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

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

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


Wednesday, September 09, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Bank of Cyprus profits jump 28%
  • [02] EAC boss defends board's deal with bishop
  • [03] Interpol asked to help locate suspect
  • [04] National Council slams confederation proposal
  • [05] Galanos wants government of national unity
  • [06] Protesters plan to target pilgrims
  • [07] US team working on the water problem
  • [08] Animal welfare education campaign
  • [09] Goodbye Bruce, hello Zeno
  • [10] Two arrested after man left for dead

  • [01] Bank of Cyprus profits jump 28%

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE BANK of Cyprus Group, declaring its support for tax increases to narrow the fiscal deficit, yesterday announced pre-tax profits of 21.58 million for the first six months of 1998 - an increase of 28.2 per cent over the same period last year.

    Group Chairman and Chief Executive Solon Triantafyllides, addressing a news conference, called on the government to cut spending and warned of the dangers posed by low productivity and heavy dependence on tourism.

    He said the group's operating profits were up 28.6 per cent to 28.44 million in the first half of 1998 from 22.11 million in the first six months of 1997.

    He credited savings through the introduction of more technology as well as good performance by the group's insurance companies and its operations in Greece and Britain.

    He also announced an interim dividend of 8 per cent for 1998, up 2 percentage points from last year.

    Turning to the economy, Triantafyllides said: "We agree with the worries of the Finance Minister (Christodoulos Christodoulou) on the size of the fiscal deficit and we believe that correcting measures should be taken immediately." "We also agree with the suggestions of the Finance Minister for a rise in VAT and that other taxes should be studied too."

    He said immediate measures were needed to plug the deficit, forecast to be around 6.5 per cent of GDP this year.

    VAT is currently at eight per cent. A government attempt to increase it to 12 per cent as part of a package of tax hikes was partly thrown out and partly put on ice by the House of Representatives in late May. However, deputies are expected to reconsider a revised version of the package next month.

    Christodoulou has said that the fiscal deficit had grown partly as a result of "a deliberate expansive fiscal policy" in 1997 to inject life into a sluggish economy. The loss of revenue from import tariffs abolished as part of the island's Customs Union agreement with the European Union was also to blame, he said.

    Triantafyllides' concerns about the economy echoed those expressed last week by Kikis Lazarides, chairman of the Cyprus Popular Bank Group, the island's second largest financial institution. He said the economy faced serious structural problems, particularly in its ability to compete.

    The views of the two men carry considerable weight. The two banks enjoy a combined 70 per cent share of the retail banking market, and their shares on the local bourse account for about 60 per cent of the market's capitalisation.

    The island's economy is forecast to grow by 4.5 per cent this year, thanks largely to an expected increase of 10 per cent in the number of tourist visitors. Tourism accounts for about 20 per cent of GDP and is the largest single employer in Cyprus. About 2.06 million came to the island last year.

    "The necessary measures should be taken to limit public spending and for an increase in productivity in the state machine. Productivity in Cyprus is generally low and that is a chronic problem," Triantafyllides said.

    The government of President Glafcos Clerides, which began accession negotiations with the European Union in March, is known to be considering measures to cut spending and increase revenues. One primary target for cuts is its annual bill of 600 million pounds of civil service salaries and pensions. It is also mooting the sell-off of some of its holdings in public companies, but appears to be dragging its feet because of the expected social and political implications.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [02] EAC boss defends board's deal with bishop

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE ELECTRICITY Authority chairman yesterday defended his board's actions over a controversial land deal with Bishop Chrysanthos of Limassol, which allegedly cost the state 610,000 over the odds.

    EAC boss Costas Constantinides replied that the authority acted legally when he was questioned about the land purchase deal before yesterday's House Watchdog Committee probe into the matter.

    "We followed the correct procedures and chose the lowest tender which met our specifications," he said.

    But the intense media pressure over the issue was beginning to tell on the EAC chairman. "I feel like an accused man," Constantinides told the committee.

    "Unfortunately there is an organised effort to damage the good name of the board, and I believe there should be an in-depth and independent inquiry to see who is responsible."

    Although on Monday the chairman had said he was seriously thinking about resigning in view of the furore created over the issue, after yesterday's two-hour meeting he was in a more up-beat mood.

