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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-05-22

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

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


Saturday, May 22, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Maronite jailed for six years for spying
  • [02] Two charged over Petrakides death
  • [03] Shares roar ahead again
  • [04] Government distances itself from Central Bank loan squeeze
  • [05] Bomb goes off outside Larnaca refinery
  • [06] Sierra Leone refugees released from jail
  • [07] Education Ministry dismisses school harassment claim
  • [08] Swedish tourist was drunk when he fell to his death
  • [09] Markides dismisses new challenge to Vassiliou position
  • [10] Cyprus well ahead on EU harmonisation
  • [11] Classic cars bring Nicosia to a standstill

  • [01] Maronite jailed for six years for spying

    MARONITE George Josephides was yesterday jailed for six years for spying and for passing on information about defence matters to the Turks.

    He was found guilty on spying charges by the Assize Court, sitting in Nicosia, on Thursday.

    Passing sentence yesterday, Assize Court judge George Arestis said the offences had been committed between March and

    October last year.

    Josephides, 44, was found guilty on four counts of spying against the Republic and two counts of passing on information.

    He faced a maximum 10-year jail term.

    Arestis said Josephides had been giving the information to Turkish officers in the occupied north on payment.

    In a statement to police after his arrest, the accused said he was richly rewarded for his efforts and was also allowed to visit his Turkish Cypriot girlfriend in the occupied port of Kyrenia.

    Josephides later said the confession had been forced out of him and pleaded not guilty, conducting his own defence.

    But judge Arestis was not convinced: "The seriousness of offences of this nature, especially at a time when dangers to the very existence of our country are an obvious reality, need hardly be stressed," he said yesterday.

    Arestis stressed that offences of this nature assume a different dimension when they occur in a country fighting for its survival.

    Josephides, a former electricity authority employee, passed on information about radio and TV stations, bridges and motorway tunnels and army camps. He was arrested at the Ledra Palace checkpoint on October 3, 1998, as he was attempting to cross into the north.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [02] Two charged over Petrakides death

    By Martin Hellicar

    TWO MEN were yesterday charged with involvement in the April 2 murder of a father-of-three Fotis Petrakides from Engomi, Nicosia.

    The former special policeman's body was pulled out of Aradippou dam, outside Larnaca, on April 5. He had been shot five times.

    Police now believe the murder victim may have been involved in a gun- running ring.

    At Larnaca District court yesterday, 22-year-old Georgios Zavrantonas, from Aradippou, was charged with Petrakides's manslaughter and 30-year-old Christos Tziakouris, from Yeri outside Nicosia, was charged with being an accessory after the fact. Zavrantonas also faces another six charges relating to alleged illegal possession of weaponry and ammunition.

    Both suspects will reply to the charges before the Larnaca Assizes on June 21. They will remain in custody till that date.

    Police say both Zavrantonas and Tziakouris have confessed to involvement in Petrakides' shooting at Koshi village in the Larnaca district.

    After Petrakides's body was found, widespread but unconfirmed reports suggested he had been working undercover for police trying to bust gangs smuggling drugs and guns from the north.

    But investigations now point to Petrakides having been involved in a gang smuggling guns into the island from Bulgaria via Greece.

    A second man was yesterday remanded in custody by the Larnaca court in connection with the suspected gun-running operations.

    Georgios Pais, 30, was arrested late Thursday, a few hours after another suspect, 50-year-old Greek Yiannis Tournas, had been remanded in custody for eight days.

    Investigating officer Mamas Parpas told the court yesterday that Pais was the owner of a Citroen car packed with weaponry that police believe was brought through Limassol port on May 5.

    Pais is denying involvement in gun-running and has told police Petrakides promised to get him into the special police force if he registered the Citroen in his own name as a "favour".

    Police have recovered a number of weapons - down a well in Aradippou and from the bottom of Larnaca port - that they believe were smuggled in in the Citroen.

    Pais was remanded for seven days.

    Police say Tournas, who works as a taxi driver in Larnaca, has confessed that he had meetings with two men - one of them called Fotis - in Greece and Bulgaria to discuss buying guns.

    One more person is still being sought in connection with the gun-running.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [03] Shares roar ahead again

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARES continued their assault on the record books yesterday, hitting the sixth record close in as many sessions and giving credence to widespread expectations of an imminent downward correction.

    The official all-share index rose yesterday by 3.69 per cent to close at 149.35 on a record volume of £21.71 million.

    The latest rise means shares appreciated by 16.31 per cent in six successive sessions stretching back to Friday May 14.

