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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-10-26

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

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


Tuesday, October 26, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Hospital court hearing planned for Immigration chief
  • [02] Stock market threatens to bar companies guilty of delays
  • [03] Government calls on Ecevit to clarify recognition remark
  • [04] Pre-opening trade leaves brokers underemployed and frustrated
  • [05] Irish animal lover released
  • [06] Boy of two killed after falling out of car
  • [06] Boy of two killed after falling out of car
  • [07] Minister says media coverage could hamper efforts to compensate consumers
  • [08] Egyptians hurt as shed collapses in storm
  • [09] Only six per cent of Turkish Cypriot youths care about the Cyprus problem
  • [10] Israel apologises for flight violation

  • [01] Hospital court hearing planned for Immigration chief

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A BEDSIDE court hearing is scheduled for today for Chief Immigration Officer Christodoulos Nicolaides, who is under court remand in Nicosia General Hospital on suspicion of taking bribes to issue work and residency permits to foreigners.

    The hearing was set after a Nicosia District Court Judge had to interrupt a similar bedside hearing on Sunday, when Nicolaides' "condition worsened" during interrogation, his lawyer, Kyriacos Michaelides, said yesterday. He was admitted to hospital last week after suffering chest pains.

    Meanwhile CyBC, citing unidentified sources, said yesterday more arrests were expected soon in the widening permits-for-pay scandal, including that of a senior Immigration Service official who had once worked closely with Nicolaides.

    But Michaelides said yesterday he planned to sue in the Supreme Court and in the European Court of Human Rights to keep his client from ever going to trial, on grounds that news leaks about the permits scandal by police and public officials had fatally compromised Nicolaides' chances of a fair trial.

    Michaelides said he began his crusade at Sunday's aborted hospital hearing. "I raised some objections," he told the Cyprus Mail, "because the police and various other officials, by leaking various matters... prejudiced a fair trial of Mr Nicolaides -- if he is brought before the court eventually."

    "If you listen to the news every evening, when you see (Nicolaides) going up and down the (courthouse) stairs... in our opinion, even if it is not a jury system, (it) may prejudice public opinion, and that creates such a state that eventually it will prejudice the trial -- if there is a trial."

    He said he and co-counsel Tassos Papadopoulos had written to the Attorney-general charging this was a violation of Nicolaides' human rights.

    "We will take it before all fora, either in Cyprus or before the (European) Court of Human Rights," Michaelides said. "We cannot let somebody be libelled by government officials, who... leave the impression... that he is guilty, without any hearing."

    The lawyer said he had sent a similar letter to Justice Minister Nicos Koshis yesterday. "He is in charge of the police; he has to take some steps not to have all these leaks all the time."

    Meanwhile, responding to suggestions that the scandal might have broader political implications, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday said the government could not "chase ghosts" by exhuming the case of disgraced ex-Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides.

    Michaelides resigned under a cloud of allegations of corruption -- which he denied -- including suspicions that the current permits-for-pay scandal that has engulfed Nicolaides was in full flower during his stewardship of the interior ministry.

    Papapetrou said all charges had been investigated at the time, that the government had taken its position on the case, and no new evidence had come to light to warrant a new investigation of Michaelides.

    "The government has underlined its determination to clear up every piece of rot on crime and corruption," Papapetrou said. "Beyond that, it cannot chase ghosts. It has to depend on specific evidence... or specific charges."

    Dinos Michaelides yesterday denied ever being involved in any visa or permits scandal. He specifically rejected allegations of helping a Lebanese man get entry and work permits to open an offshore company over secret-service objections.

    Yesterday's developments came as Limassol pub owner Cleanthis Cleanthous, 40, was taken into custody after turning himself in to police on learning they were searching for him in connection with the permits-for-pay scandal.

    Several political leaders yesterday spoke out forcefully in defence of their parties amid reports that police were investigating alleged involvement in the permits-for-pay scam by both governing and opposition party officials.

    Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades, whose twin brother, Bambos, 53, had his eight-day remand renewed for eight more days on Saturday in the permits scandal probe, said his views, and those of Disy, had consistently been that all crime should be solved.

