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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-06-26

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Friday, June 26, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek pledge on defence ties
  • [02] House approves $400m request
  • [03] Shacolas hits back at Yiangou allegations
  • [04] House brings forward bill to allow Markides to appeal acquittal
  • [05] Murder on the beach
  • [06] French bank expands Cyprus operations
  • [07] Israel slams 'irresponsible' Greenpeace reports
  • [08] Another car for the President
  • [09] Turks release Greek Cypriot
  • [10] EU energy commissioner in town

  • [01] Greek pledge on defence ties

    By Martin Hellicar and Andrew Adamides

    GREEK President Constantinos Stephanopoulos began an unprecedented visit to Cyprus yesterday, bearing promises of stronger defence ties between the two countries.

    Stephanopoulos, the first Greek president to visit Cyprus, was welcomed with much pomp and ceremony and by thousands of well-wishers who braved the searing heat to cheer his every move.

    "We will examine the possibility of qualitative improvement of the joint defence dogma (between Greece and Cyprus) which must be reinforced so long as the aggressiveness of Turkey remains," Stephanopoulos said.

    The Greek head of state and his delegation, including Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, were received by President Glafcos Clerides and the full cabinet upon arrival at Larnaca airport at 11am.

    Stephanopoulos said the various issues of the defence pact, European Union accession and Cyprus problem would be discussed during his four-day stay. He said Greek and Turkish Cypriots could live together only in a unified Cyprus, and that EU accession would benefit both communities.

    His visit comes at a time of high tension between the Greek and Turkish sides on the island, fuelled by tit-for-tat landings of Greek and Turkish fighter jets last week.

    The government is hailing the visit as one of historic importance. "The presence in Cyprus of the Greek president sends an important message, a message that says Greece is here to defend Cyprus democracy and justice and our efforts to join the European family," Clerides said in his welcome speech.

    Stephanopoulos described his arrival as "one of the most important moments in my life".

    "This is not a typical diplomatic visit but a visit of love, honour and affection," he said.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, commenting in Vienna, said Stephanopoulos' visit would prove nothing. "They are trying to prove that Cyprus is Greek. No matter what political message he (Stephanopoulos) wants to pass on, we cannot change the reality," Denktash said.

    Unconfirmed reports suggested an expected visit to the occupied areas by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel - scheduled for Sunday to coincide with Stephanopoulos's visit - had been postponed until July.

    A massive police security operation was mounted as Stephanopoulos' motorcade passed through Larnaca streets and on to Nicosia yesterday. In the capital Clerides bestowed upon the Greek president the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III - the highest state honour. He was also presented with the key to the city by Mayor Lellos Demetriades.

    Droves of flag-waving Cypriots of all ages turned out to greet Stephanopoulos. "We have been waiting for this for 3,000 years," one awe- struck middle-aged woman said. Speaking at an official dinner yesterday evening, Clerides promised there would be no let-up in defence spending. "I wish to reiterate our irreversible decision to continue to strengthen our defence with every kind of defensive weapon which we consider will maximise our security," he said. The government has drawn fire from the international community for ordering Russian S-300 missiles, due for delivery in the autumn.

    In his speech, Stephanopoulos spoke of the need for Greek unity and congratulated Clerides for inviting Turkish Cypriots to participate in the government's EU accession talks team.

    The speeches over, Stephanopoulos presented Clerides with a signed photograph of himself and two silver goblets. Clerides held the cups up and pronounced: "I promise, Mr President, that I will drink from one of these full of zivania after I sign the agreement for a Cyprus settlement."

    [02] House approves $400m request

    THE HOUSE plenum yesterday approved a government request to raise $400 million abroad through a bond issue to cover deficits this year.

    The loan request came after the House rejected part of a tax package bill submitted last month to try to cut the fiscal deficit, set to rise from five per cent last year to seven per cent in 1998. The rest of the tax package is to be considered by the House in October.

    The timing of the bond issue will be decided later by the Finance Ministry.

    The plenum also approved an emergency bill extending the service of contract civil servants by another month until the end of July.

    [03] Shacolas hits back at Yiangou allegations

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    BUSINESS tycoon Nicos Shacolas yesterday hit back at allegations of malpractice over the issue of permits for his planned commercial complex in Strovolos.He said Akel deputy Kikis Yiangou, who first levelled the accusations, had been misled into making the "slanderous claims" by people who opposed the project.

    Shacolas, owner of the giant Shacolas Group, gave his side of the story at a hastily arranged press conference, called so he could reply to the "false allegations" made by Yiangou to the House Interior Committee on Wednesday.

