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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-10-27

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

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


CONTENTS

  • [01] Permits chief in hospital again after new remand
  • [02] Pupils expelled for assault on Nicosia teacher
  • [03] Teachers blame media and 'mammoth schools' for rise in violence
  • [04] Police seize rare key-ring gun
  • [05] Savvides seeks national price list to avert drugs overcharging
  • [06] New campaign against dangerous laser pointers
  • [07] Environment committee calls for action against Economides
  • [08] Market in fresh crisis
  • [09] EU apology for typo
  • [10] Airport authorities bar Louis from selling foreign imports

  • [01] Permits chief in hospital again after new remand

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CHIEF Migration Officer Christodoulos Nicolaides was yesterday ordered out of hospital and remanded for six more days in police custody by a Nicosia District Court judge on suspicion of accepting bribes for issuing work and residence permits to cabaret 'artistes'.

    But just hours later he was readmitted to hospital from the cells after complaining of further chest pains. A hospital spokesman said last night he was undergoing tests.

    Nicolaides is the only government official to be arrested to date in connection with the permits-for-pay investigation. Several police officers from different divisions and two businessmen with close ties to the ruling Disy party have also been remanded in the scandal.

    Nicosia lawyer Kyriacos Michaelides, co-counsel with MP Tassos Papadopoulos for Nicolaides, said he planned to file an appeal today with the Supreme Court to cancel yesterday's remand of his client "on the grounds that, in our opinion, it was not justified under the circumstances".

    Those circumstances, he told the Cyprus Mail, included the facts that "not only did the evidence not justify the remand of Mr Nicolaides, and he is deprived of his personal liberty, but also the court should pay attention to his medical condition".

    Yesterdays hearing was in the intensive care ward of Nicosia General Hospital, where Nicolaides was sent after complaining of chest pains following his October 16 arrest.

    At the hearing, Michaelides noted his client was "in very good health before he was arrested, and he had a heart attack -- which I told the doctor was from mental stress".

    "(But) the court did not take that into consideration" in extending his remand for six more days, Michaelides said.

    The bedside hospital hearing actually began on Sunday, but was interrupted when Nicolaides complained of chest pains during interrogation.

    Meanwhile, Michaelides said he did not know what led Disy MP Christos Pourgourides to say yesterday that the police investigation seemed to be in its stages.

    "What I can tell you is the police officer (senior CID police officer Andreas Naoum) testified in court that he has a lot of work to do. That's why he applied for that remand."

    Naoum heads a team of seven police investigators looking into the widening permits-for-pay scandal.

    Pourgourides blamed "the Interior Ministers" of the past two decades for the alleged corruption of the police force and the political system in issuing permits for cabaret 'artistes' in return for bribes.

    "These types of thing definitely don't spring up from one day to the next. Neither do they take on the dimension that has been revealed in the past few weeks from one year to the other," Pourgourides said. "This is a procedure that reaches boiling point after a number of years. All those holding office in the past 15-20 years bear some responsibility."

    Pourgourides said he met President Glafcos Clerides yesterday to discuss the pink slips for pay scandal and the alleged official corruption associated with it.

    He told CyBC radio that he would soon submit proposals to Clerides, who "repeated his determination to handle these problems." He said Clerides told him "the scandals under investigation would be investigated in depth without favouring anyone, and wherever there is evidence, the involved parties would be brought to justice".

    Bambos Anastassiades, 53, twin brother of Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades, has had his original eight-day remand extended by another eight days, following his arrest on suspicion of selling fake residency and work permits to cabaret 'artistes'.

    The Disy leader has insisted that the investigation be carried out thoroughly, without regard to those who are arrested in it, or to whom they are related or connected.

    Former Disy organisational secretary Andreas Tsangarides, 60, has also been remanded for eight days on suspicion of illegally employing foreigners and enticing a public official to abuse his position.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday sought to dampen the scandal's fever-pitch, noting that it was the government itself that broke the scandal. "Nothing is going to be covered up," he said.

    [02] Pupils expelled for assault on Nicosia teacher

    A NICOSIA secondary school yesterday expelled three of its students for attacking and injuring a teacher a week ago.

    Two other students involved in the incident were suspended for five and eight days and one day suspensions were handed down to another two.

    The Principal of the Archbishop Makarios high school in Dassoupolis, Charalambos Hadjisavvas, took the case file with the teachers' decision to the Education Ministry yesterday morning for approval and implementation.

    In an another incident yesterday at Paleometocho, a 16-year-old secondary student was beaten in the yard of his school by six non-pupils at around 11am.

