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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-08-23

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

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


Sunday, August 23, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Limassol cabaret owner shot
  • [02] Massouras elected Bishop of Morphou
  • [03] Nadir accountant struck off
  • [04] Three held in forgery case
  • [05] Hotel workers plan to strike
  • [06] Water: it's time for crisis management
  • [07] Puzzle over Alpha move on Lombard
  • [08] ANT1 hits back in poaching war
  • [09] No 'visa' fee for pilgrims

  • [01] Limassol cabaret owner shot

    A MAN was shot and wounded outside a Limassol cabaret early yesterday in the second attempted murder in the town in less than a week.

    The 4.20am attack on 35-year-old cabaret owner Evangelos Michail Christodoulou, alias Angelis, was also the fourth suspected gangland hit in Cyprus within a month.

    Angelis was shot twice by a hooded gunman as he left his club, the Brazil on Zinonos Street, with a friend, Stelios Xenophontos, and two cabaret artistes, police said.

    "According to witness statements, an unidentified man came out of a nearby basement, proceeded to the middle of the road, and shot twice at Angelis before running away," a police statement read.

    Unconfirmed reports suggested the attacker had used a shotgun.

    Angelis was hit in the left hand and right shoulder. He was rushed to Limassol hospital for emergency surgery. Police described his condition as "serious but not worrying".

    Police later arrested a 35-year-old Limassol man in connection with the murder attempt.

    Radio reports linked the shooting, which came in the wake of Monday's bomb attack on pub owner Charalambos Neoptolemou, known as Lemis, to an ongoing gangland war. But a police press officer said it was "too early" to draw such conclusions.

    The feud erupted after the July 31 killing of 32-year-old Andros Aeroporos outside Limassol's Show Palace cabaret. Ten days later, 31-year-old Loucas Fanieros was lucky to escape unhurt when his car came under machine-gun fire in Larnaca's red light district.

    On June 19, Andros Aeroporos and his brothers Hambis, 35, and Panicos, 25, were acquitted of attempting to kill Loucas' father Antonis Fanieros, 57, a year before.

    After the murder of Andros Aeroporos, Justice Minister Nicos Koshis expressed concern that gangland reprisals might follow.

    Police believe rival underworld gangs are vying for control of the lucrative cabaret market, which is thought to be a front for prostitution, drugs and gambling rackets.

    No arrests have been made for the murder of Andros Aeroporos or for the attacks on Loucas Fanieros and Charalambos Neoptolemou.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [02] Massouras elected Bishop of Morphou

    ARCHIMANDRITE Neophytos Massouras was yesterday elected Bishop of Morphou, filling a post vacant since supporters of former candidate Pancratios Meraklis rioted in Nicosia two years ago.

    Elections were postponed after Meraklis's supporters - incensed by Archbishop Chrysostomos claiming their favourite was a homosexual and was therefore unsuitable as a candidate for bishop - clashed with police outside the archbishopric.

    Meraklis, who was strong favourite in 1996, was not among the candidates this time round. He has always denied being homosexual. Recently he retired from church duties following revelations that he is HIV-positive.

    Massouras won a landslide victory in polling yesterday morning.

    Only top members of the church hierarchy and 50 representatives elected by the Morphou congregation had the right to vote.

    Massouras has been cloistered at the Ayios Georgios Mavrovouniou monastery in Troulli for the past few years.

    The 38-year-old cleric will be officially instated on September 13.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [03] Nadir accountant struck off

    A FORMER Polly Peck International (PPI) group accountant has been struck off by the Joint Disciplinary Tribunal, the Financial Times in London reported yesterday.

    The profession's senior regulator made the move on the basis of ten complaints connected to the work of John Turner for Asil Nadir.

    The Turkish Cypriot former Polly Peck chairman has been a fugitive from the UK authorities since 1993.

    The tribunal imposed its most severe penalty on Turner after concluding that "it can fairly be said of Mr Turner that from his ignorance his comfort flowed", the paper said.

    Turner and Nadir, facing two charges of false accounting and 13 charges of theft involving 34 million pounds sterling respectively, were due to stand trial at the Old Bailey in London in 1993.

    Nadir jumped bail and fled to the occupied part of Cyprus by private plane, a development which led to Turner's formal acquittal and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) dropping all charges against him.

