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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-08-09

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

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


Sunday, August 09, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Charity sues bishop's lawyer in $16m case
  • [02] Judge car bomber jailed for 18 years
  • [03] Farmer dies under his tractor
  • [04] Bus convoy takes Turkish Cypriots to Kokkina
  • [05] Cypriot firefighters join Greek battle
  • [06] Heatwave has killed 15 people in Cyprus
  • [07] Desalination to the rescue
  • [08] Outcry hotel opens for visitors

  • [01] Charity sues bishop's lawyer in $16m case

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A SOUTH AMERICAN charity for poor girls is taking legal action in Washington, D.C., against a representative of Bishop Chrysanthos of Limassol, claiming that it has lost nearly two million dollars in a 'get rich quick' investment scheme.

    The Perez Pallares Fundacion in Quito, Ecuador, says up to 2,000 poverty- stricken girls could end up on the streets because it has lost its $1.7 million investment.

    The initial suit claims $16 million in compensation and cites the bishop's lawyer, Lewis A. Rivlin of the law firm Rivlin, Velarde &amp; Taylor, LLP, as the defendant.

    But a US lawyer representing the foundation has told the Cyprus Mail that Bishop Chrysanthos will soon be directly involved in the proceedings, which allege fraud.

    "We will definitely file an amendment to the complaint naming the bishop and submitting additional evidence," said Larry D. Sharp of McGuire, Woods, Battle &amp; Boothe, the law firm handling the case for the Perez Pallares Fundacion.

    He said this move would make Chrysanthos partly or solely responsible for paying any damages awarded in favour of the plaintiff. The bishop's attorney, Rivlin, is currently the sole person liable.

    "Adding the bishop to the complaint means he could be found liable for the whole amount or a lesser amount," Sharp told the Cyprus Mail from his Washington law office.

    Rivlin, in an affidavit filed against the lawsuit, denies there is any evidence that the Perez Pallares Fundacion has suffered any loss - or that it is likely to. Rivlin also says that the bishop is willing to pay back the money - invested by the charity and others on a 'guarantee' of quick and high returns - if it can be retrieved from what a court deposition claims is an unathorised bank account in Athens operated by a doctor named as being involved in the investment scheme.

    Rivlin's affidavit says the foundation's money ended up in Greece because of the involvement of the doctor.

    He says Bishop Chrysanthos was involved in a deal with the doctor to raise money for charities, and that the bishop was himself an unwitting victim of the alleged scam.

    The damages lawsuit in Washington, which is expected to be heard by a US Federal Court next year, adds to the legal scrutiny already under way in a number of cases allegedly involving the bishop.

    The difference in this case is that it does not involve faceless businessmen who got their fingers burned looking for high returns from a high risk investment, but a charitable organisation which educates destitute South American girls.

    The institution claims it faces bankruptcy because it trusted the investment deal to make good on a short-term financial investment.

    The charity told the Cyprus Mail that it is a non-profit-making foundation in Ecuador, of 70 years' standing, and that it educates 1,700 poor girls. Because of the alleged fraud, it says, the foundation "is going to have to close".

    The foundation says it invested $1.7 million in the scheme "for a short- term investment six months ago".

    According to testimony filed before the District Court of Columbia the Perez Pallares Fundacion says it signed an Investment Agreement with Rivlin, who signed it on behalf of the Bishop of Limassol.

    The documents allege that the foundation and associated investors pooled $1.7 million to be deposited for 60 days with guarantees of 100 per cent profit.

    "Lew Rivlin, acting on behalf of the bishop, took over $1.7 million of investors' money on the promise of enormous returns," alleged Sharp. "The payback was supposed to be after 60 days but my clients haven't seen a nickel."

    Court documents filed on behalf of the plaintiff (the foundation) claim that, on the promise of guarantee against any loss, the money was transferred to an ING Bank account in Athens, as directed by Rivlin, on the understanding that this was the account of the bishop. Although the foundation claims that the initial profits were to be made available within the first ten days, it says no money was ever received.

    It is also alleged that the funds were transferred to Greece before any guarantee against loss was issued.

    Rivlin and his law offices are accused, in court depositions, of "trying to defraud, deceive, manipulate and showing reckless disregard of the consequences to the foundation".

    The Cyprus Mail suggested to Sharp that the non-profit organisation was naive in entering such a high risk deal. "You'd be surprised how many people are getting caught up in schemes like this and losing tens of millions of dollars," Sharp replied. He said charitable institutions were often targeted in such schemes in the US.

    In his sworn affidavit, Rivlin states: "One of my clients is His Eminence, Chrysanthos, the Metropolitan (or Greek Orthodox Bishop) of Limassol (Cyprus). Members of his Church have been donating properties and things of value to the Metropolitan and his predecessors for Centuries.

