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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-04-21

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

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


Wednesday, April 21, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Pupils desert school to 'protest' against Nato bombings
  • [02] Bishop's lawyer faces jail in second fraud case
  • [03] Cyprus clinches migrant deal with Syria
  • [04] Immigrants start hunger strike 'to the death'
  • [05] Alpha introduces Prime Lending Rate
  • [06] Shop owner held on suspicion of burning his own premises
  • [07] Gambling theft remand
  • [08] Unions claim hotel clash left two in hospital
  • [09] Toddler loses hand in slicing machine
  • [10] Hellenic Bank suspects embezzlement

  • [01] Pupils desert school to 'protest' against Nato bombings

    By Jean Christou

    SOME 15,000 secondary pupils in Nicosia will be 'punished' for skipping school yesterday by effectively being given yet another day off, in the form of a suspension.

    The majority of the capital's 17,000 Gymnasium and Lyceum students left classes early yesterday, supposedly to attend an anti-Nato demonstration outside the US embassy.

    Teachers had been unable to stop them, according to the Education Ministry, but they would be punished by individual schools, an official there said. This would most likely take the form of a one-day suspension, he added.

    "They were not 'allowed' out," the official said. "The Ministry does not give permission, and disciplinary action will be taken."

    It was the second time in a month that pupils left classes to demonstrate at the US embassy, and only two months since they went out to protest the capture by Turkey of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. These are in addition to the usual days taken each year to attend various anti- occupation demonstrations.

    Asked why teachers seemed unable to prevent students from leaving classes, the Ministry official replied: "Unfortunately Madam, things have changed."

    "We have the names of all those who went out," he added.

    And despite the thousands leaving classes to participate in the protest, only about 1,000 turned up at the embassy, and these also included tertiary level students.

    The remainder of the secondary school pupils, numbering close to 14,000, either went home or flocked to Nicosia's shops and street cafés apparently unconcerned at the plight of the Serbs they had left school to support.

    Dozens walked down Ledra Street singing football slogans or crowded into Woolworths, giving the shop's security guards a nightmare morning.

    Yesterday was only the second day back at school after the two-week Easter break. Children of school age have been conspicuous by their absence at the regular protests organised throughout the holidays outside the embassy by expatriate Serbs.

    And as in the past, the demonstration lasted only as long as school hours, and by 1pm the protest area was empty.

    The students who did go began to arrive at the embassy at around 11.30am, with banners saying: "war is not a way to bring peace" and "how many children did you kill today?"

    Students' representatives gave speeches and read out a resolution condemning the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia. They also called on the students not to throw eggs and other projectiles at the embassy. The plea fell on deaf ears, as eggs and lemons rained down on the shields of some 100 riot police. A small group of pupils also burned a European Union flag, but there were no serious incidents. Most of the children, apart from a hard core of around 50 waving Greek and Yugoslav flags close to the demo podium, stood around the fringes and chatted among themselves.

    The speeches were followed by a short concert, which culminated in a rendition of John Lennon's Imagine.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    Cassoulides warns against 'one-sided' domestic reaction to Balkan war

    FOREIGN Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides has said that Cyprus could not make distinctions on who was suffering in the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia.

    Speaking on his return from Brussels late on Monday night, the foreign minister, in his most hard-hitting statement on the crisis to date, said: "Our sympathy goes out to all who suffer, and human rights are universal."

    "Unfortunately, though, we are inclined in Cyprus to see only one side of the tragedy," he added, referring to the overwhelming popular support for the Serbs, which has sparked some criticism in the international community.

    "On the one hand, Cyprus has quite rightly not approved of the bombings and calls for their immediate termination, and for political efforts to resolve the problem," Cassoulides said.

    "On the other hand, however, it has supported human rights and the cultural identity of the Kosovars... and their right to autonomy within the borders of Yugoslavia and the inviolability of borders and the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia."

    But he stressed that Cyprus also had a duty to present the other side of the truth, as personified by the 700,000 Albanian refugees who have fled brutal Serbian reprisals in Kosovo.

