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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-26

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

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


Friday, February 26, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Bank manager suspected of embezzlement
  • [02] Masked gunmen raid Ypsonas bank
  • [03] Priest given suspended sentence over gun
  • [04] Civil servants hail strike 'success'
  • [05] Greenpeace activists scale agriculture ministry
  • [06] Cyprus Airways deny their actions endangered child
  • [07] Maronite charged with spying
  • [08] Management starts private prosecution of hotel pickets
  • [09] Watchdog committee completes Michaelides report
  • [10] Koshis says CyTA security nothing to do with foreign threat
  • [11] Rubbish blockade in roundabout protest
  • [12] British Airways honours agrotourism

  • [01] Bank manager suspected of embezzlement

    By Martin Hellicar

    A NICOSIA bank manager suspected of embezzling more than one million pounds of his clients' money was arrested by police yesterday.

    Charalambos Kokkinos, the 35-year-old manager of the Popular Bank's busy branch on Stavros Road in Strovolos, is expected to appear before a Nicosia court today for a remand order.

    Police said Kokkinos was suspected of diverting money from the accounts of branch customers to a third account he set up and then pocketing it himself.

    "It is possible the amount embezzled exceeds one million pounds," said a police statement yesterday.

    Kokkinos, who lives in the well-to-do Anthoupolis suburb of Nicosia, was arrested at about 5.40pm yesterday, 24 hours after one of the staff at the Strovolos branch told police of his suspicions.

    "The Popular Bank worker complained to police that bank manager Charalambos Kokkinos... was accessing the accounts of bank clients and transferring, via computer, monetary amounts to the account of a third person and then embezzling it," the police statement said.

    "The Financial Crime Office has taken statements which suggest the amount embezzled so far is 13,646. Investigations are continuing, and there are claims that the amount embezzled exceeds one million pounds," it said.

    The Popular Bank is the island's second largest bank after the Bank of Cyprus.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [02] Masked gunmen raid Ypsonas bank

    By Charlie Charalambous

    TWO MASKED gunmen raided a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in Ypsonas outside Limassol yesterday, getting away with 12,000.

    Although armed robbery is considered rare in Cyprus, it is the second pistol-wielding hold-up on the island in as many weeks, and the second time the Bank of Cyprus has been targeted.

    "At around 11.30am, two masked men, one armed with a pistol and the other with a shotgun robbed a Bank of Cyprus branch in Ypsonas, they got away on a motocross bike," police spokesman Stelios Neophytou told the Cyprus Mail.

    Both stormed the bank wearing blue overalls and different coloured crash helmets, Neophytou said.

    Minutes later, the bike was found abandoned; eye-witnesses said they saw the robbers switch to a white Fiat Mirafiori (driven by a third person) during their getaway.

    The Fiat had reportedly been spotted the previous day, cruising outside the bank.

    Police said nobody was injured in the raid.

    One of the assailants held up customers at gunpoint, while the other emptied cash drawers of the money, eye-witnesses said.

    Police with sniffer dogs and a helicopter immediately launched a manhunt to catch the thieves.

    The two armed robbers who held up a Bank of Cyprus branch in Nicosia on February 12 have yet to be caught.

    The Nicosia gunmen got away with 60,000 after claiming poverty to the frightened cashiers.

    Limassol police said yesterday they were investigating the possibility that the two robberies might be connected.

    "There are similarities between this crime and other robberies committed elsewhere recently," said Limassol police chief Miltiades Neocleous.

    Bank staff have long complained that security at most branches is negligible, with private guards and close-circuit TV the exception rather than the norm.

    The Bank of Cyprus issued a statement yesterday saying it was ready to implement all necessary security measures to protect its staff and the public.

    "The Bank of Cyprus feels the need to express its concern over the phenomenon of recent robberies," the statement said.

    "The bank assures the public it will take all necessary steps to address this worrying problem."

    Close-circuit TV, additional alarm systems and staff training are to be introduced at all branches before the year is out, said the Bank of Cyprus, smarting at the loss of over 70,000 in two weeks.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [03] Priest given suspended sentence over gun

    AN ELDERLY priest yesterday received a four-month suspended jail sentence for illegal possession of a firearm allegedly used to threaten an Ayia Napa strip-club owner.

    Seventy-two-year-old priest Papademetris Neophytou Taliadoros was sentenced by a Larnaca court to the four-month sentence, suspended for three years, for possessing a Pietro Beretta pistol and 26 bullets without a license.