    The student from Mammari village sustained facial injuries and was taken to the Nicosia General Hospital for treatment. It is not known who the attackers were, but police at Kokkinotrimithia are investigating.

    The increasing incidence of violence at schools was discussed yesterday at the House Education Committee.

    [03] Teachers blame media and 'mammoth schools' for rise in violence

    By Athena Karsera

    PARENTS and teachers yesterday blamed the media and an ailing educational system for a rise in violence in schools.

    Addressing the House Education Committee yesterday, Sotiris Charalambous of the secondary schools teachers union, Oelmek, warned his members would from November 4 no longer use their lunch breaks to patrol school grounds if the government did not take concrete steps for their security.

    He said schools were too large and prevented teachers from forming a close relationship with pupils or giving special attention where it was required.

    Charalambous, who is a teacher at one of the larger Nicosia high-schools, said that often the teachers in the same school did even not know each other, let alone pupils. "At my school there are 110 teachers: if we do not even recognise each other how are we supposed to recognise all 1,350 pupils?"

    He said many of the violent incidents had been caused when youths from outside the school came onto the grounds.

    He said the relationship between staff and children at smaller schools was very different, but that the school syllabus was at fault for every school.

    "We are forced to focus on completing the syllabus, not on the child. The stress we feel because of possible reprimands on the issue from school inspectors can't help but be passed on to the children," Charalambous said.

    He also said the total lack of extra-curricular activities and the lack of funding should take some of the blame, adding that "children go straight from school to private extra lessons".

    Charalambous said his union suggested that security guards be put on duty and that the size of classes and schools be reduced.

    He also suggested that teachers be given the right to decide to strike for up to two hours when instances of violence occurred at schools. Currently, regulations do not allow teachers to protest in this way.

    The President of the technical school teachers association, Oeltek, Nicos Nichopoulos said that up to 600 secondary school children a year left school before the legal age of 15 and that they were often the ones visiting other schools and causing trouble.

    He said the school system had failed these children and that steps had to be taken "to offer them an attractive programme that will give them the knowledge and experience to get into the work force. We have to keep them in school."

    Nichopoulos added that, in comparison to the rest of society, school pupils were certainly not the worst.

    And he suggested that the welfare, police and other authorities should inform schools of their involvement with pupils so that teachers would know if a child should be given special attention.

    Nichopoulos said that while parents and pupils were asked to submit this information to the school on registration, they often left important information out.

    Both Charalambous and Nichopoulos noted that children no longer seemed to have stable role-models and that the mass media often portrayed criminals in a way that gave the wrong messages to young people.

    Commenting on the size of schools, both union men and Secondary School Parents Association representative Nicos Demetriou noted that there was only one counsellor per school and that sometimes several schools shared one counsellor.

    Education Ministry representative Andreas Papastavrou said the education system was in a constant struggle to keep pupils' attention. He also noted that there was considerable pressure on children to succeed from their parents.

    Papastavrou said many parents also put pressure on teachers, especially if they were well-known or wealthy figures: "This usually involves the changing of a grade so that a child will not fail a class," he said.

    He said risks from within the schools cold be minimised but that the more serious dangers came from outside.

    Papastavrou suggested more police patrols around schools.

    He also said that new schools were being built with fences and that plans were under way to build fences around older schools.

    Deputies said it was not enough for the issue to be discussed, and that specific action had to be taken.

    Disy's Rikkos Erotocritou suggested the police make their presence felt around the schools.

    Akel deputy George Lillikas said the recent incidents were a "reflection of a society" that "had replaced alarm clocks with bomb blasts."

    Lillikas also said there had to be an end to "mammoth schools."

    Diko's Nicos Moushiouttas put the problem down to a lack of role-models, "with rock stars and footballers taking on that important role."

    Edek's Takis Hadjidemetriou, meanwhile, said the incidents were the symptom of a crisis in society and in the education system.

    [04] Police seize rare key-ring gun

    By Jean Christou

    A DEADLY key-ring gun, only the seventh ever to be seized in the world, was found on a man arrested by Cyprus police late on Monday, police revealed yesterday.

    Officers arrested Black Sea Greek Leonidas Aidinidi, 26, at around 11pm on Monday night at the Square Pub on Eleftheria Square in Nicosia.

    He was remanded for five days by the Nicosia District Court yesterday.

    Police said the key-ring gun was loaded, adding it had a chamber for two 32-calibre bullets and could kill at up to 20 yards. They said the micro-weapon was around three inches long and as wide as a matchbox, claiming it could be bought for as little as $20.

    Another eight bullets were found at Aidinidi's apartment in the Pallouriotissa area of the city.

