CONTROVERSIAL English School headmaster Thomas Thomas has been sacked.
Following a meeting of the new school board and the Staff Association Committee last night, an official source told the Cyprus Mail that the decision had been taken to remove Thomas from his position as head of the school.
The source gave no further details, but the official line was that a press release giving full details would be issued either today or within the next few days.
The announcement of the decision came just two weeks after the appointment of the new school board, headed by Daniel Hadjitofi, who said at the time that "something must change for the school to function, because right now it is not functioning at all."
Thomas had been accused of the improper treatment of staff and students, and of making an unfair promotion.
The previous board had found him blameless after examining all the accusations but staff passed a vote of no confidence in him by a huge 59 votes to three.
All but one head of department had also threatened to resign if Thomas held onto his position as headmaster.
THE government was yesterday reported to be planning to sell its 81 per cent stake in the Cyprus Tourism Development Company, which owns the troubled Nicosia Hilton. The move, if confirmed, would signal a departure from past government announcements on its involvement with the luxury hotel.
A report in the Greek language daily Simerini, which is close to the government of President Glafcos Clerides, quoted unnamed sources as saying the cabinet would look into the Hilton sell-off at a meeting scheduled soon after the end of the current summer break.
There was no official word available on the newspaper report and the Hilton's general manager was not available for comment yesterday.
If confirmed, the plan would represent a major departure from past government declarations stating that it wished to reduce its stake at the Hilton to a controlling 51 per cent rather than pull out altogether.
Hilton Nicosia is operated by Hilton International, which is owned by gambling giants Ladbrokes.
The construction of a new, 84-room wing (opened in March 1995) and the later renovation of the old part of the hotel (completed in February, 1998) at a combined cost of more than 15 million pounds drove the Hilton deep into debt at a time when competitors in Nicosia, such as the Holiday Inn and the Forum Intercontinental, moved to grab a major slice of the capital's market of luxury hotel accommodation.
The financial woes caused by the ambitious expansion and renovation works are thought to be behind the intention by the hotel's owning company to make a new rights issue worth £6 million.
"The Hilton made the mistake of expanding before renovating," said John Pitsillos of Share Link Securities. "While they were expanding and refurbishing, others just renovated and took a big slice of the market. Now the Hilton has quite a bit of debt and an excess of rooms," he added.
Yiannos Andronikou, of Suphire Stockbrokers, another Nicosia brokerage, said the Hilton's new luxury wing was designed for big-spending customers which the hotel hoped would be attracted by the casino it hoped to develop..
But more than three years after the completion of the new wing, Andronikou added, the Hilton Hotel has a debt of £12.5 million, no casino and what he called fierce competition from other five-star hotels and four-star hotels offering five-star services. "The Hilton simply priced itself out of the market," he said.
Under Cyprus Stock Exchange regulations, the government is obliged to offer the 81.33 per cent stake it owns to the 1,400 existing shareholders, who have not been paid dividends for two successive years.
nd have seen the value of their stocks plummet from an all-time high of £9.40 in early 1996 to its present £5.40.
TWO elderly wives of husbands missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion sneaked into Lakatamia's military cemetery yesterday to dig up the grave of an unknown soldier in search of their loved ones.
The women dressed in black, Androulla Parpas and Maroulla Siamisi - who have received no information about their husbands since they were classified as missing after the invasion - were caught digging up the grave by police.
"They had dug almost two feet down when the police turned up," police spokesman Stelios Neophytou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday. "They told police they were trying to find the remains of their missing relatives."
According to Neophytou, the elderly women entered the cemetery at around 5am and removed a headstone marking the grave of an unknown soldier before starting to dig in a desperate attempt to find their husbands after 24 years of suffering.
The old cemetery at Lakatamia accommodates 16 graves of unknown soldiers, many of which contain the remains of more than one soldier.
Police said the incident ended peacefully and the women were not charged or arrested. "The women were not arrested despite the fact the law empowers us to arrest them under the Public Health Act," said Neophytou.
However, Siamisi and Parpas voluntarily went to the local police station to be questioned as a matter of routine. "We treated this as a delicate humanitarian issue and the women were accompanied to the police station," said Neophytou.
Nevertheless, Committee for the Missing chairman Nicos Theodosiou criticised the women's action. "Not anyone can just go around digging the graves of unknown soldiers because it plays into the hands of the Turks," he said.
Siamisi and Parpas were unrepentant afterwards and blamed the authorities for prolonging their anguish and not revealing the truth about the fate of over 1,600 missing Greek Cypriots. "The government has done nothing to end our suffering," Siamisi told reporters yesterday.
After a meeting with the two women, Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos said the government would start the process of exhuming bodies - for DNA testing - some time in September.
He said that exhumations would be carried out in places like Lakatamia cemetery where there are reasons to suspect that those previously identified as missing could be buried.
International Red Cross experts have already been approached to assist the government in the painstaking process, said Christopoulos.
WHILE the ongoing investigations into Limassol Bishop Chrysanthos' business activities have somewhat slowed down in the mid-August break, the same cannot be said of allegations surrounding the cleric.
New allegations have been brought to the attention of Cyprus police by the Scotland Yard detectives who arrived on the island in July to investigate the Cyprus angle in a $3.7 million fraud which originated in Britain and is said to implicate the bishop.
