednesday's £22,000 armed robbery from the main Limassol branch of the Popular Bank, and with a £60,000 raid on the same bank on October 13. Minas' ex-wife, Chrysanthi, 46, and Pontian Greek George Yiannides, 28, are also being held in connection with the same hold-ups.

    Police investigators told the court yesterday that they had found a discarded bank deposit book bearing Minas Tantis' name. The book showed he had paid some £22,000 into a Bank of Cyprus branch on November 1 last year, 18 days after the first bank robbery.

    The court heard that the deposit book was in a bag found in the garden of a home in Meneou village, just down the road from Kiti, where Minas lives, on January 8 (three days after the second bank raid).

    The bag was handed to Limassol police by the homeowner.

    A number of other documents bearing Minas' name were found in the bag, police told the court. One of these showed that he had recently taken £40,000 into Rhodes, the court heard.

    Other documents showed that stock market shares had been purchased in the names of Minas' relatives.

    Police believe Minas received cash that his son and Yiannides stole from the Popular Bank in the October 13 and January 5 robberies.

    The suspect is apparently refusing to cooperate with case investigators.

    He was remanded on suspicion of receiving stolen goods and covering-up a crime.

    Minas' son, Demetris, has, according to police, confessed to carrying out last Wednesday's raid and named Yiannides as his partner-in-crime. Demetris has also led police to a remote location in the Larnaca area where the £22,000 taken in the latest raid was stashed.

    It was what the robbers said during Wednesday's stick-up that first led police to conclude the same men were behind the October 13 raid.

    According to witnesses, the two hooded and helmeted robbers were distinctly cheeky after bursting into the Athens Street branch at 9am, brandishing a sawn-off shotgun.

    "Good morning and Happy New Year, we're back again, don't be afraid, stay calm and just raise your hands," they apparently said, in Greek, before helping themselves to the cash in tills.

    Police now consider both robbery cases solved.

    [09] Lawyer suggests foundry may refuse to close down

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE LAWYER for the beleaguered Ergates foundry yesterday hinted his clients might not be as willing to close for six months to install anti-pollution devices as Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou suggested on Monday they would be.

    "Today I will discuss the whole matter with the government and the representatives of the village," Nicosia lawyer Doros Ioannides told the Cyprus Mail.

    "I want to know the exact details of the proposal. And when I know the details of the proposal, I will give an answer" on behalf of the foundry to Papapetrou's proposal that it shut for six months to install modern anti-pollution chimney filters.

    Despite the villagers lawsuit, scheduled for a Supreme Court hearing in May, to revoke the foundry's permits to operate at all, "there is no difference between the foundry and the people of Ergates," Ioannides insisted.

    He said he was now preparing for two criminal cases filed by Attorney-general Alecos Markides at the behest of Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas against the foundry for allegedly exceeding the pollution laws of Cyprus.

    One case is set for January 19, the other for February 2, in Nicosia District Court.

    Papapetrou said his remarks on Monday were only a three-stage "government framework for a solution" to the foundry pollution crisis that has pitted Ergates villagers against both the factory and the state, for the latter's perceived inaction.

    That framework involved closing the foundry for six months to install modern machinery and special filters to bring its toxic lead and cadmium emissions to below the much stricter EU standards.

    Its third phase involves bringing foreign experts to Cyprus to judge whether the re-tooling at the foundry is the remedy needed to end the pollution problem.

    The pollution has poisoned Ergates villagers' blood with five times the cadmium and three times the lead of Nicosia residents, according to tests run by public health specialist Dr Michalis Voniatis.

    It has also caused chronic lung ailments in 33 per cent of Ergates children, and raised cancer levels in the villagers to well above the national average, according to Voniatis' tests.

    Papapetrou noted his three-part plan was merely a proposal, "an effort to face the problem. I didn't mention that anything would be compulsory. We're trying to find a way through" the controversy and the risk to the villagers' health, he said.