    Shacolas challenged Yiangou to resign his seat as a deputy so he could sue him without the protection of his parliamentary immunity.

    Undeterred, Yiangou yesterday repeated allegations he had made to the House committee that the Shacolas Group had forged documents and had had a building permit signed by a retired Town Planning official so it could build a commercial centre in the Strovolos suburb of Nicosia. To Shacolas' threats of taking him to court, he replied: "take me wherever you want."

    Shacolas, who had not been given the chance to speak at Wednesday's House committee, yesterday angrily denied Yiangou's "slanderous suggestions of a so-called scandal".

    He said that if Yiangou was not willing to forfeit his parliamentary immunity and defend his claims in court, Shacolas company lawyers would be instructed to seek a lifting of the immunity.

    "These allegations are blatantly misleading and completely insupportable and made just to cause problems," Shacolas claimed. He stressed that the Akel deputy had been manipulated by Shacolas Group competitors whom he repeatedly refused to name.

    Shacolas denied any wrongdoing on the part of his company, stressing that all applications were made through the correct channels.

    He addressed Yiangou's allegations one by one, saying the building permit had not been not signed by a retired Town Planning employee but by three Town Planning employees. He pointed out that Othon Yiangoulis, the man allegedly called back from retirement to sign the permit, had publicly denied the claims by confirming that he was still employed at the time the documents were signed.

    And Shacolas vehemently denied Yiangou's claim that the application for the building permit bypassed the appropriate ministerial committee and went straight to the cabinet, where government interests in the project approved it. He argued that the application had been considered by a ministerial committee on several occasions before being passed on to the cabinet for approval.

    He admitted that his company did employ people related to members of the government, "but for that matter we also employ Akel members who lost the last election."

    Yiangou had also alleged that the government intervened to relax Town Planning regulations by changing the relevant area from an industrial zone to a zone of industrial activity simply to accommodate the Shacolas Group. The business tycoon said the evidence was there for all to examine that the Vassiliou government had changed the zone definitions in 1992, three years before his company applied for a building permit.

    He said the building permit application submitted by ITTL Trade Tourist and Leisure Park, a Shacolas Group sub-division in July 1995, was made on the basis of what Town Planning zoning permitted.

    "All legal procedure was followed. The issue was discussed by the appropriate ministerial committee contrary to Yiangou's claims; it was then taken to the cabinet; the cabinet imposed several restrictions which we respected and are obliged to enforce," Shacolas said.

    The restrictions include reducing the size of the planned commercial centre by 30 per cent and the construction of a roundabout, parking spaces and squares around the proposed site to guarantee the free movement of traffic.

    Shacolas then proceeded to blow his own trumpet by presenting the planned commercial centre as being driven by public interest. "This centre will be in the public's interest and in the interest of Cyprus. It will be the first such multi-purpose centre on the island and will help tourism as well as employ thousands of people," he pointed out.

    "You cannot stop progress," he added.

    Shacolas denied the new centre would damage other shop owners in the area and said "lots of enterprises close down for various reasons. If shop owners do not offer anything new, then they will be forced to shut down, no matter what other businesses are in the area."

    [04] House brings forward bill to allow Markides to appeal acquittal

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE plenum is to vote next Thursday on a bill which would empower the Attorney-general to challenge the acquittal of three Aeroporos brothers on attempted murder charges.

    The new legislation -- discussed in an emergency session of the House legal affairs committee yesterday -- would allow the Attorney general to appeal to the Supreme Court against Assizes court decisions.

    If the bill is passed, Alecos Markides could lodge an eleventh hour challenge of last Friday's Assizes decision acquitting Aeroporos brothers Hambis, 35, Andros, 30, and Panicos, 25, of involvement in the shooting of gambling club owner Antonis Fanieros in Larnaca on May 29 last year.

    The bill stipulates any appeal must be made within 14 days of the original decision -- by next Friday in the case of the Aeroporos decision.

    Markides has described the acquittal as "wrong" and has asked the House to pass the bill, pending since January last year, as a matter of urgency. Under existing law, the Attorney-general can only challenge District Court decisions.

    In the end, the committee decided yesterday to refer the bill to next week's plenum session, rather than yesterday afternoon's. The postponement was for procedural reasons -- a bill has to be put on the plenum's agenda at least 24 hours before a session.

    Reports also suggested deputies did not want to be seen to rush the bill to the plenum, as this could have been interpreted as an indictment of the Assizes decision.

    The committee approved a suggestion by Diko deputy Tassos Papadopoulos for inclusion in the bill of a provision stipulating that the state foot the bill for defence costs in any appeal against an Assizes decision.