    Police found the firearm at the priest's Vrysoulles home last December following a tip-off.

    Ballistic test linked the gun to shootings at the homes of two Ayia Napa residents between March and September 1997.

    The gun was allegedly used by 30-year-old hotel worker George Stylianou - also known as 'Arapis' (The Arab) - who then allegedly gave it back to the priest for safe keeping.

    Police evidence connected the pistol to shots fired at the home of Pieris Christofis, who runs the Moulin Rouge strip joint in Ayia Napa.

    Christofis told police that the September 1997 shooting followed underworld demands for protection money.

    This latest piece of unwanted publicity will only further damage a Church still reeling from its annus horibilis in 1998.

    Last year, the Church was faced with allegations of clerics molesting young nuns, posing naked with transvestites, running off with foreign lap dancers and swindling investors out of millions.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [04] Civil servants hail strike 'success'

    By Andrew Adamides

    GLAFCOS Hadjipetrou, the head of public sector union Pasydy, yesterday hailed the two-hour work stoppage by 15,000 civil servants as a "massive success".

    The civil servants downed tools in protest over the proposed national health scheme. They are concerned that contributions made to the scheme from wages will exceed what they pay to their union healthcare schemes and deprive them of free government-provided healthcare.

    Between 11.30am and 1.30pm, the civil service ground to a halt, with offices shutting up shop and schools turfing out thousands of children early.

    A skeleton staff remained at hospitals and the civil aviation department; police did not go on strike, but their association made clear it backed the action.

    Government doctors, who support the health plan, did not join in the strike; they left Pasydy to form their own breakaway union in an acrimonious split late last year.

    Hadjipetrou said Pasydy had tried to keep the doctors informed, and had warned them that if the health scheme did come into operation as planned, they would be the hardest hit. In addition to its members' financial complaints, Pasydy has expressed concern over the welfare of healthcare workers it represents if the scheme comes into operation.

    Hadjipetrou also claimed expert opinion had shown that the scheme would bring hospitals into direct competition with private clinics if it was implemented.

    Asked about an invitation from Health Minister Christos Solomis to put forward their suggestions for possible amendments to the proposal, Hadjipetrou said unions would first have to get an official request for such proposals.

    He added that no one minister was "above the cabinet", and that, when Pasydy received an official cabinet request, it would put forward a proposal as a matter of course.

    He also brushed aside the public outcry at the stoppage, reasoning that if the unions did what everybody else wanted them to do, they wouldn't get anywhere.

    Pasydy members met yesterday to discuss what they would do next in their campaign to scupper the scheme.

    Draft legislation on the health service, which was officially approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, was tabled before the House yesterday. It was also discussed at a meeting of party leaders. after which Diko head and House president Spyros Kyprianou said there were "different opinions" about the scheme, which was of great importance, as it "affects all Cypriots."

    On Wednesday, Solomis said he expected it would take between a year and 18 months for the bill to complete its passage through the House. At least five years would then be required to phase it in.

    An independent body will be set up to run the scheme, to which both employers and employees will contribute. The total cost of the scheme is estimated at around 200 million a year.

    Solomis has not ruled out negotiations with the civil servants, and insists the government will ensure that their needs are provided for, but has warned that he would not allow them hold the bill hostage or prevent it from going through.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [05] Greenpeace activists scale agriculture ministry

    By Martin Hellicar

    FOUR Greenpeace activists climbed onto the roof of the Agriculture Ministry in Nicosia yesterday morning to demand National Park status for the Akamas.

    The activists - one Cypriot, one British, one Maltese and one Dutch - unfurled a banner reading: "No more promises. Hands off the Akamas now. Greenpeace."

    After a peaceful two-hour protest, the Nicosia fire brigade brought a crane to winch the four demonstrators down off the roof of the three-storey building.

    The activists had scaled the colonial building as local environmental groups distracted officials with a protest at the entrance to the Ministry.

    Greenpeace and other green groups want the government to implement the recommendations of a government-commissioned World Bank report on the management of the Akamas. The report suggests development should be restricted to within existing village boundaries, with the rest of the remote peninsula protected as a wildlife park.

    "It is obvious that the government will only react after international pressure because our efforts within Cyprus have brought no results," the international pressure group's local spokeswoman, Irini Constantinou, said.

    The Greenpeace woman said Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous had broken his promises concerning the Akamas.