    PPI was a substantial FTSE 1000 company with a market capitalisation reaching 1.7 billion pounds sterling. A large part of this capital was generated outside the UK, including at Unipac, a corrugated box manufacturer in the occupied north of Cyprus.

    By 1990 PPI seemed to match borrowings of 522 million sterling with cash and bank balances of 405 million. Of this, 303 million was at Unipac and another subsidiary outside the UK. PPI was then unable to secure the cash balances in its non-UK subsidiaries to reduce borrowings.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [04] Three held in forgery case

    THREE people have been remanded by Limassol District Court in connection with a case of forgery and counterfeiting.

    Norbert Franz Fuhr, 31, from South Africa, Abutaleb Ahmed Al Attas, 29, from Saudi Arabia and Fatima Youssef Hussein, 58, from Lebanon, were remanded in police custody for six days.

    They were arrested after police first detained Fuhr on Friday for cashing a counterfeit traveller's cheque.

    Police say he was also found to be the holder of a forged Swedish passport.

    They say that when questioned he implicated Al Attas and Hussein. When searched, Hussein was found with 4,048 and forged traveller's cheques worth one thousand pounds.

    Police say Fuhr has admitted cashing bogus traveller's cheques totalling approximately seven thousand pounds in at least seven Limassol banks.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [05] Hotel workers plan to strike

    By Athena Karsera

    HOTEL workers are planning to strike at the end of the month in a move that could have a devastating effect on the economy.

    The news that there would be a strike was announced after hotel owners represented by the Pancyprian Hoteliers' Association, Pasyxe, met workers' unions Sek and Peo.

    The talks on renewal of the industry's collective agreement ended in deadlock.

    Labour Ministry mediator Nelson Neocleous believes the strike can still be prevented, however. "It is not right to take it for granted," he said yesterday.

    But he did confirm that deadlock had been declared, and that according to the Industrial Relations Code, ten days' warning must be given by the striking party and notice must first be given to the Labour Ministry, which has not yet happened. He conceded that this notice may happen in the next few days.

    Neocleous said the ministry is still at the disposal of unions and hoteliers associations, and he said he hopes that when both sides appreciate what is at stake a compromise will be found.

    Unions say they are aware of the damage such a strike would have on the economy, but they insist there is no other solution. Approximately 12,000 people working in the hotel industry are members of either Sek or Peo.

    Negotiations on renewal of the collective agreement in the hotel industry have been taking place for the past five months. A productive meeting between Sek, Peo and the other hotel owners' union Stek-Exek, on Thursday, had led to hopes of a compromise being reached with Pasyxe.

    Sticking points in the talks are reported to be higher pay, a rise in productivity, and an extension of maternity leave.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [06] Water: it's time for crisis management

    By Martin Hellicar

    UNLESS THE heavens open, our reservoirs will be bone dry by the end of the year, or sooner. If the past two years are anything to go by, heavy winter rains to end the prolonged drought cannot be counted on. And mobile desalination plants will not come to the rescue until the summer of 1999.

    So what is the government doing to ensure enough water for everyone come January?

    "Don't worry," Agriculture Ministry administrative director Andreas Panayiotou told the Cyprus Mail. He said the solution lay underground: "We are already going ahead with sinking new bore holes to cover us for the period until mobile desalination arrives if there is no rain."

    But environmental experts fear that further taxing already depleted groundwater reserves could be a recipe for ecological disaster.

    "Over-use of groundwater reserves, especially in a country with water problems, has knock-on effects for the environment and the economy," Nicos Georgiades, director of the Agriculture Ministry Environment Service, said.

    But Panayiotou does not share his concerns.

    "The areas we will be getting the groundwater from will be controlled. We will keep a close check on how water levels fare."

    He said groundwater reserves could provide as much water as the two mobile desalination plants the government plans to have ready for next summer.

    "Mobile desalination plants would provide 30,000 cubic metres of water a day. We are ready to get the same amount from underground resources," he said.

    However Georgiades said stop-gap solutions like pumping more groundwater were bad news in the long-run: "Underground waters have in any case already been over-taxed," he said.