    "I mentioned that whatever we do is to be done within the framework of existing legislation," Papapetrou said, finessing the question of what the state would do if the foundry's lawyer advised against closing for the six-month modernisation.

    "We shall see their reaction. The district officer of Nicosia... will deal with them and negotiate with them. And in the light of the outcome, the government will examine the situation. We hope that everybody agrees, that the factory agrees to this closing down."

    Papapetrou was unable to say late yesterday if the government planned to undertake any mass testing program in Ergates to assess how badly the villagers' health had been damaged by the foundry's emissions, and to treat them. Some of the effects are reversible, Voniatis said; others are not.

    The government spokesman said part of the problem lay in the "considerable differentiation" he saw in Voniatis tests.

    "We have to make sure what the real situation is," regarding just how much cancer, and what kinds, have been caused by toxic particulate in Marios &amp; Andreas foundry smoke, he said.

    Voniatis said the government should "expand the blood testing" in Ergates, and should begin determining how badly polluted the fields and crops around the foundry were.

    "Those fields are not only feeding the people of Ergates; they're feeding a lot of other people," Voniatis said yesterday, adding he hoped to get some EU grant money to "develop an environmental public health policy" institute in Cyprus, if the government did not.

    [10] Lawyer claims he was beaten by police

    By George Psyllides

    POLICE ARE "discreetly" investigating the alleged beating of a lawyer in Limassol by two police officers.

    Police sources yesterday told the Cyprus Mail the case was being handled discreetly by the Police Chief and the Limassol Police Director.

    Reports say the incident happened last Friday, after the lawyer, who was driving his car, was stopped by two men in plain clothes.

    The men asked the lawyer for his driver's licence, saying they were police officers, and that they had stopped him for reckless driving.

    The lawyer, reports say, asked the two men for their identities, but instead of that the men allegedly dragged him out of the car, threw him to the ground and hit him on the head.

    The lawyer claims they then handcuffed him and took him to the police station, but not before hitting him again in the station's parking lot.

    Akel deputy Yiannakis Agapiou, who happened to witness part of the incident, reported it directly to the chief of police.

    Police Chief Andreas Angelides and Limassol Police Director Charalambos Koulendis have apologised for the officers' behaviour, and assured they would also apologise in writing so the issue would be closed.

    The Pancyprian Lawyers Association, however, has urged the Minister of Justice and the police chief to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident and to punish those who are to blame.

    [11] Government slams Bases commando action on boreholes

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday accused the British bases of carrying out a "commando-style" operation by capping illegal boreholes early on Monday morning.

    Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, asked to comment on Monday's action, said he did not wish to discuss the essence of the issue but: "This commando-style action without warning early in the morning to neutralise these pumps, I think it does not fit when there are talks going on to find a solution," he said.

    At 6am on Monday, the bases moved to cap five illegal boreholes dug by farmers who rent bases land for crop cultivation. The bases said it was the first phase of an action to prevent the illegal abstraction of water from the Ormidhia aquifer.

    Around 100 potato farmers in the Ormidhia area were affected, but the bases said they would in the near future be capping another 23 illegal boreholes.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need yesterday repeated that they would reserve their right to do so.

    However, he said he believed the Bases would be putting proposals to resolve the issue to the farmers by the end of the week.

    "But it should be remembered that what they're doing is effectively stealing water, and its not a matter of one or two boreholes, it's many," Need said.

    He said if the water in the aquifer dropped below sea level, the supply of drinking water for bases residents would be contaminated with seawater. "This is the drinking water for the base area," Need said.

    He said that although the farmers were paying rent for the land it did not include irrigation. "We don't want to deprive them of their livelihood, but it is widely recognised that what they are doing is illegal."

    Commenting on the government spokesman's "commando" statement, Need said: "A 12-mile, 14-vehicle convoy with flashing blue lights doesn't constitute a commando action."

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