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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-12

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, January 12, 1999


  • [01] Share prices soar after £40m Paneuropean buy-out
  • [02] Villager 'admits killing fellow shepherd with rock'
  • [03] Brothers die in gas leak tragedy
  • [04] Policeman remanded again in Aeroporos case
  • [05] Bishop attacks Patriarchate over 'sex monk insult'
  • [06] Hercus resumes shuttle talks
  • [07] Omonia fans charged after soccer violence
  • [08] Turkish Cypriot soldiers in suicide riddle
  • [09] Water emergency tied up in red tape
  • [10] Holiday death toll rises despite extra patrols
  • [11] Congress staffers on fact-finding visit

  • [01] Share prices soar after £40m Paneuropean buy-out

    By Hamza Hendawi

    AFTER WEEKS of secret negotiations, the Popular Bank announced yesterday that it had reached an agreement to acquire a controlling stake in Nicos Shacolas' Paneuropean Insurance Group.

    The deal, said to be worth about £40 million, sent Cyprus stock exchange share prices soaring by 3.7 per cent - its biggest one-day rise to date - and pushed the value of trade to an all-time high of £5.84 million.

    "It was one of the few days when we felt that it was a real stock market," said broker Harris Savvides of Laiki Investments, summing up yesterday's sentiment on the floor of the fledgling market.

    "I believe the market still has room to go higher tomorrow, but perhaps not by as much as today," predicted Stavros Agrotis of CISCO, the Bank of Cyprus' investment and brokerage arm.

    "Prices are still within logical parameters," he said.

    The deal, news of which first broke over the weekend, came as nearly everyone thought that Shacolas, Paneuropean's majority shareholder, had failed to sell his group's insurance business at the price he demanded during lengthy negotiations with Greece's Interamerican Group.

    Sources close to the deal said serious negotiations got under way in late December in strict confidentiality. Apart from the executives directly involved, others were aware of the talks only on a need-to-know basis, they said.

    "This must be the largest (commercial) deal ever in Cyprus," Shacolas told a news conference jointly held yesterday with Popular's Executive Chairman Kikis Lazarides.

    "This is a balanced, fair and satisfactory deal," declared Shacolas before he and Lazarides performed a symbolic handshake for the benefit of the cameras at Popular's ultra-modern headquarters on the southern outskirts of Nicosia.

    The deal with Popular Bank, the island's second largest financial institution, gives Shacolas £1.55 for each Paneuropean share, or 35 per cent above Friday's closing price. Interamerican Greece was said to have offered Shacolas £1.50. Yesterday, the share rose by 33 cents, or 28.6 per cent, to close at £1.48 apiece while the market's entire insurance sector rose by 14.37 per cent with one stock, Universal Life Insurance, gaining as much as 46 cents.

    Paneuropean daughter companies Interamerican and Philiki also registered steep rises in yesterday's trade, moving up by 19 cents and 24 cents respectively. Both closed at £1.24 apiece.

    Under the deal, Paneuropean warrants will change hands at 55 cents, while shares of both Interamerican (life) and Philiki (general) will be acquired for £1.30. Warrants of the two affiliated firms will be purchased by Popular at 30 cents each.

    Lazarides told yesterday's news conference the agreement was for the acquisition of a controlling 51 per cent stake. A public offer to other shareholders will be made in the next few days at the same prices offered to Shacolas, he added.

    The acquisition, he said, makes the Popular Bank Group the leader in the local insurance sector. Combined with its strong share capital base, he added, the Group would now be able to sell insurance in Greece and other European Union member states.

    Assuring Paneuropean's 160,000 customers of a "phenomenally" better service and forecasting higher profits for the group, Lazarides said "clients and employees will have nothing to lose but a lot to gain" from the acquisition.

    The Popular Bank Group already has two insurance arms, life insurer Cyprialife and general insurer Laiki Insurance.

    "We expect that with this agreement to have a 32 per cent share of the insurance market," Lazarides said. Securing a strong footing in the sector, he said, was part of the bank's long-term strategies.

    "Through this acquisition we are achieving our target, and through the synergies and cross selling that is put at our disposal now we are creating tremendous value added for the group as a whole," he said.

    "It tremendously strengthens the capital base of the insurance branch of the group. Together with the amassed experience of the executives of the new companies and the depth of management that exists it makes it far easier for us to achieve that part of our strategy."

    Benefiting from the positive sentiment prevailing in the market yesterday, Popular Bank's shares rose by 13 cents to close at £4.03. The Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest, gained eight cents to close at £4.01.