    "The question of resignation had occupied the board but after lengthy consideration this no longer seems to be the issue," said Constantinides.

    But Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis suggested that vested interests played a role in the deal.

    "Why was 72,000 given to a middleman in commission when the bishop dealt directly with the board? This needs to be investigated," Rolandis said.

    The minister alleged that around 300,000 - out of the 1.4 million paid - has mysteriously disappeared from the deposit account of the Limassol Bishopric.

    "According to my information 300,000 was taken out of the account and put into other accounts," he said.

    A rift has developed between state and church since Rolandis condemned the 1.4 million Mesa Yitonia land deal when he ordered two separate evaluations which set the market price at between 700,000-800,000.

    But Constantinides argued that the bishop's offer for the sale of two pieces of land were the lowest price per square metre.

    On Monday, Rolandis asked that the outstanding money be returned by Bishop Chrysanthos, who in turn dismissed such a move out of hand.

    Rolandis accused the board of "serious negligence" for taking the Limassol Bishopric's evaluation of the land at face value.

    "There was a catalogue of errors because the board did not make an evaluation or examine whether the property was suitable," said Rolandis. According to his information from the Land Registry Department, only 13 per cent of the total land bought could be used for building the authority's new Limassol district HQ, he said.

    Auditor-general Spyros Christou told the committee that any property involving public finance and valued at over 50,000 must be accompanied by an evaluation from the Land and Surveys Department and go before the Council of Ministers for approval.

    "Certain tender procedures were violated which raises serious questions," he said.

    Christou said the land was bought on the understanding that the relevant building relaxations would be forthcoming as the town planning authority had earmarked the area as a residential zone, not commercial.

    During the committee debate it was not made clear how such a relaxation would come about, as the EAC was only given "verbal assurances" without the usual procedures being adhered to.

    The committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss the issue again, and today the Council of Ministers will study all issues involving the controversial land deal.

    One option could be to suspend the board pending an enquiry.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [03] Interpol asked to help locate suspect

    CYPRUS police yesterday issued an international arrest warrant against American national Nina Petrou, who is believed to be a major player in the suspect financial dealing of Bishop Chrysanthos.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis announced the latest twist in the Bishop Chrysanthos financial saga during a House Ad Hoc Committee meeting on crime.

    He said an arrest warrant for Petrou has been issued through Interpol as she is wanted for questioning in an number of cases involving the Limassol bishop.

    "We have requested through Interpol that Nina Petrou be located and extradited to Cyprus. We have evidence against Petrou and we are seeking to question her," Koshis said.

    He confirmed media speculation that Petrou is thought to be implicated in an alleged financial scam which swindled two Portuguese investors of around $1.5 million, among other pending cases.

    According to media reports Petrou is believed to be in Zimbabwe.

    Chrysanthos' lawyer, Sotiris Karapatakis, said he had spoken to Petrou some ten days ago and during a telephone conversation she expressed her willingness to come to Cyprus as she has done nothing wrong.

    In the wider police investigations against the Limassol bishop - he faces 26 separate cases mainly involving fraud - detectives will be sent to the UK, Greece, Belgium and the US to collect evidence on various bank accounts, Koshis told the Ad Hoc committee.

    Later yesterday, Attorney-general Alecos Markides visited Archbishop Chrysostomos to brief him on developments concerning the investigations against one of the Church's most senior members.

    After the meeting Markides said that although an arrest warrant had been issued against Petrou, a known acquaintance of the bishop, there was no pressing evidence to do likewise against Chrysanthos himself.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [04] National Council slams confederation proposal

    By Andrew Adamides

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's confederation proposal came under sustained attack again yesterday, with political leaders branding it symptomatic of the increasing intransigence of the Turkish side.

    After a four-hour National Council meeting, Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides read out a statement condemning Denktash's proposal as "a repetition, a culmination, a codification and further worsening of earlier known intransigent positions on the Turkish side".

    The meeting was chaired by President Glafcos Clerides, and followed a similar meeting on Monday when Clerides briefed the council on his contacts in South Africa last week, including his meeting with United Nations Secretary-general Kofi Annan.

    The National Council statement said it has also decided to wait until after Clerides addresses the UN General Assembly in New York and holds contacts there at the end of the month before it decides whether or not to raise the matter of the Denktash proposal with the UN.

