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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-13

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, February 13, 1999


  • [01] 'We're poor: give us the money'
  • [02] Pickets summoned to court as unions threaten national strike
  • [03] Port talks going well, but strike continues
  • [04] Clerides pleads with party leaders on EU legislation
  • [05] Marios Matsakis vs Ann Hercus
  • [06] Shopkeepers concerned at Makarios pedestrianisation plan
  • [07] Shares fall back after Central Bank warning
  • [08] Politis hits the news stands
  • [09] New broadcasting package announced
  • [10] HCI board could face court action over 1980s collapse
  • [11] Cypriot named to top European patent job
  • [12] Pig protest foiled
  • [13] Man wanted for massive cheque heist

  • [01] 'We're poor: give us the money'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PISTOL-WIELDING bank robbers, claiming poverty, got away with 60,000 in a daylight heist in central Nicosia yesterday morning.

    Two masked robbers, wearing crash helmets, stormed into the bank holding up the cashiers and demanded money because "we are poor".

    The heist took place at a Bank of Cyprus branch around 9.30am on Nicosia's busy Diagorou Street.

    "The robbers entered the bank wearing crash helmets, and one of them brandished a pistol at the cashier while the other jumped over the counter to grab the money," a police statement said.

    They fled the scene on a motocross bike, with one of the men firing a warning shot in the air, an eye-witnesses said.

    Police found the bike abandoned at a nearby block of flats on Byron Avenue at 11am.

    One of the customers at the bank managed to raise the alarm; police arrived at the scene within minutes and the chase to hunt down robbers began, with the help of a police helicopter.

    In the wake of yesterday's hold-up police again raised the issue of lax bank security measures.

    "The bank branch did not operate a closed circuit TV system. For some time now the police has advised banks to implement such measures," said yesterday's police statement.

    The two assailants are described as being aged between 25 and 30, of medium build and 1.7 metres tall.

    Police said they were confident of making arrests on the basis of the evidence gathered so far.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [02] Pickets summoned to court as unions threaten national strike

    By Athena Karsera

    PICKETS outside two Larnaca hotels were yesterday served with a summons to appear in Court for blocking the entrances to the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels.

    Unions meanwhile threatened that strike action would spread across the island from next week.

    An appeal from Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas to the unions to call off their plan to escalate the dispute fell on deaf ears.

    Moushiouttas said that he had received a letter from Lordos Holdings, the owner of the two hotels, stating that management was ready to open negotiations.

    He said he expected to meet Lordos representatives before the end of the day.

    The summonses came after management on Thursday took out court orders prohibiting strikers from blocking the entrances to the two hotels, following almost two weeks of increasingly bitter picketing.

    The strike has been going on for over two weeks, in protest at management's decision to lay off 73 staff in an effort to cut costs.

    Fifty-eight of the 158 pickets, 29 at each hotel, were issued with the summons, in spite of union claims that strikers had respected the court orders.

    Peo's representative on hotels, Andreas Trahanas, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the unions had appointed deputy Tassos Papadopoulos' law office to represent their members when the first case comes before Larnaca Court on Monday.

    He said there would be meetings at all the island's hotels, followed by a two-hour strike at all Larnaca hotels some time next week.

    Yesterday's union meeting also decided to set up a strike fund to support the pickets.

    Sek and Peo have each contributed 3,000 to the fund, while union- affiliated hotel staff will contribute 5 of their salary to the fund.

    Trahanas warned that strike action would be extended to other areas of the island, eventually leading to a national strike if management did not give way.

    The manager of Hoteliers' Association Pasyxe, Zacharias Ioannides, yesterday condemned the union's decision to escalate the strike.

    "We want to believe that the unions will act responsibly" and take into account government attempts to start dialogue, Ioannides said.

    He said such action would only damage the workers themselves, as well as the tourism industry on which they rely: "we are destroying ourselves," he warned.

    Ioannides said the industry's overseas associates had already received negative feedback because of the strike.

    Ioannides' main argument, however, was that workers should not damage the business of hoteliers with whom they had no dispute: "There are no problems with other employers," he said.

    He said a nationwide strike would be a serious blow, with knock-on effects on the country's economy.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [03] Port talks going well, but strike continues

    By Athena Karsera

    TALKS to end the Larnaca port dispute are "going well", but strikers continued to block the harbour entrance yesterday, with negotiations at the Labour Ministry due to resume on Monday.

    After a meeting with representatives from Sek Peo and Deok unions, Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas said negotiations were going well.

    Moushiouttas told reporters that unions wanted alternative work for the surplus staff set to lose their jobs once the port is turned into a leisure harbour. He added that the unions had also demanded compensation for the staff, which they want outlined by April 15.

    The main point of contention was finding ways to lower the harbour's running costs.