    "Crime does not belong to any specific party," said Interior Committee president and Akel spokesman Nicos Katsourides. He said the permits scam appeared to have run out of control, and that the House had submitted proposals to the government aimed at clearing up this scandal and preventing others like it.

    [02] Stock market threatens to bar companies guilty of delays

    FOURTEEN listed companies will be barred from trading on Friday if they do not issue thousands of late titles by then, the Stock Exchange warned yesterday.

    A statement issued last night by the Stock Exchange authorities said the companies -- which included the Bank of Cyprus (Investments) Ltd and Louis Cruise Lines Ltd -- had gone against market regulations and delayed in issuing titles for 10 or more transactions that took place on October 4, 5, 6 and 7.

    "In spite of the agreement to avoid a repetition of the similar situation that forced the (Stock Exchange) Board to suspend transactions for a long time period, a number of issuers have not taken the necessary measures," the announcement said.

    "The Board has no choice but to exclude from the Stock Exchange session of Friday, October 29, 1999 and subsequent sessions, any issuer that continues to delay the issue of titles beyond the permitted deadlines."

    The other companies listed by the Stock Exchange Board are Cyprus Popular Bank Ltd, Salamis Tours (Holdings) Ltd, Leptos Calypso Hotels Ltd, Cyprus Airways Ltd, Frindlays Investments Ltd, KEO Ltd, Athena Cyprus Investments Ltd, F.W. Woolworth and Co (Cyprus) Ltd, Regallia Holdings and Investments Ltd, Cyprus Trading Corporation Ltd, I.G. Cassoulides and Son Ltd and Laiki Supermarket Orphanides Ltd.

    The mountain of unprocessed transactions has forced the market to shut down on three occasions since late July with a total loss of 27 working days.

    [03] Government calls on Ecevit to clarify recognition remark

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday called on Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to clarify comments he made to the American media concerning Cyprus.

    Ecevit told the Washington Post and Newsweek that Ankara's suggestion for Cyprus was to recognise the "undeniable fact that there are two completely independent states on the island."

    He then added: "Diplomatic recognition may not be given, but it should be acknowledged that there are two autonomous entities."

    But the government does not see the distinction between diplomatic recognition and 'acknowledgement' as a positive move by Turkey.

    "Mr Ecevit has to change what he says," government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    He said Ecevit had to become clearer, both towards the Greek Cypriot side and the international community.

    "What we are after is based on UN resolutions, which is for the two communities of Cyprus to have talks together... nothing more and nothing less," he said.

    "I'm not prepared, because of a statement by the Turkish Prime Minister, to rush to say anything positive or to note any positive trend if this is not proved by actions."

    Papapetrou said there was nothing coming out of Turkey that gave the Greek Cypriot side any ground for optimism and that subsequent statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were "perhaps the most negative comments made recently".

    Denktash wants direct talks between two states, but has said he is open to proximity talks or a four-way dialogue involving Greece and Turkey.

    Ecevit told the Washington Post that Turkey did not believe a serious problem existed in Cyprus and that before 1974 there had been a lot of conflict, which no longer existed.

    "I would certainly like a settlement to be reached, not only in Cyprus, but between Turkey and Greece," Ecevit said. He added that he would like to see proximity talks take place in Cyprus and not in New York.

    The international community wants direct talks without preconditions, which had originally been mooted to take place this month under UN auspices.

    Papapetrou said the government believed direct talks should have already started and wants UN Secretary-general Kofi Anna to issue invitations without further delay.

    He said the Greek Cypriot side did not want the Turkish side to have time to move the goalposts for the resumption of talks.

    "UN resolutions and the G8 summit decisions are an adequate basis for talks between the two communities," he said.

    A meeting was due to take place in New York last night between Annan and US Cyprus envoy Alfred Moses, who left the island empty-handed last week after failing to persuade Denktash back to the table.

    Annan was to decide whether or not to issue invitations for talks after Moses's assessment of his visit to Ankara, Athens and Nicosia.