    Stylianides refrained from commenting on the issue of the S-300 missiles, saying that if he did so it would only serve to provide the Turkish side with a further opportunity to generate propaganda.

    Meanwhile, speaking after a meeting with Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, US Ambassador Kenneth Brill said America's current goal on Cyprus was to get direct negotiations under way.

    He said the US would back any action which would "take us closer to talks". But he added that it would also remonstrate with those who took any action leading away negotiations.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [05] Galanos wants government of national unity

    ALEXIS Galanos, Diko rebel and leader of the Movement for Eurodemocratic Renewal, yesterday proposed the formation of a government of national unity comprising representatives of all political parties.

    He will be discussing his proposal with President Clerides today.

    Galanos says the formation of such a government is needed more now than ever before. He said issues such as Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's proposal for a confederation, international pressure not to bring the S-300 missiles to Cyprus, the accession process to the European Union, the economic crisis, and "internal scandals" make a speedy decision necessary.

    "When some people believe that we are facing the 'grand finale' of the Cyprus Republic, I want to believe that they are not making such evaluations to excuse their pre-election choices but because they really feel the criticality of the situation, so I expect them to accept our offer, " Galanos said.

    He stressed that his proposal is not intended to accuse the government of incompetence, and that the current situation has been building up for years and is everyone's responsibility.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [06] Protesters plan to target pilgrims

    By Jean Christou

    PROTESTS are expected at the Ledra Palace checkpoint on Sunday when more than 1,000 Greek Cypriots cross to the occupied north to visit the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in Karpasia.

    The anti-occupation movement Pak said yesterday it will announce measures today.

    Some 1,100 Greek Cypriots out of more than 6,000 who applied to go will make the pilgrimage.

    Pak chief Aris Hadjipanayiotou said yesterday the organisation has already sent letters to President Glafcos Clerides and all the party leaders demanding a stop to the monastery visits.

    Sunday's will be the third such visit in the past 18 months.

    Hadjipanayiotou said that visiting the north and using Turkish Cypriot transport to get to the monastery implied recognition of the regime in the north by the Greek Cypriots.

    "This is doing what Denktash wants and it means we accept that he is the president of a country," Hadjipanayiotou said. "And this is totally against the principles of our struggle and against UN resolutions."

    He said all the government was doing by allowing the trips was giving the green light to Denktash to go abroad with a list of names and claim that his regime was recognised by the Greek Cypriots and should also be recognised by the international community. "This has to be stopped," Hadjipanayiotou said.

    But Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos, who is currently in the process of finalising Sunday's list, believes Pak should not target the government or his office on this issue.

    "Instead of telling me not to organise these trips they should tell the people not to want to go and I won't do it again," Christopoulos told the Cyprus Mail. "I will have my peace. You have no idea what I went through in the past three weeks."

    Christopoulos said he has had numerous complaints from the 4,900 people whose applications did not succeed.

    Hadjipanayiotou said that out of a population of 700,000, the few thousands who are interested in travelling to the north should not be regarded as representative of the feelings of the majority.

    But more than 10,000 applications were received for 600 places on the November 30 trip last year, and around 3,000 for the first trip on August 15, 1997.

    A similar trip arranged for Easter Sunday this year never went ahead due to the insistence of the Turkish Cypriots on imposing 'visa fees' and the Greek Cypriot side's refusal to pay.

    The UN has said that the pilgrims will not be forced to pay the 15 sterling fee on Sunday.

    The trips are allowed by the Turkish Cypriots in return for Turkish Cypriots being allowed to visit the Kokkina enclave and the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca, one of Islam's holiest shrines.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [07] US team working on the water problem

    By Jean Christou

    RESERVOIRS on the island are now 93.5 per cent empty, it was revealed yesterday.

    Announcing the arrival on the island of a team of American water-management experts, Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous said water reserves will run dry by the end of the year.

    "At this moment, unfortunately, the reservoirs are only at 6.5 per cent of capacity," Themistocleous said after a meeting with US Ambassador Kenneth Brill.

    Brill said he briefed the minister on the work of the American geological team which is putting together a project for the management of water supplies for those in charge of the island's depleted reserves.

    Brill said the work is still in the early stages and that co-operation with the ministry was excellent.