    "The Minister reassured us last October that he would send the Akamas project to the Cabinet for approval by the end of 1998. We have not heard anything from the government since, and destruction in the area continues. This is why we are here," Constantinou said.

    She said big land-owners in the Akamas area were pushing the government not to block development on the pristine peninsula.

    Greenpeace are also concerned about the use of the ecologically sensitive area for British military exercises.

    The director of the Ministry's Environment Service, Nicos Georgiades, told the demonstrators the ministerial committee considering the Akamas question would be convening on Monday.

    The committee would be submitting its views to the cabinet, he said.

    "We all recognise the need for a speedy decision on Akamas and this has been acknowledged by the Ministry as well," Georgiades said.

    "The Akamas issue is one of our priorities," the official vowed.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [06] Cyprus Airways deny their actions endangered child

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A LOCAL heart association stuck to its guns yesterday, despite Cyprus Airways' denials that the airline risked a child's life by not letting both its parents accompany the seven-month-old boy on an over-booked flight to London for heart surgery.

    However, the boy's doctor yesterday backed the airlines' assertion that it had not risked the boy's life by requiring his parents to wait 24 hours to fly as a family to London, although the doctor called the airline's decision "unfortunate".

    "To accuse an airline of jeopardising the life of a child is a very serious accusation," Cyprus Airways (CY) spokesman Tassos Angelis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday, denying the airline did anything to warrant the charge of "criminal" conduct.

    That charge was levelled on Wednesday by Savvas Socratous, chairman of the Association of Parents and Friends of Child Heart Patients.

    Angelis said problems began when the family arrived at check-in on February 19 only 20 minutes before take-off. "Then there was a problem with the man's name," he said. "The seat was booked with a different name, and they were looking for it in the computer."

    Furthermore, "the case was not registered as a medical case," Angelis said; "otherwise they would have had everything ready for them to go."

    Socratous dismissed Angelis' claims, noting the family's flight, CY326, was so overbooked that 35 other people were also refused seats. He also denied the family got to the airport late.

    "We have documents showing they arrived at Larnaca Airport at 4.40pm for flight CY326 (which was scheduled to leave at 6pm)," Socratous said.

    He said photocopies of the family's tickets, dated February 11, showed they had two confirmed seat reservations for three people for February 19. The parents planned to swap holding their son on their laps en route to London- Heathrow Airport.

    This was confirmed by Christina Ioannou, secretary to both Dr Panayiotis Zavros, the child's heart specialist, and the Parents' Association.

    Angelis said: "The lady was offered the seat to go, and I don't believe any mother would risk the life of her child and refuse to travel if it was so urgent (only because) her husband was not going with her. Anyway, her husband was offered a seat on the next morning."

    Angelis said CY staff called Dr Zavros when the parents refused to fly separately. He said Zavros "said it was not an urgent case, (that) there was no danger whatsoever, and they could go the next day. There was no problem at all."

    Zavros yesterday confirmed CY did call him on February 19. He said the boy's case was "not really" a life-threatening emergency, and that he told CY the child could take a later flight.

    "I told Cyprus Airways it was unfortunate that this happened, because the family was emotionally upset. But it wasn't a case that it could go wrong because of a delay of 24 hours," Zavros said, adding: "No, I don't think" CY risked the boys life.

    Angelis said CY staff also called the London clinic and "spoke to the doctor there. They confirmed there was no problem, because the child was going to be admitted first for observation, and if there was a need, they would proceed with an operation."

    Once CY staff "were sure there was not danger whatsoever," they booked the family on a flight leaving on February 20, he said.

    The operation was in fact carried out successfully and the child is now recovering.

    Angelis claimed CY staff "tried hard to convince someone" to give their seat to the boy's father, "but nobody would... I don't know how many people they asked. They asked quite a few people," he said. "I am not sure if this was on the airplane, itself, or it was on the ground."

    Compounding problems in getting someone to surrender a seat was the fact that CY did not offer overnight accomodation to any passenger willing to sacrifice his seat or a discount on the next-day's ticket or even extra frequent-flyer miles. That is because CY has no such compensation programme in Cyprus, Angelis said.

    "We introduced this system in Europe, and we offer compensation on the spot. But we have not introduced it yet in Cyprus. This is something that we are considering and we are going to introduce," he insisted.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [07] Maronite charged with spying

    A MARONITE man was yesterday charged by a criminal court with spying against the Cyprus Republic.