    "This does not stop us from condemning the bombings and from feeling sympathy for the victims among the Serbs," the Minister said. "But we cannot make distinctions according to who is suffering."

    Cassoulides said Cyprus would like to see a more active involvement of the UN Security Council in the crisis.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [02] Bishop's lawyer faces jail in second fraud case

    By Charlie Charalambous

    FORMER Bishop Chrysanthos' American lawyer faces jail after refusing to disclose his assets and pay damages to a Danish investment company that he defrauded in a financial scam.

    Richard Kirby, the lawyer for Danish investment company Anglo Nordic Capital, said a US district court had ruled that Lewis Rivlin would be put behind bars if he did not disclose his assets.

    "We have tried to collect from the assets, but Rivlin has not been forthcoming, to say the least, and we have secured a court order for him to be jailed if he does not comply," Kirby told the Cyprus Mail from his Washington law office yesterday.

    In December, a US court ordered Rivlin to pay back the $1 million the Danish firm had invested with the promise of 500 per cent profits, as well as $77,000 interest on the sum.

    Last week, a Washington court ordered Rivlin to pay an Ecuadorean charity its initial outlay of $1 million plus returns of $15 million promised in a similar get-rich-quick scheme.

    The scam, which left the Fundacion Perez Pallares on the verge of bankruptcy, was almost identical to the one that ensnared Anglo Nordic.

    Both involved disgraced bishop Chrysanthos, Kirby said yesterday.

    "The funds were transferred into an account the bishop maintained at Hedley Finance, which had an office in Athens and Switzerland," the lawyer said.

    "It was almost an identical scam used against the foundation," Kirby added.

    But Kirby said he was still not sure whether Chrysanthos had been "a victim or an accomplice".

    He said the then bishop had been presented by Rivlin as a man who had inside information in the investment world and could secure huge profits for a cut.

    "I've been a securities lawyer for 25 years and I can't begin to explain what they were trying to do, but my clients were promised a 500 per cent net return, and Rivlin and the bishop would also get a chunk," said Kirby.

    Despite its successful court action, it emerged yesterday that the South American charity did not expect to receive the full $16 million it had been awarded.

    A Washington District court judge last week ordered Rivlin to pay the money within thirty days, but the lawyer for the foundation, Larry Sharp, believes the total $16 million will not be paid.

    "It is unlikely we will ever get the full amount, but we will try," Sharp told the Cyprus Mail yesterday from his law office in Washington.

    Sharp said the court had the power to seize Rivlin's assets, but it was a question of "finding them".

    Rivlin had instructed the foundation to wire $1 million to a Greek bank account supposedly controlled by Chrysanthos.

    The foundation for poor girls was told to expect a 1,600 per cent return within a matter of months, but the money never materialised.

    Last year, the charity told the Cyprus Mail that it faced closure if it did not recover its investment, which had apparently been guaranteed by Chrysanthos.

    Last week's $16 million award against Rivlin did not come at the end of a full hearing, but after the defendant failed to co-operate with the court.

    "Rivlin refused to provide discovery documents... he lost by default," Sharp said.

    Chrysanthos himself was not targeted in either Washington cases, but it is thought likely the disgraced cleric could stand trial in Cyprus on accusations of trying to defraud a UK-based investor of $3.7 million in a fraudulent pyramid investment.

    Earlier this year, Attorney-general Alecos Markides said there was only a five per cent chance that the former bishop, who resigned last November amid a tide of corruption allegations, would not end up in the dock, as 95 per cent of the investigation was complete.

    Chrysanthos, who faces over 30 allegations of defrauding investors in multi- million financial scams, is barred from leaving the island in view of pending legal proceedings.

    The disgraced bishop faces possible charges of conspiracy to defraud and attempting to obtain $3.7 million by deception.

    Other cases under investigation include allegations by two Portuguese investors that they were swindled out of $1.5 million by the former bishop.