    A resource vital to agriculture, the economy and the environment is being used faster than rainfall can replenish it, the Environment Service director said.

    He said further lowering the water table by increasing extraction would mean that when rains do come the parched land will take longer to reach saturation point, so it will take longer for streams to start flowing into dams.

    Georgiades admitted that no strategic island-wide study of groundwater resources had been undertaken, but said there was ample evidence of over- extraction, particularly in coastal areas.

    "Our main concern is for coastal areas where there is increased sea water intrusion. There is evidence that this is happening in all coastal areas," he said.

    As groundwater becomes more saline it becomes unsuitable for irrigation or domestic use.

    "In other areas it depends on where the extracted water would have ended up. If the water was taken from the Troodos mountains then that water would have fed an area 20 to 30 kilometres further down," Georgiades said.

    Panayiotou conceded that seawater intrusion was a problem in coastal areas, but added: "We are not going to take water from these areas."

    He also admitted farmers would be the losers as more groundwater was channelled for domestic use. "We would have to reduce water for agriculture. Where plantations can be abandoned they will be, and the government will compensate farmers."

    Irrigation water has already been cut by 75 per cent in an effort to conserve reserves. Many affected farmers are already receiving financial compensation from the state.

    Georgiades acknowledged the water situation was now so desperate that the government did not have the luxury of thinking long-term. "It must now be seen as a crisis management issue."

    Had the water supply problem been dealt with earlier by focusing on reducing demand rather than increasing provision things might have been different today, Georgiades said.

    "Demand-side management would have been a better approach, but this would take at least five years to do now and what do you do in the meantime? It should have been done 10 years ago; demand should have been reduced."

    He said the government's current penchant for desalination was also questionable on ecological grounds, because the process was too energy- demanding and therefore highly polluting.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous has announced a plan to bring in two mobile desalination plants should the winter rains fail.

    The plants will produce 15,000 cubic metres of water a day each to supplement the 40,000 cubic metres a day already produced by the plant at Dhekelia.

    According to the Water Development department, the island's 101 reservoirs are currently at around 10 per cent of capacity, holding about 27,000 cubic metres in total. Some of the smaller reservoirs are completely dry.

    This time last year, after another dry winter, the dams held more than twice as much water - 64,181 cubic metres in total, or 23.9 per cent of capacity.

    "If no rains come, water in dams will run out in the next month or two," a departmental officer said. The government says reservoir reserves will last until the end of the year, although further water cuts may be necessary to ensure this.

    Over the past two years, total winter rainfall has been less than 80 per cent of what was expected, according to the Meteorological Department. Director Cleanthis Philaniotis said this was "significantly low".

    If this pattern is repeated this winter then the optimism of Panayiotou and his Ministry will be sorely tested. But Philaniotis would not make any predictions about how long the drought would continue. "It is impossible to make accurate forecasts for the coming winter - anything could happen," he said.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [07] Puzzle over Alpha move on Lombard

    By Hamza Hendawi

    CITING MARKET saturation and relatively low profit margins, some economists are puzzled by the desire of a major private bank in Greece to buy the island's small Lombard Natwest Bank.

    But market analysts and traders maintain that more often than not there is more to an acquisition than pure arithmetics, and stress that Lombard Natwest is good value for money.

    Alpha Credit Bank Chairman Ioannis Costopoulos visited Cyprus recently and met Michael Colocassides, his counterpart at the Anglo-Cypriot Lombard Natwest Bank. He also met Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou.

    Sources monitoring the negotiations say the Central Bank has already given its go-ahead for the acquisition, and that an announcement of the takeover is expected later this month or in September. The takeover will reportedly cost Alpha, Greece's second largest private bank, up to 30 million.

    "It doesn't make sense to me," said Hellenic Bank chief economist Marios Clerides, "especially so because Alpha is not known to make whimsical investments or irrational judgments."

    The fact that Cypriot banks are expanding aggressively in Greece, Clerides said, meant there were many business opportunities there. This makes Alpha's designs on Lombard Natwest all the more puzzling, he said - "unless of course they want to come here for networking purposes, but paying 30 million for this is far too much".

    Echoing similar views, Ioannis Tirkides, the Cyprus Popular Bank's planning and development head, said Greek banks are known to prefer the Balkans for expansion abroad.