    The key-ring gun is the first of its kind ever seen on the island, a police bulletin said. Interpol informed the authorities in 177 countries, including Cyprus, of the gun's existence as far back as March 1998.

    Police said airport security worldwide had also been warned to be vigilant because the tiny weapon -- although made of metal -- could not be spotted by metal detectors, making it ideal for terrorists and hijackers.

    The first of the pistols, called "The Wasp", was seized at London's Heathrow Airport in 1998, when a passenger dropped it and fled. Since then, others have been found in Australia and Athens.

    The gun, believed to originate in Bulgaria, contains a grip, firing and locking buttons, and two barrels. It is cocked by pulling the ring to which keys are attached and its firepower can be increased by using a barrel attachment.

    Police in Australia discovered an instructions booklet written in Bulgarian with the weapon they discovered last year.

    The booklet claimed the gun was a defensive weapon, designed to fire gas cartridges to ward off attackers, but not designed to shoot real bullets.

    [05] Savvides seeks national price list to avert drugs overcharging

    By Anthony O. Miller

    HEALTH Minister Frixos Savvides said yesterday he was considering a plan to publish the price of medicines nationwide as one way to end the practice of overpricing of pharmaceuticals.

    "The easiest thing in the world, as long as the prices are controlled (by the government, is) we can publish the prices, so the consumer can have a list of them," he said.

    "So in theory, the drug that you can find downstairs in the drug store (in Nicosia) should carry the same price as (drug stores) in Polis... It cannot be more. It can be less, but it cannot be more," he said.

    A consumer price list would be "the easiest solution," at least on the level of local pharmacies, he said. But this would not address the problem, under investigation by his ministry, of pharmaceutical importers bringing in drugs at excessive prices.

    "It's a big problem," Savvides acknowledged. "We set and we issue the price for a drug to be sold wholesale to the pharmacist (by a distributor/importer) for, for example, 20, and this drug was sold for 22."

    "Which means the pharmacist will add on his 30 per cent, which is allowed by law. So if there is another valuation by the supplier, and another valuation for you the user... you see what I mean," he gestured, palms outward.

    Without going into details, Savvides said that to correct this, his ministry would strengthen its controls as well as try to get a rollback in prices, and refunds for customers, from the various links in the chain -- from the local pharmacy back through the distributor.

    "We have to start at the origination, at the supplier," Savvides said. A lucky break, he added, was the fact the drugs that are imported and used in Cyprus were computerised in the importers' records.

    "(But) that's the only thing that's computerised," he added. The computer records do not extend into local drug stores or the central government's hospital dispensaries, he said.

    The private-sector overpricing, however, is merely a symptom of what is wrong with the state's entire pharmaceutical supply system, he suggested.

    For instance, the disappearance earlier this year of huge quantities of the expensive kidney medicine, erythropoetine, from government hospital pharmacies was "because there is very evidently a lack of internal controls in the supply system of the hospitals," Savvides said.

    "I realised that very early after coming here. It's the place where the problems emanate," he said.

    Savvides said the matter of the erythropoetine -- alleged to have been sold to dope horses at Nicosia racetrack and for athletes eager to build muscles -- is "in the hands of the Attorney-general."

    "We're awaiting his decision as to whether there are criminal elements involved, in which case it would go directly to the courts. If not, it would come to us," he said.

    Apart from suspicions of outright theft of the kidney drug, failure to submit timely reorder tenders for the drug also contributed to the lack of the medicine, which is crucial for the wellbeing of kidney patients.

    Adding to the problem's gravity was the fact the drug is not carried in private-sector pharmacies; only state dispensaries can carry it by law.

    Savvides said one of his chief goals as Health Minister was to "put together a computerised, fully accountable, tight internal control system," incorporating the bar-code system of inventory control, expiry vigilance and pricing.

    Then, he said, "the pharmaceutical system will run like clockwork. For the moment, it's in chaos in every respect," he admitted. "(But) we have to put our house in order first, in order to accommodate this sophisticated system."

    "The pharmaceutical department not only cares for the state hospitals and state pharmacies," he said, "it also determines the price of the drugs, islandwide," which brought him back to the problem of private-sector drug overpricing. "It's a big problem" he repeated.

    [06] New campaign against dangerous laser pointers

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday announced steps to combat eye damage caused to children playing with laser pointers.

    The Consumer Protection Service stated its intention to confiscate any imported laser pointers which do not measure up to safety standards.

    The toys often incorrectly state or fail to state their level of light intensity, and are therefore capable of causing serious eye damage to young children.