    "A series of Metropolitans have learned to increase the value of what has been placed in their hands through shrewd investments and business activities.

    "I do not know first hand, but am advised by financial advisers to His Eminence, that his net worth as Metropolitan may be approximately One and One Half Billion United States Dollars. He owns, as Metropolitan, bonds, debentures, securities, olive groves, olive oil production, orange and lemon groves, orange juice production, extensive real estate (including improved real estate such as hotels), interests in airline services in Europe, etc etc."

    Rivlin's affidavit says the account selected by the bishop to receive the foundation's funds was operated by a Greek doctor. Rivlin says the bishop believed the account was solely for trading activities conducted for the benefit of the charity 'Find the Children'.

    Rivlin's deposition to the court says that Chrysanthos had hired fraud investigators in Greece to try to recover the money which, it is alleged, had been transferred to another bank.

    Although Rivlin makes clear that Chrysanthos is responsible to the Synod for the proper handling of the Metropolitan's assets and must hand over business and property to his successor, the affidavit goes on to say:

    "He (Chrysanthos) is without question able to generate, from his securities or real estate, huge amounts of cash when required."

    The Holy Synod in Cyprus ruled recently that Chrysanthos had "entered agreements of a financial nature without the prior approval of the Holy Synod and the Financial Council".

    The Church has been badly shaken by the stream of allegations against one of its most senior members, with the damages suit in the United States now adding fresh controversy.

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [02] Judge car bomber jailed for 18 years

    ANDREAS Onoufriou yesterday began an 18-year prison sentence for the attempted murder of a Limassol judge and his daughter in October, 1996.

    The unusually stiff sentence was handed out by the Assizes court in Limassol on Friday, 24 hours after the accused refused to offer any mitigating circumstances against a long jail term.

    Limassol judge Michalis Mavronicolas and his five-year-old daughter, Marina, were injured when a booby-trap device exploded underneath his car.

    It was sheer luck that the two had escaped with their lives, the court heard. The bomb exploded as the judge approached his vehicle to take his daughter to school.

    In a strongly-worded statement, the court described the attack as "cold- blooded" and said the crime "horrified public opinion".

    Onoufriou, aged 48, only gave a wry smile when the sentence was delivered and left the court seemingly unfazed by the prospect of being locked up for 18 years.

    As he left the court, Onoufriou told assembled reporters that he would appeal against the conviction and repeated his claim that he was innocent.

    On Wednesday, Onoufriou was found guilty of the attempted murder of the district judge, who lost a toe in the attack, and his daughter, who suffered burns from the blast. Onoufriou, who conducted his own defence, was given the opportunity by the Assizes court to appeal for leniency before judgement was passed.

    However, Onoufriou declined and told the three-judge bench on Thursday: "As I am innocent there is no reason for me to request your mercy for something I didn't do."

    The former clinic owner was extradited from the UK last April to stand trial in Cyprus after leaving the island on the day of the blast. A taxi driver, who was the chief prosecution witness, gave evidence that Onoufriou had said he planned to kill Mavronicolas after the judge had presided over a debt-settling dispute in which he was involved.

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [03] Farmer dies under his tractor

    A FARMER was killed by his runaway tractor in fields outside the Larnaca district village of Kato Drys yesterday morning.

    Police reported. Michalis Vasiliou, 63, was found dead under his tractor at about 3.30pm. He had left his home in Kato Drys early yesterday morning to go and cut down an almond tree, police said. State Pathologist Panicos Stavrianos said Vasiliou had been dead about nine hours by the time he was found.

    Police said it appeared the farmer's parked tractor had rolled down a hill and then toppled onto him.

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [04] Bus convoy takes Turkish Cypriots to Kokkina

    A CONVOY of 36 buses and one ambulance yesterday crossed over from the occupied areas, taking more than 700 Turkish Cypriots to the tiny village of Kokkina.

    A special ceremony there was held to commemorate the events which took place at the village during the 1964 intercommunal troubles.

    The crossing took place yesterday morning via the Limnitis checkpoint. The Turkish Cypriots were accompanied on their journey to the Turkish-Cypriot enclave by UN peacekeepers and Cypriot police.

    The ceremony was also attended by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, "ministers" of his regime, and Turkish Cypriot party leaders. Denktash travelled from the occupied areas by helicopter, while the other "officials" made their way to Kokkina by boat.

    It was originally planned that 500 people would make the trip, but due to high demand extra transport was laid on. The trip was arranged by the UN in cooperation with the government Office of Humanitarian Affairs.

