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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-18

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

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


Thursday, March 18, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Michaelides finally steps down
  • [02] Michaelides can address parliament, if he's still in office
  • [03] Don't write off Dinos Michaelides
  • [04] Share prices up for third day
  • [05] Tax inspector held for bribery
  • [06] Cabinet set to offload hotel stake
  • [07] Water board urges government to forge ahead with desalination
  • [08] Madden backs G8 idea
  • [09] Angelopoulos muses on the eve of the millennium
  • [10] Christofias leaves for UK surgery
  • [11] CyTA denies rounding up all mobile calls
  • [12] Germany seeks extradition of jail-breaker
  • [13] LGR flies in elderly Cypriots from UK

  • [01] Michaelides finally steps down

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PERSISTENT sleaze allegations finally caught up with Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides yesterday, when he decided to step down from a position to which he had so far tenaciously clung.

    "My conscience is clear that I have conscientiously served my country and its people," a composed Michaelides said on announcing his resignation yesterday.

    With Michaelides declaring his intention to resign by today, and President Clerides gratefully ready to receive it second time round, a full reshuffle now seems inevitable.

    Clerides had refused Michaelides' first offer to resign last December.

    But by yesterday, the embattled minister's position had become untenable, following government spokesman Christos Stylianides' resignation on Tuesday in protest at the cabinet's controversial backing for Michaelides.

    The Council of Ministers last week cleared Michaelides of wrongdoing after a critical ombudsman's report questioned the motives behind planning changes to land which the minister later bought.

    The writing had been on the wall from earlier yesterday, when Disy boss Nicos Anastassiades mischievously "thanked" Michaelides for his services to government, even before the resignation was made official.

    Anastassiades was speaking after a three-hour meeting with Clerides, at which the Disy leader is said to have persuaded the president that a major reshuffle was essential.

    Clerides had given reporters an emphatic "no" when asked about a possible reshuffle on Tuesday, but the tide has turned since then.

    Even as stubborn political survivor as Michaelides knew his time had come to jump before he was pushed.

    "It is acknowledged that I have been vindicated by all institutional procedures," Michaelides told a waiting press pack after meeting President Clerides yesterday.

    "Despite this fact, I informed the president this morning that I would hand in my resignation in writing by tomorrow (Thursday)."

    While Stylianides on Tuesday cited "reasons of principle" for his sudden departure from government, Michaelides, ever the shrewd political operator, presented his resignation as a loyal move to protect his president - a president who had refused to accept the minister's first offer to resign last December, even though two criminal investigators were being appointed to probe corruption allegations.

    "I am grateful to the president for his support and particularly for conveying decisively the message that he does not abandon his ministers when they are defamed or slandered," the Interior Minister said in a written statement.

    Michaelides was taking a passing swipe at his tormentor, Disy deputy Christos Pourgourides, whose dogged pursuit of Michaelides with damning sleaze allegations - despite two state probes and a cabinet exoneration - seems finally to have paid off.

    Clerides must now realise that his unwavering support for Michaelides cost his government vital public support and gave endless ammunition to the opposition - in a majority in the House since Edek's December resignation from the government.

    "My resignation is necessary as a political move to protect the President of the Republic from increasing petty politics, which have obvious objectives and goals," Michaelides' statement said.

    "My esteem towards President Clerides is well known as is the fact that I have sacrificed an enviable political career and positions for his election."

    Michaelides had been Diko's Interior Minister in the coalition government which collapsed in November 1997 when party leader Spyros Kyprianou pulled out.

    But Michaelides' so-called sacrifice - breaking party ranks to support Clerides' re-election campaign - was in fact rewarded when he got his old job back in the new government.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [02] Michaelides can address parliament, if he's still in office

    By Martin Hellicar

    ATTORNEY-GENERAL Alecos Markides says outgoing Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides can address the plenum this afternoon if deputies decide to debate his alleged abuse of power.

    But Michaelides would only be permitted to defend himself in his capacity as minister, and not as an ordinary citizen - making the exact timing of his resignation crucial.

    Yesterday, faced with growing opposition from within the cabinet, Michaelides said he would be submitting his resignation to President Clerides by today.

    The plenum session begins at 4pm today.