    "I don't understand why they want to come here where there is a very small market and where the profit margin is small compared to that of the Balkans or even Greece," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    Both Clerides and Tirkides speculated that Alpha's move on Lombard Natwest could be a response to a recent spate of acquisitions by Eurobank, a member of the giant Lanitis Group and its main competitor in Greece. If that is the case, they said, then the takeover could be partly a publicity exercise.

    Lombard Natwest Bank, whose 300-strong staff have been reassured of their future employment after the takeover, is 75 per cent owned by Lombard North Central PLC, a member of Britain's huge Natwest Group. The remainder is owned by private investors, including chairman Colocassides.

    The bank, which is not listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, is particularly strong in foreign currency management, corporate and international banking. It controls about five per cent of the local retail market through 24 branches. Its assets are estimated at around 400 million and its pre-tax profits for the 12 months ending September 1997 reached 3.22 million.

    "Lombard Natwest is a very aggressive bank and is also very profitable," said Koullis Panayiotou of CLR Stockbrokers, a leading investment house in Cyprus. "Their operations and strengths fit in nicely with the way Alpha works," he said.

    Stavros Agrotis, a senior broker with the Bank of Cyprus' investment and brokerage arm CISCO, said the acquisition of Lombard Natwest would give Alpha a window into the island's vast offshore business, in which Lombard is already very active.

    "The Cyprus market is perhaps nearing the point of saturation, but it has this large offshore sector," Agrotis told the Mail.

    One possible additional motive for the takeover, he said, was Alpha's wish to match the presence on the island of Greek competitors the Commercial bank of Greece and the National (Ethniki) Bank of Greece.

    "Acquisitions are often not based purely on arithmetics. To me it sounds like a strategic move," Agrotis said.

    Alpha's takeover of Lombard, the island's fourth largest bank, would signal the end of British involvement in Cyprus onshore banking.

    In April 1996, Hellenic Bank acquired the onshore operations of Barclays Bank Plc in Cyprus.

    The Cyprus Popular Bank, the island's second largest financial institution after the Bank of Cyprus, remains associated with the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), which has owned a 21.8 per cent stake in the bank since the 1970s.

    The imminent takeover also coincides with a recent proliferation of unconfirmed rumours regarding banks on the island. This month alone, one rumour had Alpha planning the purchase of a 20 per cent stake in the Bank of Cyprus, and another spoke of Greece's Eurobank buying the small Universal Bank.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [08] ANT1 hits back in poaching war

    By Martin Hellicar

    TWO MONTHS after losing two of its leading lights to arch-rival Sigma, ANT1 television yesterday announced the capture of one of the island's best- known radio journalists, Leonidas Malenis.

    The loss of roving reporter Demetris Mamas and blonde news anchorwoman Georgia Achilleos was seen as a big set-back for the ratings-topping channel. But ANT1 was never expected to take the blow lying down.

    The private channel announced yesterday that it had secured the signature of Malenis, a household name who has worked for Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) radio for over 30 years.

    Malenis will be working with both ANT1 television and recently launched ANT1 radio.

    A smooth-talking interviewer, Malenis has a reputation for attracting the "people of the moment" to his current affairs shows.

    Details of Malenis's new contract were not revealed, but ANT1 can afford to pay much fatter wages than the cash-strapped CyBC.

    This is not the first time ANT1 has poached popular journalists from rivals. Cyprus's longest-surviving and best-known television news anchorman, Pavlos Pavlou, was nabbed from CyBC years ago.

    Sunday, August 23, 1998

    [09] No 'visa' fee for pilgrims

    THE UNITED Nations says pilgrims on a visit to Apostolos Andreas monastery in the occupied north on September 13 will not have to apply for a 'visa' or pay a 15 sterling fee, as was the case on previous occasions.

    One thousand people will be selected from those who apply to visit the monastery on the northeast tip of the island.

    Priority will be given to the elderly, people from the Karpas peninsula, those who suffer from handicaps or serious health problems, and Cypriots living abroad.

    People who have already been on pilgrimages to the monastery have been asked not to apply. The deadline for application forms to reach the Humanitarian Affairs office in Nicosia is 2pm next Friday, August 28.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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