    Yesterday's rally appeared to be largely on the back of Bank of Cyprus shares and warrants, which together accounted for 61 of the bourse's entire trade on the day. The Bank of Cyprus rose by a phenomenal 47.5 cents to close at £6.79, while the bank's 1999-2003 centenary warrants, which began trading on Thursday, notched up just fur cents to close at £4.96.

    Interest in titles of the Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest financial institution, has been fuelled since the start of the year by a centenary package of gifts that included bonus shares and warrants and a new rights issue scheduled for September at £2.50 apiece.

    Investors' interest was further fuelled by persistent unconfirmed reports that the stock was heading toward a 1=2 split and that a much sought-after listing on the Athens Stock Exchange could be just round the corner.

    The Popular Bank, drawing closer to an eagerly-awaited 1=2 share split next month, continued its rapid northern march, closing 14 cents up at £7.52.

    Earlier this week, the bank said it would also seek listing for its Greek subsidiary the European Popular Bank in the Greek capital's bourse.

    The spectacular rally on the Cyprus market in the past two weeks has led many traders to expect a correction movement, but many agree that current prices are likely to show resilience under bearish pressures.

    "The correction may start on Monday and continue for a couple of days," said one investment analyst. "But it would not be drastic."

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [04] Government distances itself from Central Bank loan squeeze

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday sought to distance itself from a much-debated Central Bank directive requesting a semi-governmental financial institution to reduce the number of housing loans it gives to low-income Cypriots.

    Former president George Vassiliou said he had been told by Finance Minister Takis Clerides in a meeting yesterday that it was not the government's policy or intention to reduce housing loans.

    But Vassiliou quoted Clerides as also saying that while the Central Bank acted independently, its action was within its terms of reference and not without due consideration.

    The Central Bank, in a strongly-worded statement issued yesterday, said it had indeed acted independently with only the public interest in mind.

    "We consider that the outcry which has been created was unnecessary and inexcusable," said the statement. "The Central Bank will continue responsibly to carry out its policy in the public interest and free from the influence of political and other interests."

    Economists say the curb on the Housing Finance Association's loans, labelled by some media reports as an assault on the poor, is part of a drive by the Central Bank to limit credit expansion in order to reduce a current account deficit of about £300 million, or seven per cent of GDP.

    Commercial banks have recently been instructed to restrict their credit expansion in 1999 to 10 per cent. The banks lent a total of £500 million pounds last year, an increase of about 14 per cent over 1997.

    Cypriots owe a total of £7 billion to banks and co-operatives and other financial institutions.

    The Central Bank, in yesterday's statement, said the island's financial institutions had failed to heed advice contained in a December circular that they voluntarily limit credit expansion in 1999 to 10 per cent.

    After seeing that credit expansion had exceeded 14 per cent in the first four months of 1999, the statement continued, the Central Bank's board decided in an emergency meeting on May 3 that all financial institutions must limit their credit expansion for the April-December period to 10 per cent.

    "The government did not intervene or involve itself in this decision."

    The Housing Finance Association extended a total of £41.5 million in loans last year and had a £50-million target for 1999, according to its managing director, Charalambous Shambartas.

    So far this year, he said, the association had lent clients £16 million but would now have to restrict loans during the remainder of 1999 to three million pounds.

    But the Central Bank statement provided different figures, saying the association gave out a total of £31.9 million in loans last year and should be able to extend £28 to £29 million this year under the latest ceiling on credit expansion.

    "I believe the Housing Association should be allowed to continue without any problems to offer loans to anyone who wants to build a house," Vassiliou, also the island's chief EU negotiator, told reporters yesterday.

    Vassiliou and Clerides, the Finance Minister, met yesterday as part of the so-called "social dialogue" that seeks consensus among political parties on EU harmonisation and new taxation needed to reduce a worryingly growing fiscal deficit.

    The dialogue's second stage, according to Government Spokesman Costas Serezis, will conclude on Monday, when political parties should have submitted their proposals. The government would later offer its own, he said.

    Outlining his party's position on value added tax, Vassiliou said he favoured a gradual rise and the introduction of a new VAT on luxury items.

    VAT currently stands at eight per cent and its increase to 15 per cent over the next few years is thought to be essential to efforts to plug the fiscal deficit gap forecast to reach 5.9 per cent this year.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [05] Bomb goes off outside Larnaca refinery

    A LOUD blast in the vicinity of the oil refinery woke Larnaca residents in the early hours yesterday.

    Police initially suspected the 1.40am explosion had taken place within the refinery and began searching the premises. But the source of the blast was eventually, more than two hours later, found to be an Electricity Authority sub-station just outside the refinery.