    On the agenda for debate is the House watchdog committee's report into the minister's alleged misdemeanours. Committee chairman Christos Pourgourides has for months been trying to "nail" Michaelides for what he claims are a catalogue of abuses of power for personal gain.

    State investigators who probed the allegations found no evidence of wrongdoing on Michaelides' part.

    The minister, angered by Pourgourides' persistent attacks, took the unusual step of asking parliamentary party leaders to let him defend himself before the plenum. Party leaders sought Markides' advice, and he informed House president Spyros Kyprianou yesterday that a minister could address deputies on issues relevant to his post.

    But the minister's resignation may mean the watchdog committee report may not be debated at the plenum today after all. Members of ruling Disy are rumoured to be pushing for the issue not to be debated, arguing that the minister's resignation makes the matter obsolete.

    The final decision on the matter is expected after parliamentary party leaders have their customary pre-plenum meeting today.

    Pourgourides, himself from Disy, is confident the plenum will approve a censure motion against Michaelides after his committee's report is debated. His campaign had gathered the support of some other members of the governing party.

    Michaelides resigned after Government spokesman Christos Stylianides jumped ship in protest at a Council of Ministers decision to clear Michaelides of using his position to secure zoning changes. A report by Ombudsman Eliana Nicolaou had indicated Michaelides may have secured the planning changes in order to build his luxury home outside Limassol.

    The United Democrats (UD) also made clear their disaffection for the cabinet decision. Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous belongs to the UD.

    Michaelides said his resignation did not constitute an admission of guilt but was an effort to "protect" President Clerides.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [03] Don't write off Dinos Michaelides

    By Charlie Charalambous

    AT 61, and with an illustrious career behind him, pundits should think twice before writing off Dinos Michaelides as a political has-been.

    In his eve-of-resignation statement, Michaelides made it clear he was not going to leave the political cauldron with his tail between his legs.

    "I have conscientiously served my country and its people. I shall, however, remain active in the political arena."

    As a politician who served as Interior Minister for nearly ten years, on and off over three decades, Michaelides will not waste time in wielding his power and influence to carve out a new niche.

    Using his analytical lawyer's mind, the minister will have surveyed the ground before taking his decision, making sure he took the leap before the situation spiralled out of control and turned him into a political pariah.

    Affectionately known by his adversaries as "the teflon minister", Michaelides has his sights set on forming his own party and remaining one of the island's best movers and shakers.

    He started his political life as a career diplomat, gaining a post at the Cyprus embassy in Athens form 1962 to 1968.

    From there, Michaelides was appointed as advisor to the Cypriot ambassador in Cairo between 1973 and 78.

    Michaelides reached the rank of ambassador (without an embassy) before becoming presidential minister in the Kyprianou government in 1982.

    And it was during the "economic miracle" years of the Kyprianou reign that Michaelides rose to power as his right-hand man, enjoying his first stint as Interior Minister from 1985 to 1988.

    Once Kyprianou was ousted by George Vassiliou, Michaelides bided his time as an elected Diko deputy in the House.

    He regained his favoured ministerial seat (1993-97) again when Diko threw its lot in with Disy and a triumphant President Clerides.

    During the acrimonious split in the coalition, Michaelides was reluctant to leave government but showed his true colours when he broke Diko ranks to jump on the Clerides re-election bandwagon.

    Although for so many years a close ally of Spyros Kyprianou, Michaelides clearly judged that Kyprianou's star was fading, as last year's presidential election results proved.

    Clerides rewarded Michaelides' loyalty with 'his' interior ministry, but the cosy arrangement was shattered last year when a brave Christos Pourgourides stood up and charged Michaelides with unlawful enrichment in office.

    Michaelides seemed to have weathered the storm, but the allegations would not go away and in the end he had to bend to resounding calls for him to go.

    He's out for now, but we are unlikely to have seen the last of the archetypal Mr-Fix-It.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [04] Share prices up for third day

    By Hamza Hendawi

    PAYING no heed to the brewing crisis in Glafcos Clerides' Cabinet, share prices rose yesterday for the third successive day with the all-share index closing 0.62 per cent up at 122.11 to draw closer to the all-time high of 124.03 reached last month, traders said.