    [04] Pre-opening trade leaves brokers underemployed and frustrated

    By Hamza Hendawi

    PRE-OPENING trade, now into its second week, is demoralising traders and may be pushing up prices to artificially high levels. "This is no longer a market," complained Stavros Agrotis, a senior trader with CISCO, the Bank of Cyprus' investment and brokerage arm. "We are just here to press buttons."

    Agrotis' frustration with pre-opening trade is shared by his peers, whose physical presence in the market is now not required beyond a maximum of 20 minutes.

    Tell-tale signs on the trading floor these days speak volumes of what the present regime is doing to the market. Traders are no longer talking their heads off on their mobiles, fax machines are sitting virtually idle on desktops and the graph of the all-share index lacks the usual ups and downs of a living market. Also, fewer brokers are showing up on the floor, especially among large brokerage firms, since the presence of full squads is no longer necessary.

    Pre-opening trade is a five-minute window that immediately precedes the official opening of the session at 10.30am. It allow brokers to enter their sell/buy orders then sit back and watch the computer matching them without human intervention in a matter of seconds starting at 10.25am.

    A 2,000-ceiling on the number of transactions allowed per session -- a temporary measure introduced by the exchange on October 15 to tackle a backlog of unprocessed deals -- means that trading consistently ends before the official session actually kicks off.

    But because the fully-automated matching procedure cannot be interrupted manually, pre-opening trade has made a mockery of the 2,000-deal limit, with the number of transactions going through as high as 4,000 on some days.

    "I feel I am totally out of the market," said Neofytos Neofytou of AAA United Stockbrokers. "I am never here for more than 20 minutes or so." But Neofytou sees a silver lining too. "We have more time now to work on administrative matters and clearing transactions," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    It is not immediately clear why the exchange has not lifted the ceiling or raised it after seeing that it has been reduced to irrelevance by pre-opening trade.

    "The fact that (the exchange) has not ordered a return to normal trading until now can only be explained on the grounds that they don't want to be seen to have taken a wrong decision when they introduced the limit," said the often outspoken Agrotis of CISCO.

    There were, however, unconfirmed reports circulating at the exchange yesterday that the restriction on transactions would be lifted by the end of this week. Other reports spoke of the association of stockbrokers suggesting to the exchange that trading sessions be shortened to 30 minutes.

    In theory, trading sessions currently run for one hour following a reduction by 30 minutes decreed by the exchange to allow brokerages and public companies to tackle the backlog problem.

    Already the problem has forced the market to shut down on three occasions since late July with a total loss of 27 working days.

    The pre-trade system has also meant that no real-time trading is taking place and has led to the exclusion of day traders. Such market players thronged the area designated for investors every day and handed young brokerage employees small bits of paper bearing their orders which were swiftly taken to the cubicles where brokers sit in front of computer screens.

    Both the exchange and brokers lament the absence of the day traders. Exchange chairman Dinos Papadopoulos told the Mail last week that their absence under current regulations deprived the market of a desirable liquidity.

    Agrotis had a different take on their exclusion, saying that they on occasion provided an instant correction to a falling share. "They would see a share falling and decide to snap it up on low levels and before the session is out, the share is up again on the strength of their buying."

    "I cannot give proper advice to clients because I am not able to review the market properly. We no longer have a meeting of buyers and sellers, which is the basic concept of a stock market meeting," said Agrotis.

    "The market is distorted and is not given a chance to perform."

    But while the frustration of brokers and the distortion of the market could be nearing the end, a new tussle appears to be brewing, this time pitting the brokers against the government.

    A government proposal to impose a levy of one per cent on every transaction is being hotly opposed by brokers and investors alike, and the mere mention of a possible tax on capital gains is making them see red.

    Brokers believe a one per cent levy on deals is far too high, and some are suggesting that a 0.3 per cent rise for the first six months of 2000 leading to an eventual 0.5 per cent tax would be a far more feasible plan.

    Markos Kyprianou, chairman of the House's Finance Committee, meanwhile told reporters yesterday that a complete set of proposals for changes in how the stock market operates would be submitted to the Plenum on November 2.

    Speaking after a meeting of the committee held behind closed doors, he said there was agreement between political parties on taxing transactions, but that none existed for the introduction of taxing capital gains.