    The Turkish Cypriots were expected to return to the occupied areas later in the day.

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [05] Cypriot firefighters join Greek battle

    THIRTEEN Cypriot firefighters and one senior fire official were expected to leave for Greece late yesterday to help with efforts to fight the fires still raging there.

    The decision to send the team was taken at a cabinet meeting on Friday, after a proposal by Justice Minister Nicos Koshis. The team is to be led by assistant fire chief George Papageorgiou. They will be at the disposal of the Greek fire brigade.

    The government has been thanked for the move by Greece's Minister for Justice and Public Order, George Romeos.

    Around ten major forest fires are raging in Greece, mostly in the southern region. Some areas have declared a state of emergency as a result.

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [06] Heatwave has killed 15 people in Cyprus

    By Andrew Adamides

    FIFTEEN people have died over the past two days as a result of the heatwave, Health Minister Christos Solomis said yesterday.

    He told CyBC that of the fifteen, 14 were aged over 70. Most had been living in old people's homes and had medical conditions which were made worse by the extreme heat. The fifteenth victim was a 47-year-old woman.

    Of the fatalities, 12 were in Larnaca, where temperatures yesterday reached 39 degrees, while Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos had one death each.

    Hospitals and emergency services across the island were on high alert yesterday as temperatures in the capital soared to 42 degrees, just one degree lower than forecast. In Limassol the temperature reached 38 degrees, while the highest recorded temperature in Paphos was 35 degrees.

    The Nicosia First Aid Department Director, Dr Costas Antoniades, said that on Friday alone there had been 450 admissions resulting from the heat.

    In Larnaca the General Hospital described the situation there as "pandemonium". A spokesman said hundreds of sufferers had arrived at the hospital, some comatose, and others complaining of dizziness, headaches, dehydration and heat-stroke symptoms. One elderly patient was said to be in a critical condition.

    In Limassol, hospital staff were working round the clock in order to cope with all the heat-related cases.

    The weather service says that although the temperature will continue to stay at around 40 degrees over the coming week, it should not get any higher.

    The current temperatures are around five degrees above average for the season.

    Hospitals have advised that in the extreme heat people should avoid physical exercise, stay in the shade as much as possible, wear light clothing and put on a hat if venturing out in the sun.

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [07] Desalination to the rescue

    By Martin Hellicar

    WITH WATER supplies due to run out by the end of the year, the government now plans to bring mobile desalination plants to the rescue.

    It is also examining the cost of shipping water from abroad, Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous said yesterday. He apologised at a news conference for the state allowing the water situation to become so desperate.

    "The state must apologise, because at the end of the 20th century, in a country with an enviably high standard of living and a society with a high per capita income, we have weaknesses and shortcomings in a basic necessity which effects quality of life and economic activity," he said.

    The minister said the government will do everything it can to overcome the problems "which are mainly the result of extended drought" and provide a constant flow of water for houses and farmers.

    But he also warned that water cuts would continue, and might even increase, if the rains failed to come this winter.

    After two years of low rainfall, the reservoirs currently have less than 10 per cent of capacity. Cuts in domestic and agricultural supply have been in place for months.

    "Next year will be one of the hardest because water reserves run out around the end of this year and the second desalination plant will not be ready (in time)," Themistocleous said.

    Construction of a second plant like the one at Dhekelia will be completed in the year 2000 near the Larnaca salt lake.

    "We are obliged to take measures based on the worst case scenario, and assume that like last year rainfall will be low," Themistocleous said.

    He said that because of this the cabinet had taken some "serious" decisions on Friday. "The basic decision is to seek tenders for two mobile desalination plants to face the 1999 problem," he announced. "We will also investigate the possibility of importing water as an alternative solution."

    Tenders for the floating desalination units will be sought this September. One will be sited by the new Limassol port and the other by Ayios Theodoros in Larnaca, and each will provide 15,000 cubic metres of fresh water a day.

    Connecting the mobile plants to the network will cost 330,000, while the cost of the desalinated water will be higher than that from the Dhekelia plant (which produces 40,000 cubic metres a day), the minister said.

    Because of the urgency of the situation, government officers will carry out a speedy environmental impact assessment for the mobile desalination plants, he added.

    The minister said the cabinet had also decided to detail a technical committee to study the possibility of introducing higher water charges.

    Other drought-fighting measures agreed were:

    - preparing a plan for the purchase and use of water-saving devices in homes and systems for treatment and recycling of 'grey water' for use in toilets and garden irrigation;

    - preparation by the end of year of a plan for requisition of private bore- holes;

    - provision of 20,000 from state funds to repair water pipe networks in towns and villages.

    But the government is putting its faith in desalination to solve the domestic water supply problem in the long run.