    They appeared to be much more concerned with what the Popular Bank may have in store for investors than with what may become of embattled Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides, who said yesterday he planned to submit his resignation by today.

    "The market has not reacted at all to the crisis. No one is interested," said one trader. "What people are still very interested in is the Popular Bank." He said he expected activity on the stock to remain heavy for some time still. The bank, the island's second largest after the Bank of Cyprus, announced a two-for-one share split last week and an attractive 10-year, 30 million bond issue. Its share closed at 5.87 yesterday, 5.5 cents up on Tuesday.

    Bank of Cyprus shares also closed in positive territory, 2.5 cents up at 5.58

    with nearly 30 per cent of the market's entire volume compared to the Popular's 19.7 per cent.

    "People are expecting a new rights issue or a bonus issue by the Popular Bank when the general annual meeting is held in May. That is what is maintaining the interest," said the trader.

    The market's rise yesterday took to a combined 1.23 per cent the advances made so far this week, suggesting that a trend was taking shape of prices slowly clawing their way back across grounds lost when a swift correction movement suppressed a dramatic surge in prices last month.

    Yesterday's volume was 6.07 million, with only the sub-indices of investment companies and manufacturing finishing lower.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [05] Tax inspector held for bribery

    A GOVERNMENT tax inspector was remanded in custody yesterday morning on suspicion of accepting bribes to "fix" a shoe salesman's tax returns.

    Theophanis Constantinou had been arrested at about 6.20pm on Tuesday after plain-clothes CID officers allegedly caught him red-handed accepting a 5, 000 bribe from the owner of a shoe shop in the Acropolis suburb of Nicosia.

    Thirty-six-year-old Constantinou, from the Makedonitissa suburb of Nicosia, was brought up before Nicosia District court and remanded in custody for eight days on suspicion of bribery.

    The court heard that CID officers saw the suspect receiving a brown paper envelope from the shoe shop owner. The envelope was later found to contain 5,000 in cash, the court heard.

    The court heard that police had information that Constantinou had agreed to arrange it so that the shop owner would have to pay only a quarter of the 40,000 he owed in unpaid tax for 1994.

    Later in the day, a colleague of the suspect's was arrested in connection with the same case.

    Police said Georgios Patikkis, from Lakatamia outside Nicosia, had been arrested at 2.40pm.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [06] Cabinet set to offload hotel stake

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE COUNCIL of Ministers, eager to get the government out of the hotel business, yesterday decided what the state should do with its two scandal- stained, money-losing hotels, the Nicosia Hilton and the Philoxenia.

    "We are not hoteliers," Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis told the Cyprus Mail after the Cabinet's weekly meeting. "The Council decided... to proceed with asking for tenders for either the whole, or 13 per cent" of the state's shares in the Hilton.

    The government owns 82 per cent of the Cyprus Tour Development Company (CTDC), which owns the Nicosia Hilton. The private sector owns the rest. Stock Exchange rules require it to reduce its holdings to below 70 per cent of CTDC's shares, so the CTDC can stay listed on the Exchange. The deadline is September.

    "There will be a publication very soon in local newspapers asking for international tenders for either 82 per cent, or 13 per cent" of the CTDC, Rolandis said. "This will happen in the next few days."

    As for the Philoxenia Hotel, which the government wholly owns, Rolandis said: "We shall close the hotel at the end of this month" and either find someone to run it, or "in case we cannot find anybody who will satisfy us, we shall use is to locate one of the ministries."

    Rolandis said the Philoxenia would be put up for rent as is, and any renovations carried out would be done by whoever rents the facility. The nearby Conference Centre is not part of the rental package, he added.

    The Nicosia Hilton has been the subject of controversy for years, notably since it lost millions of pounds in the wake of its recent renovation. It lost 1 million in 1998, while it was making an identical amount before the 'improvements'.

    The fate of the Philoxenia has wobbled about several alternate courses for years, among them closure and renovation, closure and use as a ministry, or closure for good. March 31 was the set date for turning out the lights, whatever the course chosen.

    An exasperated Diko Deputy Tassos Papadopoulos recently suggested pulling down the Hilton logo and letting local businessmen run the hotel under a new name. But Rolandis strenuously opposed this, lest the loss of the famous name's cachet cost the hotel even greater losses.