    A home-made explosive device had been placed on the window sill of the sub- station and the blast did no more than shatter the window panes, police said.

    The sub-station was no more than 20 metres from refinery storage tanks.

    "We had some information that we might have certain explosions or something else so we had taken our precautions," said Larnaca police chief Savvas Lardis. He did not say what these precautions had been.

    Lardis said the motives for the bomb attack were still unclear. "We are at the initial stage of investigations and we cannot say anything at the moment," he said.

    A spokesman for the refinery said operations were not affected.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [06] Sierra Leone refugees released from jail

    By Anthony O. Miller

    TWO SIERRA Leone men were released from jail yesterday after serving two months for illegally entering Cyprus last July and nearly nine extra months because the Migration Department did not know what else to do with them, their lawyers said.

    Emek Mba, 20, and John Moore, 22, are the third group of Sierra Leone boat people in two weeks to be freed from detention beyond their sentences following a habeas corpusfiling by Nicosia lawyer Yiannakis Erotocritou.

    Erotocritou, who is also Philippines Consul in Cyprus, said another handful of Sierra Leone boat people were still being held, despite completing their sentences, in Block 10, the Nicosia jail for illegal immigrants.

    "They should not have been kept in custody beyond their sentence," Pavlos Erotocritou, co-consul with his father, said in freeing the pair yesterday in Nicosia District Court.

    The two men were jailed for two months last July for illegally entering Cyprus from the Turkish-occupied northern without any identity papers, Pavlos said.

    Both men fled execution by rebels in the civil war in their homeland and "cannot go back to Sierra Leone because their lives are in danger," Pavlos said.

    Moore and his uncle, a Freetown newspaper editor, were taken hostage, beaten and sentenced to death by the rebels before escaping to nearby Guinea, Pavlos said.

    Mba, a student, was kidnapped from his school by rebel soldiers and threatened with death unless he joined them. He refused and would have been killed, had he not also fled to Guinea, Pavlos said.

    The pair made their way by boat from Guinea to Turkey, where they paid another boat captain to take them and several compatriots to Greece. Instead, they were set ashore in occupied northern Cyprus, where they crossed into the Republic last July.

    "We are seeking refugee status" for the pair, Pavlos said, adding that Moore has already sought asylum help from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    The two men are being housed at the Crown Hotel in Nicosia at state expense, pending Welfare and Labour department contact for help in meeting their bills and getting temporary work permits.

    On May 10, Erotocritou sprung Ikri Johnson from Block 10, after he also had spent some nine months beyond his sentence for illegally entering Cyprus last July. He, too, had fled Sierra Leone's civil war.

    Johnson, Mba and Moore spent part of their illegal detention in the Old Famagusta Jail. They were beaten there last October 23 when Rapid Reaction (MMAD) Police stormed the lockup to quell a riot by other, mainly black African, boat people being held there pending deportation, Pavlos said.

    Johnson has also filed an asylum application with the UNHCR.

    None of the half-dozen senior Migration Department officials the Cyprus Mailcontacted was available for comment yesterday.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [07] Education Ministry dismisses school harassment claim

    A MOTHER'S claims that her 13-year-old daughter was being sexually harassed by an older pupil at her school were yesterday labelled lies by the Education Ministry.

    "The mother's allegations were made to the Headmaster of the school," a ministry announcement stated. "They were investigated with every seriousness... and it was found that they were devoid of any basis."

    The mother told Sigma television on Thursday night that her daughter was being subjected to persistently sexual harassment and threats by an 18-year- old boy at her Gymnasium in Nicosia. She alleged teachers at her daughter's school and Education Ministry officials were trying to "cover up" the affair.

    "The Education Ministry is very sensitive to moral issues. It cannot, however, on the other hand, victimise students when there is no evidence or if the facts are different to the allegations," the ministry stated.

    "Neither the school, not the Education Ministry are trying to cover up the affair, as the mother claims."

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [08] Swedish tourist was drunk when he fell to his death

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A SWEDISH tourist who suffered a fatal fall at his holiday apartment in Ayia Napa was last seen swigging a bottle of wine.

    Bo Cristen Ernbert, 54, thought to be from Mariestad, was found lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairs at his Barbara Apartments flat on Wednesday night in Cyprus. He suffered serious head injuries and broken bones.

    State pathologist Sophocles Sophocleous said eye-witness at the scene told him that Ernbert had been drinking throughout the day.

    "Eye-witnesses said he had been drinking and some say he was holding a bottle of wine in his hand before the accident," Sophocleous said yesterday.

    Police said that under the influence of alcohol the victim lost his balance and fell down the stairs.