    Shacolas, flatteringly nicknamed by local investors as the 'father of mergers and acquisitions', told the news conference that insurance was not among the "natural interests" of his group. Having offloaded the insurance business, he added, the group will now concentrate on its investment and real-estate activities.

    Market traders say Shacolas will also use some of the cash from the sale of Paneuropean to bolster retail activities such as Woolworth and Cyprus Trading Corporation, whose shares rose yesterday by 8 cents and 8.5 cents respectively, at a time when they are facing tough competition.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [02] Villager 'admits killing fellow shepherd with rock'

    By Martin Hellicar

    A 63-year-old shepherd was remanded in custody yesterday on suspicion of bludgeoning a deaf and mute fellow shepherd to death with a stone.

    Limassol District Court heard that Kilani villager Polis Michail Magos had admitted killing father of eight Takis Onisiforou, 65, outside the village at about 3pm on Sunday.

    There were angry scenes outside the court yesterday as distraught relatives of the victim tried to attack the suspect. Police had to intervene to restore order.

    The court heard that Onisiforou's head was beaten to a pulp by a large stone. The attack took place on a dirt track about one kilometre outside the Limassol district village, near to where both shepherds have their animal pens.

    The court heard that Magos had told police Onisiforou had provoked the attack by throwing a stone at him.

    The suspect hit Onisiforou with his stick, knocking him to the ground, and then struck him repeatedly on the head with a rock, the court heard. Police recovered a large bloodied stone - believed to be the murder weapon - near the victim's body.

    Police did not learn of the attack until about 6pm on Sunday, when a friend of the suspect called from nearby Silikou village to inform police that Magos wanted to give himself up for the murder of a fellow villager. Magos had taken refuge at his friend's home after the attack. He was arrested there on Sunday evening.

    The court heard that Magos and Onisiforou had often quarrelled in the past.

    Magos was remanded for eight days on suspicion of premeditated murder.

    Sunday's was the second murder in the remote mountain village in less than 15 months.

    On October 8, 1997, 66-year-old Matheos Christofi was killed in an axe attack on a village street in broad daylight.

    The trial of the man charged with Christofi's murder - 60-year-old Michalis Efstathiou Panis - is ongoing.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [03] Brothers die in gas leak tragedy

    STAVROS Theodorou, a former senior policeman, and his brother George were found dead on Sunday afternoon at Stavros' country home in the Larnaca district of Maroni. Their deaths were blamed on a gas leak, which nearly claimed the lives of their wives as well.

    The deaths were discovered at around 4.30pm, when neighbours began to wonder why Stavros, 61, had not come round for a customary cup of coffee. When he failed to answer his mobile phone, his next-door neighbour, a former sergeant in the fire brigade, went round to his house.

    Smelling gas, he broke in and found the supply to the gas heater switched on, but not lit. He found Stavros and George, 59, already dead, but carried out first aid on their

    wives Eleni and Kyriaki, both 58. It is believed that he saved the women's lives.

    Police investigating the deaths suspected the gas, but at first thought the deaths may have been caused by food poisoning from mushrooms the two had eaten. Autopsies later ruled this out.

    When found, Kyriaki and Eleni were in serious condition, but doctors said yesterday that Eleni is improving. Kyriaki, however, is semi-comatose, and doctors believe she may have suffered permanent brain damage.

    Technicians from the Department of Communications and Works examining the house found three empty gas bottles, one connected to the heater, one to the cooker and one to a separate gas ring.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [04] Policeman remanded again in Aeroporos case

    LIMASSOL District Court yesterday renewed the remand order on Special Constable Savvas Ioannou, 33, who is suspected of being involved in the killing of Hambis Aeroporos.

    Ioannou was re-remanded for seven days. He was arrested on December 17, and denies all involvement with the case.

    On Sunday, the court also renewed the remand orders on Sotiris Athinis, 43, also a policeman, his sister Zoe Alexandrou, 51, and Christos Symianos, 35, all of whom are also thought to have been involved in the killing. Each was remanded for a further eight days.

    Aeroporos was killed on December 16. Gunmen ran his car off the Limassol- Ypsonas road and into a ditch, then opened fire as he got out. He was killed instantly. The killers, whose car also went into the ditch, then fled on foot.