    Besides, he noted, the government is committed until the end of 2024 to allow Hilton International, which is owned by British gambling giant Ladbrokes, to run the hotel under its logo.

    Hilton International makes money on the Nicosia Hilton, and yearly pays the CTDC some 900,000 to 1 million by way of rental. "In our case, this evaporates, because of the high depreciation and interest that we pay. Interest alone is more than 1 million," Rolandis has said.

    The interest and other Hilton losses stem from the 17 million spent in the early 1990s to add extra rooms and refurbish existing ones; and timing that construction to the very moment two other luxury hotels, the Forum International and the Holiday Inn, opened their doors, drawing off Nicosia's tiny hotel market.

    Before the investment, the CTDC had income of about 1.4 million per year and a profit of 1 million, after interest and depreciation, Rolandis recently said. "After the 17 million investment, the picture was reversed."

    Scandal has swirled around the renovations, with some alleging that 9 million of the 17 million was questionably spent by a Hilton board that was chaired by the owner of companies that benefitted from some of the renovation contracts.

    The Philoxenia hotel is likewise mired in allegations of wrongdoing, including claims that relatives of hotel staff held weddings there for free; that mukhtars and others used its rooms for sex romps with mistresses and girlfriends; and the hotel board - called the "Service Committee" - grew to its 10-member size due to political party nepotism.

    There are also claims that 200,000 was wasted on renovation drawings that were never used; that one bill for renovations was tripled - from an estimate of 300,000 to a final bill of 900,000; and that a 50 per cent cost-overrun for other renovations jacked the cost from 1 million to 1.5 million.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [07] Water board urges government to forge ahead with desalination

    THE NICOSIA Water Board yesterday urged the government to abandon its cautious approach and forge ahead with the planned expansion of desalination facilities.

    Good winter rains have persuaded President Clerides to call for a go-slow on plans to build a second desalination plant at Larnaca and two mobile plants near Ayios Theodoros and Zakaki.

    But Nicosia District officer Andreas Papapolyviou, in his capacity as chairman of the Nicosia Water Board, yesterday insisted more desalination was a must despite the rains. Nicosia residents could otherwise have no hope of relief from water restrictions that have been in force for months, he said.

    "Already, since the beginning of March, water supply has been restricted to three times a week, and the nightmare of 1998 has started to come alive again for the 200,000 Nicosia Water Board consumers," Papapolyviou said yesterday.

    "These consumers would certainly be helped if the desalination plants, particularly the one at Larnaca, were fully operational," he said.

    There have been strong objections to all three proposed new plants by the local residents.

    The plants have been touted by the government as the solution to the island's chronic water crisis, but Clerides now believes that, given a bit more rain, the water currently behind dam walls will be enough to see us through the Summer.

    Papapolyviou said the water board were all for increasing the price of water as a conservation measure.

    He also expressed support for using recycled waste water for irrigation and for the recharging of groundwater reserves, which he said had been "dangerously" overexploited in the last 30 years.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [08] Madden backs G8 idea

    BRITISH High Commissioner David Madden yesterday expressed support for the involvement of the G8 countries in efforts for a Cyprus settlement.

    Madden was speaking after what will probably be his last official visit to President Glafcos Clerides. The High Commissioner leaves Cyprus to become ambassador in Athens at the end of the month.

    Asked to comment on reports that a senior US official was trying to involve the G8 - the group of eight most industrialised countries in the world - in the search for a Cyprus solution, Madden said this should be seen as "part of continuing international efforts to help and assist the parties here to come to a solution".

    In general, he added, he agreed with the idea, pointing out that both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and American President Bill Clinton had talked of continual efforts to assist Cyprus.

    "The more countries that can help play a role, the greater the weight of that international effort will be," Madden said.

    Edward Clay is replacing Madden as British High Commissioner. He arrives on the island early in May.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [09] Angelopoulos muses on the eve of the millennium

    By Preston Wilder

    THEODOROS Angelopoulos, one of the few internationally-known Greek film directors, was in Cyprus yesterday - a week before his latest movie, Eternity and a Day, which opens here on March 26.