    Markides, who was at the committee meeting, gave his blessing to the additional provision.

    He also sought to reassure deputies that the powers granted by the bill would not be used to secure the release of offenders. "In Cyprus, we do not convict the innocent, we rather acquit the guilty," he stated.

    Speaking after the meeting, Markides said there was nothing unconstitutional about the proposed legislation.

    "In any case, I feel certain that the first time I use this right the issue of constitutionality will be raised, so we will very swiftly know the Supreme Court's decision," he said.

    He said the procedure of someone challenging the bill at the Supreme Court was the only way categorically to decide its constitutionality.

    The acquittal of the Aeroporos trio sparked a row between Markides and well- known lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou, who defended the brothers. Efstathiou charged Markides with undermining the Assizes by criticising the acquittal. Markides attacked Efstathiou for attending a party thrown by the Aeroporos family on Sunday to celebrate their court victory, saying his presence at a party given wide media coverage gave the "wrong messages".

    The Assizes acquitted the three Aeroporos brothers after dismissing the testimony of chief prosecution witness Tassos Simellides, who is serving a nine-year sentence for acting as get-away driver for the hit. Simellides, 28, named Hambis as instigator, Andros as architect and Panicos as hit-man for the machine-gun attack.

    In their decision, the judges stated police and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis had "made promises" to Simellides to get him to testify against the defendants.

    During the year-long trial, Efstathiou labelled Simellides a liar who had cut a deal with police to help secure the conviction of the Aeroporos brothers in exchange for seeing out his sentence at a country estate and passage abroad afterwards.

    Last year's attack was described as a gangland hit, part of an on-going feud between Limassol and Larnaca gangs vying for control of lucrative gambling, prostitution and drugs rings.

    Fanieros, 57, survived despite being hit in the neck as he came under a hail of machine-gun fire.

    No finger-prints belonging to any of the Aeroporos brothers were found on the motorbike, the machine-gun or any of the other items found by police after the hit, the Assizes noted.

    [05] Murder on the beach

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A MURDER inquiry, involving the British bases and Cyprus police, was launched yesterday after a man was found stabbed to death on a Limassol beach.

    The man found dead in a black Nissan car on Lady's Mile was named as 22- year-old Michalakis Evangelou, a builder from Zakaki.

    "According to preliminary observations, it was a violent death caused by multiple stab injuries inflicted by a sharp instrument," bases spokesman Captain Jon Brown told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    A routine SBA patrol found the body at around 6am on a dirt track near the Zakaki football ground.

    Limassol police believe there was a violent struggle between the victim and his attacker, during which Evangelou received six stab wounds, probably from a knife, to the stomach and in the side.

    It is understood the victim managed to crawl back into the car, which belonged to his fiancée, and drive to the spot where he was later discovered.

    Police said blood stains were found 100 metres away from where the vehicle was found.

    The time of the murder has been narrowed down to between 4am and 6am yesterday, as the SBA said a witness saw Evangelou buy two cheese pies and a drink at a kiosk in the nearby Metochi area at 4am.

    Evangelou left his home on Wednesday evening for an unknown destination.

    Forensic pathologist Marios Matsakis was requested to carry out the post mortem by the SBA police.

    State pathologist Panicos Stavrianos also arrived at the scene but left in a huff after disagreeing with the methods used by Matsakis.

    Captain Brown said the victim's body, which has been identified by his brother and fiancée, will be released to the family today.

    So far, the joint SBA and Cyprus police investigation is following all avenues of enquiry as no clear motive can be established.

    SBA police in Akrotiri have jurisdiction in the investigation.

    [06] French bank expands Cyprus operations

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SOCIETE générale Financial products (Cyprus) Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of France's Société générale S.A., has been granted a banking business licence to operate on an offshore basis on the island, the Central Bank said yesterday.

    Société générale S.A. has operated on the island since February 1985 through an offshore banking unit and, according to the Central Bank, will now act as the administering bank for Société générale Financial Products.

    The newly licensed unit will only deal in foreign currency and with other offshore entities and non-residents of Cyprus. It takes to four the number of administered offshore banking units on the island, which operate alongside 28 offshore banking units and five representative offices.

    The Central bank said the decision by Société générale to expand its presence was "another indication of our country's success in attracting prime international banks and financial institutions and of Cyprus's growing recognition... as a reputable offshore financial centre."

    Cyprus introduced tax breaks, duty free privileges and other perks in the mid-1970s to attract offshore businesses in a bid to rebuild an economy devastated by Turkey's 1974 invasion and the loss of resources in the northern third of the island occupied by the Turks.