    Avgoustinos Skoullou, 53, pleaded not guilty before the Assize court in Nicosia and will remain in police custody until the trial starts on April 21.

    The suspect is suspected of collecting information on National Guard weaponry and equipment on behalf of the Turkish secret service.

    Skoullou, originally from occupied Kormakitis and now a Nicosia resident, is charged with "collecting information, between 1996 and January 14, 1998, which could useful to a third country."

    The spying charges carry a maximum 10-year jail term.

    Police arrested Skoullou at the Ledra Palace checkpoint last month after they found papers in his possession relating to National Guard positions and defences.

    His arrest came only minutes before he was due to deliver classified military information to a senior Turkish army officer in the north, police said.

    Skoullou claims he was involved in a covert operation in which he also supplied information to Cyprus intelligence contacts.

    He is the second Maronite to be arrested on spying charges in the past four months.

    Maronite George Josephides was arrested in October on suspicion of supplying Turkish intelligence with military secrets.

    There are over 2,200 Maronites in Cyprus, but less than 200 still live in the north.

    The Maronite community enjoys free movement between the two sides under the 1975 Vienna agreement on the enclaved.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [08] Management starts private prosecution of hotel pickets

    By Athena Karsera

    THE TRIAL began yesterday of hotel strikers' accused of violating court orders taken out by management, with proceedings continuing late into the afternoon.

    The 34 pickets and 12 union representatives first appeared in Court on February 15, with proceedings adjourned until yesterday.

    They had been issued with a summons for allegedly violating court orders prohibiting pickets from blocking the entrances to the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels.

    Strikers at the two hotels are demanding the reinstatement of 73 colleagues dismissed when management turned over sections of the hotels to outside contractors.

    Yesterday, the Court began proceedings on the civil suit against individual strikers and union representatives.

    Lordos Holdings, which owns the hotels, opened proceedings with a private criminal prosecution against three Golden Bay strikers, accused of causing injury to a female security guard when they tried to force their way into the hotel.

    The company's lawyer, Antonis Andreou, told the court that, on February 10, the three accused - Maria Siakalli, George Koutsiappas and Panayiotis Constantinou - entered the hotel with the intention of causing a disturbance and obstructing the movement of vehicles and pedestrians trying to enter the hotel.

    The security guard, Stallo Christodoulou, testified yesterday that, as she tried to hold the entrance closed with one arm, she was pushed by the three strikers, injuring her shoulder on the hotel gate.

    Christodoulou said she received first aid at Larnaca General hospital and reported the incident to the police that day.

    She told the court that strikers tried to enter the hotel several times a day, "usually when television crews were present."

    She added that the strikers had told her that a lawyer had told them that they were allowed to enter the hotel grounds.

    Christodoulou said the strikers insisted on this, even after police had made it clear that the court orders prohibited them from entering the grounds.

    Lordos Holdings also took out private prosecutions against another eight of its employees yesterday.

    The company accused the strikers of blocking the entrance to the hotel to vehicles and pedestrians on February 10 and 23.

    The eight are due to appear in court on March 4.

    Andreou then called Antonis Loizou, manager of the Lordos Beach hotel, to testify as the first of what is expected to be a long list of prosecution witnesses.

    Loizou said the pickets' blockade had made life difficult for those members of staff who wanted to go into work.

    And he named pickets and union representatives who had tried to stop colleagues, suppliers and taxis carrying tourists from entering the hotel car-park.

    Loizou said members of staff and tourists had complained about the situation, adding that his secretary had been "shaking and crying from fear".

    Strikers from the Lordos Beach argue the suit has no legal basis and should be dismissed.

    The case continues next Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, all the hotels in the Limassol area yesterday held two-hour stoppages in support of the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach strikers. Similar strikes are planned in Paphos today and in Nicosia on Monday.

    Commenting on the sympathy strikes, a Lordos holdings spokesman told the Cyprus Mail that unions were "sending out extremely bad messages overseas." He said customers were getting the impression of a hotel industry in turmoil.

    And he warned this could damage tourism, with a knock-on effect on employment in the industry: "employees are effectively stabbing themselves in the back," he said.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [09] Watchdog committee completes Michaelides report

    THE HOUSE watchdog committee yesterday completed its six-month-long probe into unlawful enrichment claims levelled at Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides by committee chairman Christos Pourgourides.

    The committee decided to send its findings on Michaelides - who has already been cleared of the corruption charges by state investigators - to the House plenum for discussion.