    "It seems the victim was drunk before he fell," said a Famagusta CID officer.

    Ernbert was rushed to a private clinic in Ayia Napa where he died during surgery on Thursday evening.

    Ernbert had arrived on the island for a two-week holiday just 48-hours before his tragic accident.

    He arrived alone, and no relative has yet come forward to claim the body, police said.

    Sophocleous will carry out an official post-mortem on Monday.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [09] Markides dismisses new challenge to Vassiliou position

    ATTORNEY-general Alecos Markides has dismissed a challenge to the legality of George Vassiliou's dual role as deputy and head of Cyprus's EU accession talks team.

    Diko deputy Marios Matsakis had claimed the constitution barred United Democrats (UD) leader Vassiliou from holding both positions simultaneously. House president Spyros Kyprianou asked Markides to rule on the matter.

    In a letter to Kyprianou sent yesterday, Markides points out that a deputy is not allowed to hold another waged government position.

    "Since the head of the negotiating team for Cyprus's accession to the European Union does not receive any form of payment, his position is not incompatible with that of deputy," Markides states.

    Last week, the government dismissed another challenge to Vassiliou's EU negotiator position. The speculation was that Vassiliou could not act as chief EU negotiator because he was not a member of government and therefore could not take executive decisions.

    Government spokesman Costas Serezis said Markides had ruled that Vassiliou's position as accession talks leader did not involve him taking executive decisions. He only made recommendations to the cabinet and President, Serezis said.

    Vassiliou's appointment as accession talks team head has often been challenged by the former President's political opponents.

    [10] Cyprus well ahead on EU harmonisation

    CYPRUS will shortly have completed ten chapters of EU harmonisation and the government is satisfied with the results of recent contacts in Brussels, EU negotiator George Vassiliou said yesterday.

    The former president told reporters that three more chapters of the acquis communautairehad been closed this week, while the chapter on telecommunications had not been completed, "for technical reasons" only.

    He said that the remaining chapters were still open for all EU candidate countries, and that Cyprus remained ahead of the other candidates in terms of harmonisation.

    On Business Law, Vassiliou said that the chapter remained open because the EU required all companies, without exceptions, to submit their accounts to the Registrar of Companies.

    "While this instruction is correct and we respect it," Vassiliou continued, "shipping companies have the right to be registered in non-EU countries," and therefore are not obliged to submit their records to the Cyprus Registrar.

    He said that the government had suggested shipping companies submit their records to the Central Bank instead, but that this had not yet been accepted because, "if it is, it would mean that a basic EU principle has been abandoned."

    Vassiliou also said that the chapters of Energy, Social Policy, Economic and Monetary Union and the Free Circulation of Capital would be discussed in the following days.

    Saturday, May 22, 1999

    [11] Classic cars bring Nicosia to a standstill

    By Andrew Adamides

    CENTRAL Nicosia ground to a halt because of cars yesterday - but this wasn't the usual traffic jam.

    As the capital basked in the afternoon sun, the magical sound of classic V8, straight six and even a couple of two-cylinder engines filled the air as drivers pulled up to the start ramp for the 11th International Historic Car Rally.

    An amazing 68 gleaming classic cars cut a dash as they pulled out into the traffic on the first leg of the round-Cyprus three-day rally, which ends back at Eleftheria Square tomorrow at 5pm.

    Among the crews were eleven from Greece, including a splendid Bentley Mark VII in black and silver (picture)and a 1967 Buick Skylark convertible.

    The oldest car in this year's rally dates from 1924, while the newest was built in 1976. Quite a few of this year's entries seemed to sport new numberplates, marking them out as recent imports rather than cars sold new in Cyprus.

    "You look at all these cars and you see individualism," said one spectator, as a matching pair of coupé and convertible Porsche 356s snaked away through the more mundane modern vehicles. "You don't get that with these new Japanese cars."

    Particularly unusual cars on the event included a bright yellow Renault 4CV and a tiny economy Fiat 850 saloon. Holding true to the running joke about UK classic car meets, the MG and Triumph mafias were out in force as well, with at lest five MGBs and several Midgets representing the first faction and Heralds, Stags and a GT6 the latter. Two Saabs, one a rare, early two- stroke model, were also in attendance alongside a Ford Cortina Lotus MkII, a solitary BMW and assorted Mercedes and Alfa-Romeos.

    Anyone interested in learning more about the organisers, the Friends of Historic and Old Cars of Cyprus, can do so by calling 02-313233, e mailing fipa@dial.cylink.com.cy or checking out the organisation's website at http://www.cylink.com.cy/fipa

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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