    More than 30,000 offshore companies are now registered on the island, of which about a 1,000 are fully-staffed. Cyprus-flagged ships administered by offshore shipping companies on the island now make up the world's fifth largest fleet.

    The government, which started membership talks with the European Union in March, has vowed to do its utmost to keep its offshore sector after the island becomes an EU member.

    The government will argue that offshore zones exist in EU members Portugal, Ireland and Italy, and will stress the importance of the sector to the economy and its potential to serve as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.

    The offshore sector accounts for four per cent of GDP and 11 per cent of invisible receipts, but a recent survey has shown that 25 per cent of offshore companies would seriously consider leaving the island when it joins the EU.

    [07] Israel slams 'irresponsible' Greenpeace reports

    ISRAEL yesterday hit back at press reports accusing it of polluting the Mediterranean by allowing the dumping of toxic waste.

    A press release by the Israeli embassy in Nicosia denied that there had been any contamination of the sea surrounding Cyprus.

    It also described reports that Israel was the only country polluting the Mediterranean or even that responsible for the most pollution as "irresponsible and incorrect".

    Last week, Greenpeace activists intercepted an Israeli ship dumping waste at sea south of the island.

    TV crews filmed the vessel Aribel as it dumped toxic waste in to the sea after Greenpeace activists chartered a boat from Cyprus to carry out their action. The Israeli operation was carried out at night, leading environmentalists to suspect that all is not above board.

    The US-owned company Haifa Chemicals has been permitted to dump 60,000 tonnes of waste in the Mediterranean until October this year.

    Israel says the waste is being dumped 300 kilometres away from Cyprus and is not affecting the ecosystems in the area.

    A land-based disposal solution for some of the waste is to be found within six months, according to the company's contract with Israel.

    The embassy yesterday refuted figures released by Greenpeace relating to where the waste was dumped.

    Its announcement said that Haifa Chemicals, which produces fertilizers, discharged potash rock into the sea at a depth of 1,000 metres and said no damage was being caused to fish and marine life apart from at the sea bed where the waste is dumped. The embassy quotes the Israeli Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute to back its claims.

    It went on to say the company was investing $10 million to build a treatment plant to deal with the pollution.

    The Cyprus Fisheries Department has also given assurances that fish caught off Cyprus are contamination free.

    [08] Another car for the President

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE PRESIDENTIAL auto-fleet grew by one yesterday, after Volkswagen-Audi importers Unicars ltd presented the President with a new Audi A8.

    The car was accepted on his behalf by under-secretary Pantelis Kouros and Andreas Theophanous, head of the presidential guard, as President Glafcos Clerides was otherwise occupied, welcoming Greek president Constantinos Stephanopoulos to the island.

    A Unicars spokesman told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that although the car was only the second-largest model in the Audi line-up, it was the one they felt best suited the president's needs; the top-of-the-line prestige model was of a more sporting nature, while the A8 was a more sedate vehicle.

    Asked if the car would replace Clerides' current official BMW, he said that the president had several vehicles and it was up to him how many he chose to run alongside each other.

    The Audi is equipped with a 4.2 litre engine, permanent four-wheel-drive and a Tiptronic automatic gearbox. It also features several security modifications to suit it for use by the president.

    The A8 is already used as an official car by the King and the president of Spain.

    Unicars did not give any indication of the vehicle's value.

    [09] Turks release Greek Cypriot

    A GREEK Cypriot man remanded by the Denktash regime for three days on Monday was released yesterday.

    Stelios Ioannou, 45, from Kato Pyrgos Tyllirias crossed into the occupied areas near Paphos Gate in Nicosia early on Monday.

    He was remanded for three days and released yesterday around 4pm through the Ledra Palace checkpoint.

    The 'court' in the occupied areas released Ioannou without fining him, an Unficyp spokesman said.

    Ioannou had mistakenly crossed into the occupied areas.

    [10] EU energy commissioner in town

    A EUROPEAN Commission conference entitled 'EU Energy Policy: Challenges for the Applicant Countries' was launched in Nicosia last night with a welcome dinner.

    The one-day official session begins today with keynote presentations by various European Commission and government officials. On Saturday, officials will tour archaeological sites in Limassol and Paphos.

    The conference will examine topics including Cyprus' experiences and programmes in the energy field; the experience of new EU member states; general EU policy in the energy field and a strategic energy plan for Cyprus future EU accession.

    One of the officials addressing today's conference is Christos Papoutsis, the Commissioner responsible for Energy, Tourism and Small Sized Enterprises.

    Papoutsis will also meet President Glafcos Clerides and various government ministers to hold talks on Cyprus' preparations for EU membership, particularly in the areas of his competence.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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