    Disy, Diko and Edek deputies had not made their stand on the Michaelides issue clear yesterday, but Akel stated the Minister did bear "political responsibilities" relating to Pourgourides's allegations.

    Pourgourides said yesterday he expected the plenum to reach a unanimous position on the Minister's accountability.

    The Disy deputy has charged Michaelides with a whole catalogue of misdemeanours relating to alleged abuse of power.

    Late last year, the cabinet appointed two criminal investigators to look into two of Pourgourides's claims (the rest having been dismissed as baseless). The two accusations concerned alleged abuse of power at the immigration department and alleged unlawful enrichment through the sale of apartments.

    Michaelides, who has always insisted on his complete innocence, tendered his resignation after the two state investigators were appointed, but President Clerides chose not to accept it.

    The investigators subsequently cleared the minister.

    Michaelides, angered by Pourgourides's dogged attacks, has already asked to be allowed to speak before the House plenum when it debates the watchdog committee's report on his alleged corruption.

    Party leaders are yet to decide whether to grant the minister's unusual request or not.

    Opinion polls suggest the corruption allegations have damaged the minister's public image, giving rise to speculation he could be axed in a cabinet reshuffle rumoured to be imminent.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [10] Koshis says CyTA security nothing to do with foreign threat

    JUSTICE Minister Nicos Koshis yesterday dismissed suggestions that any threats or fears of sabotage from hostile foreign elements lay behind CyTA's request for 40 special police officers to guard its facilties.

    A report in yesterday's Phileleftheros said that both CyTA and the Cyprus Electricity Authority (EAC) had asked Koshis for special police to guard their facilities, at the expense of the two semi-governmental agencies.

    Both Koshis and EAC spokesman Tassos Roussos denied the EAC had asked for any extra officers at all. "We're not talking about the Electricity Authority, we're talking about CyTA, because the Electricity Authority already has some security. It is CyTA that is asking for 40 police," Koshis said.

    "The story doesn't come from us... because we already have guards," Roussos said, adding that protection for power plants was nothing extraordinary. "Companies of our type in the world all have some sort of security" around buildings, generation plants, transformer relay stations and the like, he added.

    Both Koshis and Roussos said they knew of no particular threat to either utility that might warrant beefing up their security, following Turkey's capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan last week. "Not to my knowledge," Rossos said.

    "No," Koshis said. "It has nothing to do with" Turkey's capture of Ocalan in Kenya, after he left the Greek Embassy in Nairobi for what he thought was to be a flight Europe.

    CyTA asked for the extra police guards, "not now, but it's almost a year since they asked about this," Koshis said, dismissing any notion of urgency.

    "They didn't give us the details" as to where they need the guards, Koshis said. "They told us they wanted about 40 special police to secure their property."

    "We passed (the measure) yesterday" at the Council of Ministers, he said, adding the bill now had to pass the House.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [11] Rubbish blockade in roundabout protest

    RUBBISH trucks blockaded a main street in Limassol yesterday morning with the blessing of local municipalities.

    The municipalities of Limassol, Ayios Athanasios and Mesa Yeitonia organised a one-hour obstruction of Kolonaki street to protest over what they see as central government's failure to get on with constructing the Linopetra roundabout.

    Placard-carrying local residents and students joined in the demo.

    Ayios Athanasios Mayor Kyriacos Hadjitofis said work on the roundabout had been due to begin 18 months ago but not a jot had been done.

    He said the roundabout was vital for the relief of severe traffic congestion in the area and warned local authorities would not stand to be "messed about" any more.

    Friday, February 26, 1999

    [12] British Airways honours agrotourism

    ANYONE who'd rather spend their holiday out enjoying brisk walks in the countryside and spotting rare plants than sit around on a beach reading bestsellers could do worse than to head for Cyprus' shores, now that the CTO's Agrotourism programme has been honoured by British Airways' Tourism for Tomorrow programme.

    Cyprus was among five countries to receive awards at a ceremony in London on Wednesday night. The competition rewards tourism-related programmes which show particular regard for environmental integrity and cultural diversity. The other winners were Britain, Australia, Ghana and Trinidad.

    The Cypriot tourism industry, better known for its proliferation of hotel resorts, has only recently branched out into agrotourism, which encourages the safeguarding of traditional buildings in picturesque surroundings by converting the buildings for tourist use rather than tearing them down and building new ones.

    At present, there are 45 such houses in 23 Cypriot villages offering a total of 400 beds.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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