    The mere thought of the taxman taking a cut of capital gains infuriated brokers and investors, who yesterday accused authorities of trying to "strangle" the bourse.

    But Kyprianou, the Finance Committee's chairman, said the proposals on the running of the stock exchange neither sought to dampen enthusiasm for the market or lead to its closure.

    A one per cent levy on transactions would bring the treasury an annual income of 60 million, according to Finance Minister Takis Klerides.

    The all-share index, meanwhile, fell yesterday in its first back-to-back drop since the market reopened on October 4 after a month-long closure. The index stood at 596.66, 1.15 per cent down on Friday's close. Volume was 13.69 million.

    Bank shares suffered the most. The Bank of Cyprus was down by 58.5 cents to close at 11.70, while Popular Bank shed 12 cents to close at 12.77. Hellenic was down by 50 cents, closing at 4.95 apiece.

    [05] Irish animal lover released

    By Anthony O. Miller

    AN IRISH woman, who took more care of stray animals than she did of her residency and work permit obligations, was released from prison yesterday and allowed to apply for new permits to remain in Cyprus.

    Pauline O'Neill, 35, was one of 70 prisoners released from Nicosia Central Prison yesterday after being pardoned by President Glafcos Clerides on the recommendation of Attorney-general Alecos Markides.

    O'Neill had been jailed for two concurrent three-month terms for overstaying by three years her work and residency permits.

    She was arrested by seven policemen last week in the Limassol pub where she served tables and generally cleaned up the place to earn the money to keep her flat and feed her menagerie of 10 cats and three dogs.

    "I'm very happy" to be released, "and pleased" at not being deported," O'Neill said outside the prison gates. "I'd like to thank the government, the Attorney-general, my Irish Embassy, the Green Party, and everybody who helped me" win freedom, she said.

    Her first point of detention after her arrest, Limassol police station, "was not nice," O'Neill grimaced. "It was terrible -- half-star accommodation," she laughed.

    By comparison, "Nicosia Prison was very, very good," she said. "The police, and especially the food. It's very, very nice... I've no complaints whatsoever, except not being free. I miss my animals too much," she added.

    First stop, she said, would be home to be with her animals, which others have been watching during her week or so in jail. Next, "I will apply for a visa," O'Neill said, adding that once her papers are in order, "of course" they would remain that way.

    O'Neill began collecting animals after a romance she found five years ago in Cyprus broke up.

    "I pick 'em up. Any time I find stray animals in the street, every time I pick them up. Every time," she said with an intensity born of true belief.

    Unable to work legally, she has 15 days "grace" to file for a new visa. Meanwhile, "I will get my family to send some money from home," in Belfast," she said.

    Until that time, the Green Party will pay her rent and food bills, said Greens Spokesman Kyriacos Kyriacou, who went to Nicosia Central Prison to collect O'Neill yesterday.

    O'Neill's release, along with 69 other inmates, was the fifth time this year that President Glafcos Clerides was forced to pardon prisoners due to overcrowding in the central prison.

    The prison, built to house 220 prisoners, was bulging with 340 inmates, Markides said, adding that foot-dragging by the Public Works Department was much to blame.

    [06] Boy of two killed after falling out of car

    A TWO-year-old Limassol boy was killed instantly yesterday morning when he fell out of the back seat of his parents' moving car.

    Marios Alexandros Lilitou from Kolossi was sitting alone in the back seat of his parent's car. The door was unlocked and was not secured, police said.

    It is believed Marios somehow opened the door himself, but the exact circumstances are still being investigated.

    He was travelling in the car with his father Panicos Alexandrou, 44, and his mother Maria. The couple are from Kolossi and have four other children.

    The accident happened at around 8.30am on the Ypsonas to Limassol road on the way out of Kolossi when the car's right door opened and the child fell out on to the road.

    His parents rushed him to the nearby Limassol hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival after sustaining serious head injuries. Doctors at the hospital said he had died instantly.

    On Sunday, a 16-year-old was killed when his motorbike collided with a car near Ayia Marina Chyrsochous in the Paphos district.