    The suspects have been linked to the killing by a mobile phone belonging to Alexandrou which was found at the scene. She says it had been stolen.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [05] Bishop attacks Patriarchate over 'sex monk insult'

    By Jean Christou

    THE REPORTED decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople not to act against an elderly Greek monk accused of molesting nuns is an insult to the Cyprus Holy Synod, the Bishop of Paphos said yesterday.

    In a written statement responding to reports that the Patriarchate stands behind Elder Iosif, Bishop Chrysostomos said if the information is true then he was "surprised".

    "If the Patriarchate has reached such a decision then it wasn't well thought out, and appears to insult the decision of the Cyprus Holy Synod," the Bishop's statement said. "The Holy Synod was the responsible body."

    It was Bishop Chrysostomos who late last year publicised the allegations against Elder Iosif, who is from the Greek monastery of Varopedhi.

    Iosif, now 80, was accused of molesting seven nuns and infecting them with sexual diseases 17 years ago. The Synod found him guilty of "embracing" a girl who was 11 years old at the time, according to witness testimony and to a letter he wrote to a young nun which allegedly implicated him.

    Two weeks ago the Holy Synod upheld the allegations by the Bishop of Paphos against Iosif, but a letter of support for him was subsequently issued by the Patriarchate.

    Since the Synod's decision the Cyprus Church has been at pains to insist that there is no rift with its Greek brethren.

    Last week in Paphos Chrysostomos said that with the Holy Synod's decision the case was now closed.

    Chrysostomos's allegations about Iosif emerged as he levelled accusations against Limassol Bishopric candidate Abbot Athanasios of Macheras, a former protégé of the Greek monk.

    But the Synod dismissed the Bishop's allegations of immorality against Athanasios over his association with Iosif.

    Bishop Chrysostomos consistently has denied that his allegations against Athanasios had anything to do with his opposition to the Abbot's candidacy in the election for the post of Bishop of Limassol.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [06] Hercus resumes shuttle talks

    By Jean Christou

    U.N.-BACKED shuttle talks aimed at restarting stalled peace negotiations resumed yesterday, but progress is not expected to be swift despite Cyprus cancelling the deployment of the S-300 missiles.

    President Clerides met separately yesterday with UN Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus and US Ambassador Kenneth Brill while politicians continued to criticise his decision on the missiles.

    "We are on the threshold of significant initiatives for Cyprus," the president said on Sunday.

    No statements were made after his meeting with Dame Ann, in line with the hush-hush policy surrounding the three-month old talks.

    Dame Ann said she would meet Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash later this week.

    Following his one-hour meeting with Clerides, Brill indicated that nothing specific should be expected from the US at this time and that there was no time frame for an initiative.

    "Moves will become apparent once they are made," he said. "You will see us working consistently in a way that is designed to get results," not make headlines.

    Brill said the US would work very closely in support of the UN's initiative and with others to move the situation in Cyprus forward and bring about a settlement.

    He said Dame Ann worked "very hard and skilfully" and that her efforts so far provide a foundation for sustained efforts this year. He also hailed President's Clerides' decision not to deploy the missiles as "courageous".

    "The US is determined to work very hard to seize the opportunities created by the President's decision," Brill said.

    On the missiles themselves, Brill said however that Greece and Russia will have to sort out their deployment.

    House President Spyros Kyprianou has attacked Clerides over the missiles and his comments on new initiatives.

    Kyprianou said Clerides' statements on Sunday were "clearly aimed" at political leaders disillusioned with his decision not to bring the missiles.

    The House President said the statements were insulting and he wouldn't hesitate, "if it came to it", to release the contents of a letter sent by Clerides to Simitis but which was never sent. He refused to elaborate.

    "I don't want to attack him (Clerides) but now he tries to attack those who have different opinions," Kyprianou said. "I will not yet reveal certain things which have been said at the National Council nor the text of a letter that Clerides read out to the National Council which was destined for the Greek prime minister, which I'm given to believe was not sent in the end."

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides refused to comment on the issue of the letter. However he did confirm that "at least so far" there is no specific proposal or initiative from the Americans on Cyprus.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [07] Omonia fans charged after soccer violence

    TWO OMONIA fans were charged yesterday in connection with violence during and after a football match in Larnaca on Saturday, bringing the total of suspected hooligans charged after the match to four.

    Disturbances outside the Antonis Papadopoulos stadium after the top of the table Anorthosis-Omonia clash left a 13-year-old boy seriously injured, police said. A police officer also had to be treated in hospital for a head injury after being hit by a stone as police tried to break up rival fans.

    Police made four arrests.