    Moushiouttas said he would be meeting with the Shipping Agency on Monday to discuss the issue, before meeting with the unions.

    The unions said they were satisfied by the meeting, but that strike action would continue.

    Larnaca harbour workers and stevedores have been striking in protest at the port's uncertain future and at their lack of work.

    Party representatives yesterday visited the port to address the 150 striking dockers and stevedores.

    Diko's acting-president, Nicos Cleanthous, Akel deputy Andreas Christou and Disy's Stelios Yerasimou all expressed their support for the worker's demands.

    Speaking to workers at the harbour's blocked entrance, Christou said: "There is no excuse for the government undervaluing Larnaca harbour. Our experience has shown that Cyprus needs two ports and for this reason the government has to decide what the future of Larnaca harbour will be and to insure the rights of the excess staff."

    Christou said those who would lose their jobs when the port becomes a leisure harbour "should not be victimised as a result of the authorities using the wrong policy in the country's general harbour development and of employment conditions at the harbour."

    Strikers were further upset yesterday when they heard that cranes previously used to block the port entrance would be disassembled to be to be taken to Limassol harbour. To prevent this from happening, workers put containers around the crane bases.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [04] Clerides pleads with party leaders on EU legislation

    By Andrew Adamides

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides has invited the political parties to discuss the bills that need to be passed by the House in order to keep in line with EU accession commitments.

    In letters made public yesterday, Clerides said that the bills had to be discussed before they went before the House.

    The topics include the liberalisation of the financial system, government income and social expenses, VAT, consumer taxes, semi-government organisations, the defence levy, the proposed national health system, court policy and the social security system.

    Commenting on the letters, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday the government was expecting a positive response from party leaders.

    Clerides' proposals were "genuine", the spokesman added, rejecting accusations that the approach was a ploy to bring parties to the negotiating table so the president could "fool" them into adopting policies that had been rejected last year as part of a proposed package of tax reforms.

    Asked why the letters had only been sent to certain parties, Stylianides said the government wouldn't turn its back on anyone wanting to discuss the matter. Changes had to be made at minimum cost to society and should therefore be made with the co-operation of all political leaders, he concluded.

    Speaking after a meeting with Clerides, Cyprus' Chief EU Negotiator George Vassiliou said yesterday he was working on a bill that would simplify the procedure for sending to the house the bills needed to keep up with EU demands. He said he hadn't discussed the letter with Clerides, but underlined that time was of the essence, repeating his call for the appointment of deputy ministers in order to get everything completed on schedule.

    Vassiliou said that while deputies had doubled in number, the number of ministers had remained the same, at a time when the need for them has increased manyfold.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [05] Marios Matsakis vs Ann Hercus

    By Charlie Charalambous

    UN CHIEF of Mission Dame Ann Hercus has sent a personal letter to maverick Diko deputy Marios Matsakis warning him to tread carefully in the buffer zone.

    Matsakis claims the Hercus letter is a carefully coded form of blackmail suggesting he stop his high profile jaunts into the buffer zone or face the consequences.

    "It's a pure threat wrapped in the glove of diplomacy," the Diko deputy told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "I don't know who she's been dealing with, but if she thought I would panic and beg for forgiveness then she obviously hasn't been in Cyprus very long, " said Matsakis.

    Matsakis described Hercus' action as a "strange letter from a strange person", but the UN has denied any impropriety on its part.

    "It was not written with the intent of being blackmail, but as a professional way of advising him about the full facts," UN spokesperson Sarah Russell told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    The Hercus letter, dated February 10, followed Matsakis' much-publicised destruction of the Kokkinotrimithia UN buffer zone checkpoint last week.

    In protest at UN peacekeepers denying access to Greek Cypriot pig farmers in the area, Matsakis took a circular saw and a tin of paint to the checkpoint.

    This wilful destruction of UN property prompted Hercus to inform the deputy of the real reasons why peacekeepers had stopped the pig farmers.

    "Unficyp has prima facie evidence that the pig farm has been employing illegal immigrants. Presumably, that is why they did not wish to give the UN a complete list of workers," the Hercus letter said.

    Although the sending of a personal letter to an individual deputy by a UN chief of mission is rather irregular, Hercus explains:

    "I thought, as a matter of courtesy, I should let you know this, before it becomes public and you are implicated in demonstrations which unintentionally support the presence of illegal immigrants."

    Russell said the motive behind the letter was to ensure that Matsakis did not "embarrass himself or get into trouble".

    But Russell failed to give a convincing argument as to why Hercus should single out Matsakis for personal concern after he so publicly flouted UN authority.

    "As a former MP, Dame Ann understands how situations can evolve if you don't have the full facts," said Russell.