    Themistocleous said US expertise and know-how would be useful for Cyprus.

    "American help is important for us as the water situation is very difficult. We hope that soon we will see some results," he said.

    Themistocleous added that the US has also been instrumental in helping the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides on water issues.

    The occupied area also has water shortages but has brought in supplies from Turkey by sea-borne balloon. There was a suggestion in the Turkish Cypriot press that the two sides might be able to reach an agreement which would involve the free areas being supplied with some additional water.

    If no solution is found the water will run out by the end of the year, the two proposed mobile desalination units will not be ready until summer, and the new desalination plant by the end of 1999, according to the minister.

    The existing plant at Larnaca is capable of processing some 40,000 cubic metres a day, only enough to supply the full needs of the capital under normal circumstances.

    Currently Nicosia receives only 28,000 cubic metres of water a day, 18,000 of which come from the desalination plant.

    The remainder comes from the Kornos water treatment plant, a spokesman for the Nicosia Water Board said yesterday.

    He added that the way the situation was developing, Nicosia was having to rely more and more on desalination plant supplies.

    Residents in the capital now receive only ten hours of water three times a week.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [08] Animal welfare education campaign

    THE Veterinary Department has launched a campaign to educate schoolchildren on animal welfare.

    Department head Pavlos Economides said yesterday that they have just completed a workshop for secondary school teachers in conjunction with members of the UK-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

    Economides said the workshop was part of a new drive to raise awareness of animal welfare.

    A previous workshop, also in association with the RSPCA, focused on training for members of the government and non-governmental organisations on how to operate and run animal shelters.

    "We believe that despite the new legislation the best way forward is education, not prosecution," Economides said.

    He added that the next workshop would probably be for elementary school teachers.

    The Veterinary Department has come under fire in the past for its apparent slowness in implementing the animal welfare laws.

    "We do get a lot of criticism, though we are doing a lot of basic stuff," Economides said.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [09] Goodbye Bruce, hello Zeno

    By Athena Karsera

    Dr ZENON Breuninger has such strong beliefs in Stoicism that he changed his first name to that of the philosophy's founder.

    Dr Breuninger is one of the participants in an international three-day conference on 'Zeno and His Legacy', which begins in Larnaca today.

    Dr Breuninger, who has a Ph.d in Psychological Evaluation now teaches at an American university. He told the Cyprus Mail that he was so impressed with Zeno's philosophy that he often spoke to friends about its central belief of putting virtue before personal needs and gains.

    His friends started calling him Zeno as a joke, even though his first name was Bruce.

    but Dr Breuninger decided to make it official. "It's on my passport so it must be true," he said yesterday. Dr Breuninger believes that if everyone adhered to this philosophy it would make the world a better place.

    The conference, organised by Larnaca Municipality and the Pierides Foundation, aims to make people more aware of the Cyprus-born founder of Stoicism. Zeno was born in Kitium, now Larnaca, in 336 BC.

    Lectures on topics such as 'Zeno before and after Stoicism' and 'Zeno's Anti-utopianism' will take place at the Sun Hall Hotel in Larnaca, with the conference's opening ceremony being held at the town's Municipal Theatre.

    A special meeting will also be held on Friday night to discuss formong an International Stoic Society to present an annual award to political or business figures displaying characteristics of Stoic philosophy.

    Wednesday, September 09, 1998

    [10] Two arrested after man left for dead

    NICOSIA police arrested two people yesterday after a man was found shot in the leg.

    Andreas Maltezos, 43, was rushed to Nicosia General hospital for emergency surgery after he was found in a field by soldiers bleeding heavily from a leg wound.

    Maltezos, from Tseri, is believed to have been shot by a shotgun at around 4pm and left for dead in the farming area of Kountourouthkia.

    Police said the victim was a key witness in a case concerning animal smuggling from the occupied areas.

    Christos Loizou Tianias, 32, a butcher from Paliometocho, was arrested as a suspect after the a weapon allegedly used in the attack was found in his car.

    Police said Tianias made a verbal confession seemingly admitting his guilt.

    A second man, Andreas Spyrou Kasapis, from Kato Deftera, was also arrested and questioned by CID officers.

    The two men are expected to appear in a Nicosia district today for a remand hearing.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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