The detectives reportedly gave local investigators financial documents which indicate that Chrysanthos was a guarantor of some $100 million in a business deal whose details are not yet clear. Apparently, the documents were obtained from two people arrested in Britain in connection with a C£12 million fraud case. The money was said to have been transferred to a Cyprus bank account which was later frozen.
According to police sources, these documents will be shown to the Holy Synod's committee appointed to investigate the allegations into Chrysanthos' business dealings. According to its head, Elias Pantelides, the committee has a strictly "fact-finding mission" and carries no legal powers.
Though the Cyprus Mail could not get any confirmation from the Attorney- general's office on the latest allegations, the range of Chrysanthos' business activities now seems wider than first thought, with inquiries involving Britain, Greece and Europe, the US and South America.
Last week, the Cyprus Mail was the first to report a lawsuit filed by an Ecuadorian charitable foundation against the bishop's attorney in the US. And a group of Portuguese businessmen have filed a suit against the bishop, claiming he cheated them out of $1.5 million after promising to invest their money in US bonds and securities.
Last week, police sources confirmed that Chrysanthos' foreign bank accounts would be examined. Such an investigation raises two immediate questions. First, whether the bishop conducted personal business transactions, in violation of Church policy, and, secondly, whether Chrysanthos was acting in his right as the Metropolitan (Greek Orthodox Bishop) of Limassol, in business activities. On this will depend the extent of his, or perhaps the Church's liability, if the cases are proved.
THE Auditor-general, Spyros Christou, is looking into allegations of income tax evasion scams by senior civil servants, with huge cost to the state.
The issue was first raised by Christou during the recent meeting on the civil service held at the Presidential Palace. After the talks, senior officials admitted that the civil service was on a "downward spiral."
According to the allegations, retired civil servants of the Inland Revenue Department use their work connections to benefit after they retire at the expense of state revenues.
The alleged scam works like this: civil servants, while employed by the Inland Revenue department, turn a blind eye to income tax evasion by companies or highly paid individuals. After retirement, the same civil servants become privately employed, doing business with the people whom they had previously benefited.
According to Simerini, a number of cases were reported involving huge amounts owed in income tax, but these were never resolved because the tax evaders hired former employees of the Inland Revenue Department as their financial advisers.
Christou said that "only in Cyprus does this sort of thing occur". He said that in other countries civil servants must wait five years after retirement before working in areas similar to their previous employment.
These types of scams are not unique to the Inland Revenue Department, Simerini reported. They also occur frequently both in public and semi-government organisations.
THE British Bases yesterday denied press reports that an agreement had been reached with the government to end military exercises in the Akamas area.
Television reports over the weekend suggested British forces were to use the recently cleared Pyla firing range and a National Guard range instead of the remote peninsula.
But bases spokesman Mervyn Wynne Jones said base authorities were still "in discussion with Cypriot authorities in connection with an alternative to the Akamas peninsula for military live fire training."
After years of protests against the Akamas war games by environmentalists, the government and bases began negotiations to find an alternative, less ecologically sensitive exercise site.
Wynne Jones said an agreement was still some way off. "One suggestion has been to use the National Guard training area at Kalo Chorio, west of Larnaca, for two weeks each year during the Cypriot Easter period. This proposal has yet to be thoroughly investigated and the training area looked at to ensure that it meets British training requirements.
"Should such a permanent arrangement be drawn up, it could mean the cessation of live fire training by British military personnel in the Akamas, " Wynne Jones said.
"The bases would, however, reserve their statutory right to train on the Akamas peninsula, though without live ammunition." Wynne Jones also said the clearing of the Pyla range had nothing to do with finding an alternative site to the Akamas.
The British army's right to train on the Akamas is guaranteed in the treaty of establishment.
THE Kazakh plane grounded at Paphos Airport last week was still under lock and key yesterday, as the court case got under way to determine whether its owners are liable for the £300,000 which a local company claims it owes them.
Nicos Clerides, the lawyer for Cypriot company United Perlite Industries, told the Cyprus Mail that the company's chairman had started giving evidence, but that the case could go on for two weeks or more.
He said pressure had been put on United Perlite and its lawyers to release the plane, notably by the Cyprus Foreign Ministry, with whom the plane's owners, Sayakhat Ltd., had been in touch. He also alleged that, according to unconfirmed reports, there had been an attempt to remove the Tupolev 154 from its hangar to take it out of the country.
According to Clerides, United Perlite has dropped its demands from £300,000 to £200,000 in order to try and reach a compromise. The case continues today.
According to preliminary investigations, the fire was started deliberately and maliciously. Outside the bank branch, in Engomi, investigators found a plastic container containing an inflammable substance.
Five small gas cylinders were also discovered, three of which exploded causing a glass fascia outside the bank to shatter. The fire spread inside the building.
The cost of the damage has not yet been ascertained.
Nicosia police are continuing with their investigation into the arson attack, which a police statement described as the first of its kind in Cyprus.
Giorgos Christodoulou Zantis, 59, was swimming when he got into difficulties in rough seas on Saturday afternoon. Other swimmers rushed to his aid and he was carried, unconscious, to the shore.
Zantis was taken by ambulance to Paphos General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
His fish taverna, Magalouistos, is in Strovolos and he had gone to Paphos for a holiday.
His brother, Solomos Zantis, who was swimming with him and who was also struggling with the waves, was rescued.