    Last November, Chrysanthos resigned from his post only days before he was due to be hauled up before the Holy Synod to answer an eight-point indictment issued against him.

    A Holy Synod investigative committee drew up the indictment, which charged Chrysanthos with acting out of greed, profiteering through currency speculation, abusing his ecclesiastical position and making dubious financial deals with unreliable characters.

    The Holy Synod accepted his resignation in an apparent damage-limitation exercise, but banned him from all ecclesiastical duties for two years.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [03] Cyprus clinches migrant deal with Syria

    By Martin Hellicar

    CYPRUS and Syria have signed a memorandum aimed at thwarting illegal immigrants heading for the island from the Arab state.

    When completed, the deal will oblige Syria to take back illegal immigrants leaving her shores and arriving in Cyprus, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said yesterday.

    Cyprus - fearful of a flood of boat people - has already signed a similar agreement with Lebanon. Last month, this earlier agreement allowed the government to negotiate the return of a boatload of illegal immigrants to Tripoli, Lebanon.

    Christodoulou ironed out the new deal with his Syrian counterpart Muhammad Harbah during a three-day official visit to Syria, which ended yesterday.

    Speaking after his return, Christodoulou said Syria was ready to sign an agreement to take back illegal immigrants who were Syrian or from a third country but whose last port of call had been Syria.

    The minister said the agreement with Syria was reciprocal, but was unlikely ever to be used for Cypriots.

    Christodoulou, who said "traditionally good" relations with Syria had been strengthened by his visit, added that Syria was tightening up controls on who it would allow to travel to Cyprus.

    "The Syrian side announced to me, with much satisfaction, that it had set certain criteria for the Syrian citizens who will be allowed to visit Cyprus," he said.

    Henceforth, only Syrians who were businessmen, qualified scientists or students would be allowed to visit Cyprus, he said. "An exception will be made for Syrian citizens from high income brackets coming to Cyprus as tourists," the minister said.

    Christodoulou said the 1,000 Syrians on the island legally were outnumbered by 500 by those with expired work permits.

    He said the estimated total of illegal immigrants on the island was between three and five thousand. But he added that the recent completion of new detention cells for illegal immigrants at the Nicosia central prison meant police could now launch a crack-down on these thousands.

    Christodoulou also repeated the government's fears that there were "thousands" of Arab and African immigrants queuing up to come to Cyprus.

    The arrival of boatloads of immigrants on local shores has become a frequent occurrence in recent months. Several immigrants who washed up on various occasions have been held under police guard in Limassol and Larnaca for months now.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [04] Immigrants start hunger strike 'to the death'

    By Anthony O. Miller

    NEARLY half the 34 illegal immigrants being held in the Old Famagusta Jail in Larnaca yesterday began a hunger-strike "to the death" to protest against their continued detention and conditions in the jail, one of the inmates told the Cyprus Mail.

    Larnaca Police Chief Savvas Lardis and UNHCR Head of Liaison Office Sharon Bernard both confirmed that 16 of the 34 boat people in the Old Famagusta Jail had indeed begun refusing food yesterday.

    The illegal immigrants say they are tired of being held as common criminals, some for as much as a year, despite not having been convicted of any offence.

    One, an Iraqi Kurd who identified himself only as Siraf, said conditions in the lock-up were not good: "It is a very bad situation. We live like animals in a zoo. We eat, we sleep, that's it. We need a solution," he said.

    Siraf, 26, who claimed he was a student, said things were so bad that he had tried to kill himself by "taking medicine" on April 9.

    Bernard confirmed Siraf had attempted suicide, and that, following brief hospital treatment, was receiving psychiatric counselling in jail.

    Savvas said all 34 men wanted to remain in Cyprus, something that could only occur if they were granted refugee status by the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), and if Cyprus consented to accept them on the island.

    Siraf said the 34 detainees could not go back home. He said he would be forced to join the army of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein if he were returned to Iraq, something he refuses to do.

    He also claimed that none of the 34 illegal immigrants in detention had been contacted by the UNHCR, an assertion Bernard denied.