    The most serious incident - which left teenager Nicos Lambrou with a fractured skull - was sparked by Anorthosis fans spitting at the car of National Guardsman Constantinos Christoforou, 18. Police said Christoforou reacted by reversing into the rival fans, hitting Nicos, from Moutayiaka outside Limassol. Nicos was rushed to Larnaca hospital where his condition was yesterday described as steady.

    The National Guardsman, from Mosfiloti village in the Larnaca District, was arrested after the incident. Christoforou was yesterday charged with reckless driving and released.

    Fellow Omonia fan Antonis Ermogenous, 20 from Nicosia, was also charged yesterday in connection with an alleged attack on an Anorthosis player during the match, which ended in a 2-2 draw. Ermogenous was released after being charged.

    The other two men arrested after the match were charged and released on Sunday.

    Georgios Katsiamis, 30, from the Larnaca district village of Psevdas, was arrested for attacking Anorthosis fans, and Alexandros Koumouros, 27, from Paralimni, was held for throwing a plastic bottle on to the pitch during the match.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [08] Turkish Cypriot soldiers in suicide riddle

    THE FIRST Battalion of the 'Turkish Cypriot Security Forces' is at the centre of a suicide riddle after four soldiers are reported to have killed themselves.

    All the deaths occurred over the past three months.

    Reports in the Turkish press yesterday said the fourth victim was found dead on Sunday morning. Semih Arigan, 19, had shot himself while on sentry duty. His family had moved back to the occupied areas from Australia six years ago.

    The papers noted that just three days earlier, Raafat El-Habta, 23, another soldier in the battalion, committed suicide after a row with his and Arigan's commanding officer.

    During the fight, El-Habta apparently threatened to murder the commanding officer and then take his own life. El-Habta's family are of Lebanese origin. His father was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a fishing boat at Famagusta port three years ago.

    It is not known whether El-Habta and Arigan knew each other, or why El- Habta's fought with his Turkish commanding officer. Several papers expressed concern over the unusual coincidences in the events, suggesting an inquiry to investigate activities at the battalion.

    In addition, three other soldiers have committed suicide at other battalions in recent months, the papers said.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [09] Water emergency tied up in red tape

    By Anthony O. Miller

    MOTHER Nature has mercifully belied the most pessimistic prognostications of Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleos: that the island's reservoirs would dry up if the winter rains failed again this year as they did last.

    But government red-tape is still giving the lie to the 'emergency' nature of the government's 'crash programme' to have two mobile water desalination plants on-line by June, and a second, permanent plant operating by the year 2000.

    So far, according to the Meteorological Service, except for October when it did not rain at all, rainfall has been above average island-wide.

    The reservoirs are now 9.7 per cent full (or 90.3 per cent empty), with 26.2 million cubic metres of water behind their dams, Dr George Socratous of the Water Development Department (WDD) said yesterday.

    This compares with last November 17 when they were only 5.4 per cent full, and held only 14.2 million cubic metres (14 billion litres) of water.

    But both figures still compare unfavourably with the 31.2 million cubic metres of January 11 last year when the reservoirs were 11.6 per cent full. And even with that much water in storage back then, the strict water rationing of a year ago is still in force.

    Acting WDD director Christos Marcoullis said yesterday that even though current levels are some 15 per cent below this time last year, he was confident the island could get through the summer even if the two 'emergency' desalination plants are not built.

    But he was quick to add that the current rainfall "does not affect the construction of the desalination plants, as far as I know".

    (In 1993, the government shelved plans to build desalination plants after one winter's rains broke the back of what, at the time, seemed a bad two- year drought. Cyprus is now entering its fourth year of its worst drought this century.)

    Marcoullis said the tenders for the two mobile plants, and the permanent facility planned for outside Larnaca, are all in the "main tender board. There is no delay," he insisted; the plans merely require further examination.

    The government first sought tenders for the permanent desalination plant in November 1997 - 14 months ago - and still has not picked a builder. It also went to bid last September for the two mobile plants, but and has not picked contracts.

    Marcoullis said the specifications require the first water to start pouring from the two mobile plants 22 weeks after the builder is selected.

    Officials have said the island's second permanent desalination plant should be operating by next year, but sources close to the bidding process have told the Cyprus Mail that bureaucratic delays will probably keep the permanent plant from producing water before the year 2001.

    Cyprus gets some 80 per cent of its water from aquifers, all of which are dangerously over-pumped, some of which are bone dry, and others which are now too salty from seawater intrusion.