    Nevertheless, Matsakis has made a formal complaint about the letter to the Foreign Ministry and House president Spyros Kyprianou.

    "I discussed the issue with Mr Kyprianou today and he was most surprised and said he supported my complaint," said Matsakis.

    He added: "a written letter to an MP is a direct form of interference."

    The UN has come under increasing public criticism for its perceived heavy handedness in some parts of the buffer zone and for restricting movements of residents going about their business along the cease-fire line.

    Even Attorney-general Alecos Markides said last week that the UN could not behave like a "state within a state".

    The growing number of negative UN stories in the local media even forced the government to issue a public statement of support for Unficyp yesterday.

    "It is stressed that Unficyp should not be regarded as our adversary, for Turkey is our adversary. It is better not to seek the solution of certain problems through the media, as this is likely to affect chances of settling such problems practically," the government announcement said.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [06] Shopkeepers concerned at Makarios pedestrianisation plan

    By Martin Hellicar

    PLANS to pedestrianise Nicosia's busiest shopping thoroughfare, Makarios Avenue, got a chilly reception from shopkeepers' union Povek yesterday.

    In an interview published in Machi newspaper yesterday, Nicosia mayor Lellos Demetriades, a strong advocate of pedestrianisation, said cars would be barred from Makarios avenue "in a few years time." Demetriades said Nikis avenue would be widened to cater for out-of-town traffic.

    But Povek representative Tryfonas Neocleous told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the plan to extend car-free shopping areas in the capital could only work if the whole Nicosia master plan was implemented. This could only happen if the green line dividing the town was no longer there, he said.

    Povek opposes pedestrianisation, blaming it for the downturn in business on the old city's two pedestrianised shopping streets - Ledra and Onasagorou.

    "If Makarios avenue was pedestrianised too I believe there would be problems unless the whole Nicosia master plan could be implemented," Neocleous said.

    "There has to be reunification of the capital before the master plan can work," the union man said.

    He predicted that Makarios Avenue shopkeepers would not be happy to see their road pedestrianised. Most Ledra and Onasagorou street shop owners have been pushing for the return of cars to their narrow streets.

    Demetriades was abroad and unavailable for comment yesterday, but the municipality did issue a statement later in the day.

    The town Hall was keen to point out that pedestrianisation of Makarios Avenue was a long way off.

    "Nothing is going to change over the coming four or five years, as the (master) plan is first due for reassessment and adjustment in line with the conditions as they develop during the intervening time," the statement read.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [07] Shares fall back after Central Bank warning

    SHARE prices on the Cyprus Stock Exchange dropped by around four per cent yesterday with investors spooked by warnings that a rally this week had been pushed too far.

    Floor traders said warnings attributed to Central Bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou "to a big extent" forced yesterday's correction.

    Afxentiou was quoted as telling yesterday's Phileleftheros that a leap in prices that saw the general share index climb more than ten per cent in the space of two days "was not really justified".

    "It did influence the market but on the other hand everyone was saying that a slight correction was due," a trader at a large Nicosia stockbroker said yesterday.

    Though final figures were due to be released later in the day, stockbrokers said preliminary figures pointed to the market dropping by some four per cent, almost wiping out Thursday's 5.2 per cent gain.

    Yesterday's shock may spark a new upwards correction, but at a slower pace than the mad dash of previous days, they said.

    From January 1 and until Thursday, the market had advanced 37 per cent - recouping in the first six weeks of 1999 all the losses the official bourse had sustained since it replaced an unofficial over-the-counter market in March 1996.

    In spite of the drop, it was difficult to find consensus among brokers on whether the rally was justified or pushed too far.

    "For the first time we are seeing resources channelled into productive sectors of the economy and it was about time," said one defensive trader. "This should be encouraged."

    Traders have said the rally was sparked by reports of Greek investors buying up bank shares, fuelled by news the Bank of Cyprus may secure a listing on the Athens stock exchange.

    Others said it was pulled to the hilt by a small army of local investors getting carried away with the rare appearance of foreigners.

    "They are buying without paying to sell the next day. With all respect to investors, this is getting out of hand - that is how people get their fingers burnt," said Ioannis Athienitis of Severis and Athienitis Securities in Nicosia.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [08] Politis hits the news stands

    THE FIRST edition of Greek-language daily Politis entered the media fray yesterday after much hype and anticipation.

    The tabloid-sized paper packed separate culture and sports sections plus a well-designed TV magazine which is likely to hurt competitors such as Phileleftheros.

    In style, Politis, the sixth Greek-language daily on the market, looks a lot like the Athenian newspaper Ta Nea and has the same typeface and layout as its Greek cousins.

    Yesterday's issue ran a front-page story concerning allegations that the state oil refinery was illegally exporting oil, leaving the electricity authority to pay above the odds for its crude supplies and thus hurting consumers.