    The Consumer Protection Service stated: "From an investigation carried out by the service it was determined that laser pointers that were being imported, while being described on their packaging as having low light intensity, in reality had much higher light intensity, with the result of them being a real danger when used as toys."

    Pointers failing to state their level of light intensity or those whose levels are higher than one milliwatt will be confiscated by the Service.

    In addition, parents are urged to be aware of the potential dangers and to remove laser pointers from their children's possession.

    [07] Environment committee calls for action against Economides

    By George Psyllides

    THE HOUSE Environmental Committee yesterday called on the Agriculture Minister to consider taking disciplinary action against the head of the veterinary services, Pavlos Economides.

    The committee room was the scene of another episode of the sea lion saga yesterday, with members accusing the veterinary services of ignoring the legislature.

    The chairman of the committee, Edek deputy Dimitris Eliades, said the committee had "unanimously decided to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Costas Themistocleous, to look into possible disciplinary action against Economides, and to take the necessary disciplinary measures stipulated by the law."

    Eliades added that a report would be submitted to the Plenum for debate.

    A week earlier, the committee had asked Economides to report back on the condition of the sea lion, left starving at a derelict Ayia Napa marine park. But only three days later, the seal was whisked away to Russia sparking anger among deputies and environmentalists. Economides had been due to submit his report to yesterday's meeting.

    Committee member Marios Matsakis of Diko was furious, accusing Economides of misleading the Committee, and asking for his suspension and a prompt government investigation into the case.

    He wondered how the sea lion could have been declared fit to travel by veterinary service officials, when four days later an Interpol report submitted to the committee by the Attorney-general's office said that the animal was in bad shape.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides last Friday asked Interpol to track the seal to Russian and report on its condition there.

    "I do not trust Mr. Economides and his service," said Matsakis. "We have become the laughing stock of the whole world."

    But Agriculture Minister Themistocleous dismissed the Committee's call for disciplinary action, saying the sea lion's departure was legal.

    "The Attorney-general gave the green light for the sea lion's departure. I cannot understand why there should be disciplinary action against Economides," Themistocleous insisted.

    [08] Market in fresh crisis

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE CYPRUS Stock Exchange was yesterday plunged into fresh crisis when it ordered the suspension of eight brokerages, including some of the market's heavyweights.

    The move deeply angered traders, whose relations with the exchange have been rocky for months, and prompted an emergency meeting of their association.

    The brokers later issued an appeal for top-level intervention to solve the market's seemingly endless troubles, but sources at the meeting said brokers may be quietly preparing for industrial action -- possibly a strike -- starting as early as today.

    Such action, the sources said, would primarily be aimed at protesting what many brokers see as the unnecessary heavy-handedness of the exchange's council and to press calls for its replacement.

    "Things are getting worse and we are having a major problem," said Neofytos Neofytou of AAA United Stockbrokers Ltd. "We feel things cannot continue the way they are. If they do, there is a serious risk that the market will collapse," he told the Cyprus Mail after the brokers' meeting.

    The exchange's latest action against the brokerages came less than 12 hours after it announced that 14 listed companies, including market supremos Bank of Cyprus and Popular Bank, would have their titles suspended from Monday November 1 unless they cleared a backlog of share certificates.

    The 14 issuers account for more than 70 per cent of the market's capitalisation and the absence of their titles would in effect close the young bourse. Beside the two banks, the list includes such key titles as KEO, Woolworth, CTC, Orphanides Supermarkets and Cyprus Airways.

    Yesterday's suspension of eight brokerages appeared to distort the market, pushing the all-share index down by 5.96 per cent, a loss of 35.58 points, with the blue-chips of the banks bearing the brunt of the fall.

    It was the biggest one-day drop since July 29, when the index fell by 7.65 per cent and was the third in as many sessions, an unusual feat in a market whose gains stand close to 500 per cent since the start of the year.

    Volume yesterday was a modest 9.25 million, the second lowest since October 4, the day the market reopened its doors after a four-week closure to allow brokerages to tackle a mountain of unprocessed transactions accumulated during the boom months of the summer.

    "Look, here is what is happening: the market is basically closed," said Michalis Efrem of Nicos Efrem Shares Agency Ltd. "These prices (of yesterday) are not real," He told the Mail.

    The eight brokerages suspended yesterday by the exchange were CLR Stockbrokers, CISCO, Laiki Investments, Sharelink Securities, Severis &amp; Athienitis, Al Pro-Choice, Parma and Hadjigavriel. The eight between them have an 80 per cent market share and represent about a third of the 23 brokerages accredited to the Cyprus Stock Exchange.