    The Dhekelia desalination plant's current maximum output is 40,000 cubic metres of water per day - about the daily needs of Nicosia. The balance of the island's water needs comes from the dams.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [10] Holiday death toll rises despite extra patrols

    By Anthony O. Miller

    DESPITE tough traffic policing throughout the Christmas-New Year period - more than twice the number of tickets were issued than in 1997 - this year's holiday death toll was double that of last, police data showed yesterday.

    Traffic department Commander George Voutounos said he was disappointed by the death rate rise, but insisted "we sent the right message (to motorists) that we intend to... combat this situation".

    Voutounos had publicly warned motorists that, from December 19 to January 10, his officers would be out in force to snare speeders, drink-drivers and careless overtakers. The figures indicate he meant business.

    During that period, police issued 5,674 traffic tickets - more than double the 2,577 issued over the 1997 holidays. "Our main object was combatting speed," Voutounos said, adding that 3,525 of this year's tickets were for speeding (1,460 speeding tickets in 1997).

    Police also made 1,298 drink-driving traffic stops this year (versus only 803 over the 1997 holidays), and arrested 36 suspected drink-drivers (11 in 1997).

    Most of the drink-driving tickets were issued in Limassol, with Larnaca coming second, Nicosia third, and Paphos last in the drink-drive category.

    Voutounos was clearly disappointed that, despite his extra patrols, 10 people died in seven fatal accidents over these holidays, bringing 1998's total to 110 deaths in 101 fatal road wrecks. "They were all due to the negligence of the driver," Voutounos said.

    The figures contrasted with five deaths in five fatal accidents during the 1997 holiday season, he said, for a 1997 year-end total of 115 deaths in 101 fatal crashes.

    While both years' death tolls were high, per capita, 1998 saw five fewer road fatalities than the previous year.

    Voutounos noted that five tourists were killed in two of the fatal collisions, and a British Bases soldier on a motorcycle made the sixth non- Cypriot holiday fatality.

    Except for these "foreigners", he said, the island's fatal accidents would have claimed only four victims over the holiday period - one fewer than 1997 - and more in keeping with his stated goal of cutting road fatalities by 10 per cent per year.

    Voutounos said at least a third of the island's road deaths involve tourists, many of them unused to driving on the left side of the road.

    One encouraging measure of his department's success, he said, is that road accidents killed or injured 566 fewer people - 4,039 in 1998 - than in 1997, when 4,606 died or were injured.

    This holiday season there were 43 serious accidents, 14 fewer than the previous year's 57. And 49 people were seriously injured in them, 22 fewer than the 71 people seriously injured in 1997.

    In addition, 93 minor traffic accidents slightly injured only 124 people in 1998 - 54 fewer than the 178 people slightly hurt in an identical 93 minor accidents in 1997.

    Voutounos noted "there are bills" that the Ministry of Communications and Works is considering submitting to parliament for the purchase of hidden cameras to snap highway speeders and urban traffic light jumpers.

    "If the Ministry gives us the equipment... we will be in a position to achieve good results," he said. "With this equipment, we can do our job more easily (because) it's not necessary to have police present" where there are cameras.

    "I'm determined to continue the campaign. I'm going to increase the police numbers on the highways. I'm going to... co-ordinate with the districts to face this situation all over Cyprus," Voutounos said.

    He said motorists can expect more radar traps year-round throughout the island.

    Tuesday, January 12, 1999

    [11] Congress staffers on fact-finding visit

    THE CYPRUS problem is complicated and requires that those outside the island understand as much as possible about it if a settlement is to be found, United States Congress staff member Michael Hutton said yesterday.

    Hutton, Chief of Staff for Democrat Congressman Bob Menendez, was speaking after meeting House President Spyros Kyprianou. He is visiting the island with a seven-man delegation to discuss the Cyprus problem with local politicians.

    He said that hopefully, the visit will help them to "know how the US Congress can help resolve the Cyprus problem".

    That way, "we understand as much as possible about the country and hopefully when we go back to Washington we can advise our members on what they can do."

    Hutton said Menendez would support the demilitarisation of Cyprus, as proposed by President Glafcos Clerides, and that his position would include support for the withdrawal of US weapons from the island. He also expressed support for Cyprus' bid to join the EU and the decision not to deploy the S- 300 missiles.

    Kyprianou called on the US to exert greater pressure on Turkey to abandon its intransigent stance on Cyprus, a point acknowledged by Hutton, who said that "hopefully the US would work with the government of Turkey" for a resolution.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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