    Speaking at a press conference at the Pantheon Cinema in Nicosia (where the film will be showing), Angelopoulos justified his reputation as a highly intellectual film-maker, quoting from Malraux and Talleyrand, and discoursing eloquently on the current film scene, recent political developments and the state of the world in general.

    "It's as though we're all in a giant waiting-room, waiting for a door to open," he said, referring to the general atmosphere of uncertainty at the millennium's end. No-one really knows where the world is headed, he observed; political labels have ceased to mean anything, and a new generation has lost interest in politics altogether.

    European cinema, similarly, has lost touch with its audience and been superseded by "an American monologue", unable to connect with audiences reared on soaps and television serials.

    The whole thing, he said, borrowing the title of one of his best-known films, is a "landscape in the mist".

    Angelopoulos' films are known for their complex meanings and slow, meditative pace. Eternity and a Day is the story of a dying man looking back on his life - melancholy at first, but gradually finding hope in his friendship with a young Albanian orphan. The director called it "the most fragile film I have ever made".

    The film won the Golden Palm at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [10] Christofias leaves for UK surgery

    THE LEADER of main opposition party Akel, Dimitris Christofias, left for London yesterday evening to prepare for open-heart surgery tomorrow.

    Christofias, 53, is accompanied on his trip by his wife Elsi and personal physician Michalis Mina.

    The left-wing party leader needs the heart surgery before he can be given a necessary kidney transplant. Christofias recently spent a long period hospitalised with kidney failure.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [11] CyTA denies rounding up all mobile calls

    THE CYPRUS Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) yesterday categorically denied allegations of price fixing in the way they calculated mobile telephone bills.

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, CyTA Spokesowman Rita Karatza said reports accusing CyTA of rounding up bills in its favour were incorrect.

    She explained that, in charging for its mobile telephony services, CyTA used a system by which a caller pays for a unit of time - in this case 13.68 seconds - in advance.

    Each unit costs 1.3 cents. Therefore, if a call lasts 13 seconds, the charge is 1.3 cents; if it lasts 14 seconds, the charge will be 2.6 cents.

    But at present, she added, CyTA rounds off the cost of a call to the nearest cent, whether it be up or down: hence a 13.68 second call will not cost 1.3 cents, but only one cent, whereas a caller making a 14 second call would not be charged 2.6 cents, but three cents.

    She said the system had not been devised by CyTA, but was in standard international use. It would, she added, be slightly altered on April 1, when the rounding up or down would be done on the overall bill, rather than on the cost of each individual call.

    CyTA is meanwhile preparing a proposal to go before the House of Representatives, by which the system would be changed to another internationally-recognised system, by which callers are charged for the exact duration of the call, with a minimum charge still in place. However, details of this have not yet been finalised.

    The consumers association yesterday lauded the planned billing change, issuing a statement in which they described it as a victory for the consumer.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [12] Germany seeks extradition of jail-breaker

    A GERMAN wanted for escaping from jail in his home country was remanded in custody in Limassol yesterday to await extradition.

    Schurig Matthias Siegfried, 43, was arrested at about 2.15pm on Tuesday, just two hours after Interpol tipped-off local police.

    Siegfried was apprehended after arriving at Limassol port from Haifa on board the Nisos Kypros liner.

    Limassol District court heard yesterday that Siegfried had been serving a three-and-a-half year jail sentence for fraud at the time of his escape.

    He was remanded in custody for nine days to allow police time to secure extradition documents from Germany.

    Thursday, March 18, 1999

    [13] LGR flies in elderly Cypriots from UK

    SEVENTY-FOUR elderly Cypriots resident in the UK arrived on the island yesterday, some after being away from Cyprus for 45 years.

    The trip was arranged by London Greek Radio (LGR), whose Andreas Diklis accompanied the old folks. Without LGR's intervention, many of the pensioners would not have been able to afford to make the trip.

    He said he had decided to organise the trip after he heard an 80-year-old woman crying about being away from the island for so long. Unfortunately, the woman was not deemed fit enough by doctors at her retirement home to make the trip.

    Diklis said the offer of the trip had been open to Turkish Cypriot pensioners as well, but none had wanted to make the journey.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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