    "We are now going for desalination for domestic supply and optimisation and recycling for agriculture," the minister said.

    He said the dam-building policy favoured by governments since independence had been stumped by declining rainfall.

    "Dams were a correct strategy but realities on the ground did not bear this out because there has been such a drop in rainfall. We now have 101 dams but no water in them."

    "There is no need to panic, Themistocleous said. "It is just a matter of taking measures to face the problem we will have if the drought continues."

    "That's why we are now talking of a strategy that does not depend on rainfall but on desalination and recycling."

    Sunday, August 09, 1998

    [08] Outcry hotel opens for visitors

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE largest and most controversial hotel complex ever built on the island has opened its doors to visitors.

    Part of the five-star Anassa Hotel, built within the bounds of the proposed Akamas National Park by the family firm of former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides, began operations last month.

    Its construction has been dogged by protests ever since it began two years ago. Owners Thanos Hotels have pushed ahead despite strong protests from the Ombudsman, the House Interior and Ethics committees, the Technical Chamber Etek, Greenpeace International and local environmentalists.

    Michaelides lost his cabinet post in the wake of the outcry over the complex.

    The bones of contention have been the original cabinet decision granting planning relaxations for the project, subsequent deviations from approved plans during construction, and the fact that the vast complex lies within an area earmarked for a national park.

    The Anassa, on the Asprokremnos coast just west of Latchi port, is now nearing completion and should begin full operation later this year.

    Lawyers for Thanos Hotels are confident that all the furore over the hotel is a thing of the past.

    "The whole thing has gone silent," lawyer Kyriacos Michaelides told the Cyprus Mail.

    "We always maintained there was no illegality: you must ask those who considered there was a problem what all the fuss was about."

    In a report last year, Ombudsman Nicos Charalambous slammed the Town Planning Department for recommending to a ministerial committee that it endorse planning relaxations for the hotel. Charalambous said the department had acted to serve private interests.

    The relaxations, approved while Michaelides was still a serving minister, meant the hotel could be built higher than local planning zonation permitted and also allowed the complex to encroach on to a protected beach.

    "The Planning Department effectively contributed to the violation of provisions it is meant to protect, without presenting any reasons of public interest which might justify the relaxations," Charalambous wrote in his report.

    He said such relaxations should by law be granted only for reasons of public interest, but the department presented only "arguments aimed at proving the relaxations would not harm the public interest".

    The government insisted the relaxations were "normal" and were not a show of favouritism for Michaelides.

    Greenpeace and local greens staged protests at the construction site and issue went to the House ethics committee, with opposition deputies angrily questioning the then foreign minister's role in the whole affair.

    Etek appealed to the Supreme Court against the legality of the relaxations. The appeal is still pending.

    The controversy grew when it was revealed a few months later that 13 extra rooms were being added to the complex which had not been provided for in approved plans. The Town Planning department placed a stop order on the hotel construction site.

    The House Interior committee, which examined the issue, was assured by Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides that the extra rooms, which would have made the building even higher than the relaxations permitted, would be knocked down.

    "They will be knocked down, this is certain," he told the committee.

    A representative of the attorney-general's office said the additional rooms could not stay because this would necessitate the retrospective approval of planning relaxations by the cabinet, an act outlawed by a Supreme Court decision that same year.

    "No minister or ministerial committee will break the law. A permit cannot be given for the added structures," the Interior Minister told deputies in September last year.

    Kyriacos Michaelides told the committee there was nothing to worry about. He said fresh plans would be submitted to the relevant authorities showing how the company would "make up for" the additional structures by "cutting back" elsewhere on the complex.

    Ten months later, the extra rooms are still there.

    "They produced new plans, with some subtractions from the total area covered and the Town Planning department approved the revised plans," George Perdikis, leader of the green party, told the Cyprus Mail this week.

    Etek maintain the retrospective approval of revised building plans by the Town Planning department is highly irregular.

    "Even much lesser changes than these (for Anassa) demand an application for a new building licence," the chamber states in a report on the Akamas hotel.

    The Thanos Hotels lawyer remains apparently unfazed by the whole affair.

    "When the hotel is completed it will have fully complied with all observations made by Town Planning department," he said.

    He dismissed the Interior Minister's vow that the extra rooms would be demolished as one of "many things that were said at the time".

    "The government is not covering up any illegality because there never was any to cover up," the lawyer said.

    Perdikis seemed somewhat resigned about the whole affair.

    "The only result of (all the protests) has been (Alecos) Michaelides losing his post and Cyprus becoming the laughing stock of the whole of Europe."

    He vowed greens would not let the matter lie. "We are planning action, but I cannot say what right now," he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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