    Their suspension was apparently the result of a new rule introduced by the exchange penalising brokerages if they carry out more than six problematic transactions. This, however, could not be confirmed by the exchange, whose general-manager, Nondas Metaxas, and chairman, Dinos Papadopoulos, did not return calls by the Mail.

    "They shoot you first, then tell you 'you are guilty'," was how one broker, Costas Hadjigavriel, described yesterday's action by the exchange. He and other brokers said the exchange's punitive measure came as a surprise and that they learned of it shortly before trading began.

    Yesterday's events on the exchange are just the latest in a series of problems to beset the market since the summer.

    The mountain of unprocessed transactions has forced the market to close three times since July, while earlier suspensions triggered a one-day brokers' strike in August. Government plans to impose a 1 per cent levy on market transactions and hints of taxing capital gains in the future have further infuriated brokers.

    Yesterday's trade saw the Bank of Cyprus shed 1.19 to close at 10.70 and the Popular Bank down by 89.50 cents to 11.90. Hellenic was down by 54 cents at 4.46, taking to more than 1 its losses over two sessions. The heavy losses of the three banks, and that of the small Universal Bank, pushed down the sector's index by 8.05 per cent, the biggest drop by any of the market's seven sectors.

    Louis Cruise Lines, whose titles debuted in August, continued its meteoric rise despite the day's gloom. It rose by 32.50 cents to close at 4.82.

    [09] EU apology for typo

    THE EU has apologised to Cyprus for a typing error referring to 'Greek and Turkish Cyprus' in its latest progress report on the island's accession process, the government said yesterday.

    Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the EU apology came after the government made representations over the error.

    A corrected version of the report is due to be circulated shortly, he added.

    The report originally said the 1960 constitutional dispositions on power sharing "between the Turkish and Greek Cyprus are not effectively applied".

    The line should have read "Turkish and Greek Cypriots".

    According to the full report, Cyprus fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria for accession to the EU but the island has still only adopted 15 per cent of existing European standards.

    The report says that, although the island's functioning market economy should be able to cope with the competitive pressures within the bloc, serious imbalances exist in the area of economic growth and also in several other areas such as environment and marine transport.

    [10] Airport authorities bar Louis from selling foreign imports

    By Jean Christou

    THE LOUIS-RUN kiosk inside the departure area at Larnaca airport has been asked to remove all imported items from its shelves.

    Following a spot inspection by civil aviation officials yesterday, the kiosk was told it could no longer sell foreign newspapers, magazines, books and all other items not made locally.

    Andreas Constantinides, District Manager for Louis Hotels, said the move by airport authorities had come as a complete surprise since the issue had never been raised before.

    Louis have been operating the kiosk "for many years", Constantinides said, adding there was still another three years left on the current contract.

    The company pays a seven-figure sum to lease the kiosk space from the civil aviation authorities.

    "We don't know why they are doing this, but we can't refuse because it's in the contract," Constantinides said. "We are trying to find a way out."

    He said, however, that since the Permanent Secretary of the Communications and Works Ministry, Vassos Pyrgos, was currently abroad, they would have to wait until his return.

    "Our aim is to serve the public," Constantinides said. "I'm sure the authorities are aware of this but since they asked, we would like to comply until we can find a way around this problem."

    Constantinides said most of the items sold at the kiosk were locally made, so the most affected would be newspapers, magazines and books, and it made no sense for an international airport not provide these to travellers, who are mostly foreign.

    He added it wasn't a question of financial loss. "There is not a huge profit to lose on these items, so it's not a matter of losing money. It's a matter of not being able to provide a service to the public."

    Larnaca Airport Manager Iacovos Demetriou declined to comment on the issue, although he confirmed that the directive had been issued to Louis. "My role is to make sure the items are taken from there as soon as possible," he said.

    Civil Aviation official Stelios Vassiliou said Louis had to abide by the terms of the contract in the same way as his department did.

    Vassiliou did not know why a clause banning the sale of foreign newspapers had been inserted into the contract. Responding to questions as to why the company was being pushed to comply in the middle of a contract term, Vassiliou said he did not know.

    He said there was no guarantee the civil aviation authorities were aware of the fact that Louis had been selling non locally-made items. "Today the inspectors visited and found out that they were not keeping to the terms of the contract," Vassiliou said.

    Asked if officials had not discovered the items during previous inspections, Vassiliou said he did not know. He said inspections were not fixed.

    He denied that the sudden interest in what Louis was selling might have anything to do with the possibility the government might be trying to avoid accusations of favouritism by allowing the company to breach the terms of its airport contract.

    The government has come under heavy criticism lately over Louis' grant of private placement shares to a range of senior officials and politicians.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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