    Bernard said she had a regular contact among the 34 - she declined to identify him - who usually kept her posted about conditions inside, although she admitted this person had not contacted her about the hunger- strike.

    "They all have cases pending with us," Bernard said. "We're going to start the interviews after the first of May. I'm going to be doing them. We're expecting another officer to come (to Cyprus) on mission" to help.

    "We have not forgotten them," Bernard said, adding she intended to go to Larnaca today to try to persuade the detainees to end their fast.

    Besides the 34 men in the Old Famagusta Jail, there are 24 boat people who have been living under virtual house arrest in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol since last June.

    All 24 in the Pefkos and some of the 34 in Famagusta Jail were among 113 illegal migrants rescued from a leaky fishing boat in Cyprus waters last year. Most of the 113 have been deported. At least nine of the Pefkos detainees, all men from Ghana and Nigeria, want to go home, having failed to win refugee status.

    Another 68 boat people are being held on the British Base at Episkopi, following their landing on the shores of the Base last Autumn from an unseaworthy fishing boat.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [05] Alpha introduces Prime Lending Rate

    By Hamza Hendawi

    IN A MOVE likely to force others to emulate, Alpha Bank yesterday announced a cut of quarter of a per cent in its lending rate to business and corporate customers.

    The rate, which will henceforth be known as the Prime Lending Rate, will stand at seven and three-quarter per cent and will not cover consumer loans. Deposit rates will stay unchanged in line with other banks at 6.5 per cent, leaving Alpha bank to absorb the cost of the reduction in the lending rate.

    The lower rate, the bank said in a statement, would benefit the clients it classified as "prompt and correct in their obligations."

    Highly-placed sources at the bank, part of the Greek Alpha Credit Bank Group, said businesses on the island could benefit by as much as £10 million this year if all other commercial banks followed suit with identical cuts.

    Alpha Bank, they added, was prepared to introduce a similar further cut in the future if it felt that such a move would bring benefits.

    The cut in the lending rate, announced at a news conference by the bank's chief executive Lefteris Ioannou, comes at a time when hopes are fast fading that a much-heralded bill to liberalise interest rates will become law this year. The bill also proposes to abolish a nine per cent ceiling on interest rates introduced in the early 1940s by British colonial authorities to combat usury.

    It was submitted to the House late last year but, like several other draft laws related to the EU harmonisation process, is languishing in the 56-seat chamber pending agreement by political parties on economic and fiscal reforms.

    "The introduction of the Prime Lending Rate is a milestone in the process of liberalisation which will see interest rates determined by market forces, " Alpha Bank said in an announcement. "In a fully liberalised environment, interest rates will vary with the creditworthiness, the purpose, type, and duration of the facility, and the relationship of the customer with the bank."

    Bankers said yesterday's move by Alpha Bank reflected its resolve to expand on its estimated five per cent share of the domestic market, but said the scope of it doing so remains severely limited.

    "We are not going to let our best customers go to Alpha, and we shall match the discount if that is what it takes to keep them," said a senior official from one of Alpha's rival banks.

    Alpha's cut in the lending rate also comes at a time when the growth of deposits is not expected to match credit expansion by commercial banks, estimated to reach £500 million this year.

    The Central Bank, which has invited commercial banks for a meeting tomorrow on "economic developments," is said to be worried about banks exceeding by far the 10 per cent ceiling it had set for credit growth in 1999.

    In tomorrow's meeting, the Central Bank is expected to tell bank bosses to rein in lending in view of the negative climate created by fiscal and other imbalances.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [06] Shop owner held on suspicion of burning his own premises

    THE OWNER of a sign-writer's shop outside Larnaca was yesterday remanded in custody on suspicion of burning down his own premises.

    Larnaca District court heard that 45-year-old Loutsios Loutsiou, from Livadhia outside Larnaca, had set fire to his workshop on Sunday night in order to claim insurance money.

    Case investigator Andreas Georgiou said Loutsiou had run up a debt of £40, 000 over the last eight years and last October insured his business against fire for £67,500.