    Charalambos Charalambous from Ayia Marina village was hit by a car. He was killed instantly. He was not wearing a helmet.

    [07] Minister says media coverage could hamper efforts to compensate consumers

    By Athena Karsera

    HEALTH Minister Frixos Savvides said yesterday that efforts to solve the problem of overpriced medicines may have been hampered by the coverage the matter has received.

    The issue hit the headlines after CyBC carried a report at the weekend claiming that certain pharmaceutical importers were bringing in medicines at excessive prices.

    CyBC claimed the Health Ministry was aware of the problem but had not informed consumers of the situation.

    But Savvides said yesterday that the Ministry had been trying to solve the problem for some time, and that all that remained was finding ways for consumers to get their money back.

    Savvides said that finding the chemists that had purchased the overpriced medicines had been relatively easy, as medicine retailers kept detailed documentation of all their sales. "My concern is for the consumer, who is anonymous, who is ill and who has paid higher prices over a period of time until today."

    Savvides said that the overpricing of specific medicines seemed to have gone back approximately a year and a half but that Ministry investigations were prepared to go back further.

    "As the problem was spotted some time ago, we have gone into intense investigations, not only on one specific medicine but on a variety and not on one particular retailer but on several. Our attempt was to collect the information that would give us the ability to sit down and discuss ways in which we could give consumers back the extra money they had paid."

    Savvides said that while the easiest solution was just for the retailers to be taken to court and fined, the Ministry had decided to seek ways to compensate consumers, whether directly or indirectly.

    "Now with the publication of the issue, this may not be easy or even possible. We will see what we can do because, as I have said, we do not want to take the easy way out, to say 'You made a mistake, you did something illegal, go to court to pay your fine.' This is the easy, painless way. We chose the harder solution."

    Meanwhile, in a statement issued yesterday, the Chemists' Association said that 97 varieties of pharmaceuticals, ranging from everyday drugs to specialised medicines, had been overpriced.

    In a separate action, Diko deputy Marios Matsakis said that a full list of all the overpriced medicines should be published as soon as possible.

    [08] Egyptians hurt as shed collapses in storm

    TWO EGYPTIAN farm workers were seriously injured yesterday when a freak whirlwind destroyed the shed they were sheltering in.

    According to a police report, Mohammed Ali El Sayed Awad Hassoyna, 30, and 26-year-old Saad Hany Abdelfattah Mahmout were injured at approximately 4.40pm.

    The two men had been working at a cattle farm near Dheftera village outside Nicosia when a sudden rainstorm broke out.

    They took shelter in a corrugated iron shed which collapsed.

    Police said Hassoyna and Mahmout were seriously injured to the arms and legs and were last night being treated at Nicosia General hospital.

    Extensive damage was also caused to the farm, police said.

    [09] Only six per cent of Turkish Cypriot youths care about the Cyprus problem

    A SURVEY published in Kibris at the weekend reveals that only six per cent of Turkish Cypriot youths consider the Cyprus problem to be important.

    The survey, carried out by the Cyprus Marketing Company, questioned 1,000 youths aged between 14 and 25 from different parts of the occupied area.

    Just six per cent of those asked felt that stagnation in the Cyprus problem an "important problem".

    Under half of those questioned believed that they should actively involve themselves with politics, while only 15 per cent read political articles in newspapers and a mere 10 per cent watched politics on television.

    Almost half of the youths considered the most important problem in the occupied areas to be unemployment, followed by high prices.

    The presence of illegal workers and educational problems came bottom, with only five and four per cent respectively saying they were important.

    [10] Israel apologises for flight violation

    ISRAEL has apologised for violating Cyprus' air-space last week and said similar incidents wold be avoided in the future, the government announced yesterday.

    Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said that, in response to representations by the Foreign Ministry, the Israeli embassy had confirmed that its planes entered the Nicosia Flight Information Region.

    "The Ambassador of israel and the Israeli side have conveyed their apology to the Republic of Cyprus and given assurances that such incidents would not occur again," Papapetrou said.

    He said the Israeli embassy had claimed there had been no time to notify the Cypriot authorities about the military overflights as they had been planned at the last minute.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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