    The publishers of Politis are apparently going for the high-brow end of the market with the onus on consumer-driven issues and political scandal.

    Whether Cypriot readers are ready for such an approach in sufficient numbers to keep the paper going remains to be seen.

    But the paper has invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology and some of the island's most respected and experienced journalists.

    Politis has yet to find its feet, but the competition will be looking nervously over its shoulder.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [09] New broadcasting package announced

    THE GOVERNMENT announced yesterday that it had passed a package of measures aimed at keeping tighter check on broadcasting.

    An official press release also stated the fees payable by anyone wanting a licence to broadcast: a national television broadcasting licence will now set the would-be TV station owner back 5,000. A local TV licence costs 1, 000, the same as a licence to broadcast nationally on the radio. A local radio station needs a 500 licence, while a small local radio station must pay just 200.

    According to the bill, applicants must also carefully control what they broadcast. Television and radio have "a social mission in the cultural development" of Cyprus, and every station is therefore required to have an ethics committee to ensure the quality of what goes on air.

    Programmes are required to respect the rights of anyone appearing on them, and to ensure the integrity of gameshows and the like. Viewers must also be warned, either through an announcement at the start of a programme, or in written credits, if it is unsuitable for persons under a certain age.

    The regulations were passed on January 27.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [10] HCI board could face court action over 1980s collapse

    BOARD members of the notorious Hellenic Chemical Industries (HCI) Ltd could face civil action over the collapse of the company more than a decade after the event, Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said yesterday.

    Thousands of local investors lost money when the company folded soon after a high profile 3 million share issue in 1982. A subsequent government probe concluded a HCI prospectus produced to launch the share issue had contained deliberately misleading information about the company's prospects.

    The HCI affair hit the headlines again yesterday after a former employee and shareholder claimed the cabinet was blocking efforts by Attorney- general Alecos Markides to initiate civil action against the company's former board members.

    Petros Yiasemides alleged the government had for the past two months been sitting on a letter form Markides requesting cabinet approval for such action. The cabinet was trying to protect the "big names" among the former HCI board members, Yiasemides claimed.

    Christodoulou rushed to dismiss these claims yesterday.

    "There is no mystery and no effort to avoid responding (to Markides's letter)," the minister said.

    Markides had sent him a letter concerning the HCI in January last year, Christodoulou said. "The Attorney-general inclined towards the opinion that there was no issue of criminal responsibility after all these years, but he suggested we meet to discuss the possibility of civil action," he said.

    Christodoulou said he duly met with Markides and discussed the legal aspects of a possible civil action by the state against the former HCI board members.

    "He undertook to study the matter further before deciding on further action, " Christodoulou said.

    President Clerides was aware of developments on the matter and the government was awaiting the Attorney-general's opinion before taking any further steps, he said.

    Yiasemides has twice begun court actions against former HCI board members in the past, in 1989 and 1990, but in both cases court action was suspended by a nolle prosequi order issued by then Attorney-general Michalakis Triantafyllides.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [11] Cypriot named to top European patent job

    PANTELIS Kyriakides yesterday became the first Cypriot to be appointed to a European managerial position, when he was appointed vice president of the European patent office.

    Kyriakides, born in Kyrenia, studied engineering and telecommunications in London before joining the British Patent Office in 1976. In 1981, he moved to the European Office in Munich, where his new post will also be based.

    Cyprus is a full member of the 19-country European Patent Office. It joined in 1998, the only one of the six countries seeking EU membership to be accepted so far.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [12] Pig protest foiled

    LARNACA pig farmers' demonstrations against low pork prices were foiled in a ironic turn of events yesterday.

    The 35 farmers took their pigs and sows to Aradippou's industrial area with the intention of dumping them at the premises where the carcasses of sick animals are disposed of.

    Their scheme turned pear-shaped, however, when no one was there to take charge of the animals. Things got worse when a visit to Larnaca's Veterinary Office to get the key to the premises proved fruitless, as they could not find anyone to give them a key.

    The farmers then decided to take alternative action and delivered a petition with their demands to the Agriculture Office in Larnaca.

    The farmers have the full support of farming and agricultural organisations.

    Saturday, February 13, 1999

    [13] Man wanted for massive cheque heist

    A 32-YEAR-OLD Lebanese man went on a huge spending spree, writing 22 cheques worth a total of over 230,000 before anyone realised he didn't have the money in the bank, police said yesterday.

    The suspected culprit, Khaled Wafic Doha, from Beirut, was yesterday being sought by police for issuing bouncing cheques worth a total of 231,093.

    Police issued a photograph of the wanted man and appealed to anyone with any information to contact Nicosia CID.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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