    Georgiou added that police had found evidence that Sunday's fire at Loutsiou's premises had been started deliberately, using petrol. The blaze caused an estimated £65,000 worth of damage.

    A pair of petrol-stained plastic trousers had later been found in the suspect's car, the court heard. The door of the workshop had not been violated, suggesting the arsonist or arsonists had a key, Georgiou said.

    Georgiou also said police had a witness statement that Loutsiou had approached a man and offered to pay him to set fire to a field of crops next to his workshop. But Loutsiou's lawyer, Evgenios Erotokritou, told the court the police witness had threatened to burn down his client's business just one week before the fire.

    Erotokritou also said his client had a heart condition and might be put at risk if remanded to custody in a police cell.

    Police asked for a six-day remand and the court granted three days, adding that the suspect should be given all the medical care his condition demanded.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [07] Gambling theft remand

    A MAN who allegedly frittered away tax payer's money at the bookies was remanded in custody for eight days yesterday.

    Pavlos Kouzapas, 32, an employee of the Lymbia Village Authority, was remanded by a Nicosia district court accused of appropriating £19,000 of residents' money to feed his gambling habit.

    Kouzapas was arrested on Monday by police, who questioned him on the disappearance of £19,000 that he was supposed to manage on behalf of the village authority.

    The chairman of the Lymbia Village Authority, Michalakis Christodoulou, had reported the theft of a safe box containing the money. He said it went missing from the office some time between April 14 and 19. The safe contained residents' annual contributions for public health and water charges.

    After investigating the reported theft, Nicosia CID said they could find no sign of any break-in.

    Police said that Kouzapas had admitted during questioning to taking the cash, which he said he gambled away.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [08] Unions claim hotel clash left two in hospital

    A CLASH between strikers and security guards in the Lordos Hotel dispute left pickets in hospital, unions claimed yesterday.

    An announcement from the unions representing some 160 striking workers at the Lordos Beach and Golden Bay hotels, said at least two or their members had been injured by members of hotel security.

    According to the unions, scuffles broke out when security guards, whom they described as "mercenaries", allegedly tried to prevent strikers from going on to a public beach.

    The strikers have recently taken their campaign to the beach, in an attempt to cause problems for management by annoying hotel residents and other tourists.

    "Under the law of the land the beach is public," yesterday's union statement said.

    It said the Lordos-hired 'mercenaries' had "attacked the peaceful strikers mercilessly" and that "many" were taken to hospital needing treatment.

    "This action proves once again the efforts of management to misinform public opinion by blaming the strikers," the statement said.

    A spokesman for the Lordos Group said he did not wish to comment on the union claims, although he confirmed there had been a problem yesterday.

    Police at Oroklini said there had been an incident between strikers and security guards near the beach but that it had not been serious.

    Staff at the two hotels have been out on strike since the end of January demanding the reinstatement of 73 colleagues dismissed when sections of the two hotels were turned over to outside contractors.

    The situation has turned increasingly nasty, with practically daily reports of incidents between workers and management, which insists the strike is illegal.

    The company has also accused the strikers of assault, creating disturbances, public insults and disturbing the peace.

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [09] Toddler loses hand in slicing machine

    A TWO-year-old child lost his right hand in a freak accident yesterday evening at his uncle's butcher's shop in Larnaca.

    Rafaello Thoma went to the shop with his grandmother at around 6pm. During an unsupervised moment he stuck his right hand in the slicing machine which cut it off just above the wrist.

    Rafaello was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery, but his hand was too badly damaged to attempt reattachment. His condition was described last night as "stable".

    Wednesday, April 21, 1999

    [10] Hellenic Bank suspects embezzlement

    HELLENIC Bank said yesterday it had told Limassol police it was investigating a suspected case of embezzlement at a branch in the area.

    A statement from the bank's headquarters in Nicosia said it had informed police of the suspected case, but it did not elaborate further on how much or who may be involved.

    The bank said only that customers need not be concerned and that it was fully insured.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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