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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-08-23

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Wednesday, August 23, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Egyptian police free Cypriot girl
  • [02] Desalination plant on schedule for December
  • [03] Central Bank probing new claims of Serb money laundering
  • [04] Rolandis goes down to Ayia Napa to see for himself
  • [05] Kurdish asylum seeker starts hunger strike
  • [06] GlobalSoft ends on high note
  • [07] Missing man found dead in car

  • [01] Egyptian police free Cypriot girl

    By Athena Karsera

    EGYPTIAN police have released the 19-year-old Cypriot girl held in Port Said since July 25 on suspicion of trying to smuggle drugs out of the country.

    Maria Antoniadou’s lawyer in Cyprus, Iacovos Avraamides, said yesterday his client had been set free after investigations had shown the substance she was carrying was not a controlled substance.

    "She was set free because the Egyptian authorities were convinced of her innocence," Avraamides told CyBC, adding that the substance she had been found with was a harmless herb. "Who said it was 3.5 kilos of hashish? It was not hashish or marijuana or even 3.5 kilos."

    Egyptian police said last month that Antoniadou, from the Pallouriotissa suburb of Nicosia, had been found carrying three-and-a-half kilograms of ‘bango’, a cheap low-grade variety of marijuana popular in the Middle East.

    Avraamides said yesterday Antoniadou had been released on Monday night and is now at the Cypriot embassy in Cairo, from where she will return to the island in a few days’ time.

    "I can speak now, because the authorities here had this impression (that Antoniadou had been found carrying drugs), but it was not even the case and things were completely different," Avraamides said.

    "What I know from my colleague in Egypt was that it wasn’t 3.5 kilos -- neither the quantity was true, nor the claim that it was marijuana. It was something different, and they say that it may have been this herb called mallow."

    Avraamides said mallow was cultivated in Egypt, and was "cooked and eaten on a daily basis".

    The lawyer said he did not want to comment on claims that his client might have been set up for fear of influencing any police investigations.

    "What I said from beginning was that this girl was a victim and not involved in drugs: the Drug Squad in Cyprus confirmed this, that she had never before done anything or acted in any way as drug dealer."

    Antoniadou’s lawyer could not say whether his client was in any way connected with two men arrested in Cyprus while she was detained, but who were later released pending developments in Egypt.

    He said he did not know exactly when she would be returning home, "but I don’t think there will be any problem about that".

    Security officials in Port Said said after the girl’s arrest that she could face the death penalty if convicted in Egypt, and that she had been under surveillance for some time "on suspicion of smuggling illegal substances".

    They said Antoniadou had been found carrying 3.5 kilos of bango concealed in a secret compartment in her suitcase.

    Nicosia police were yesterday reluctant to say whether Antoniadou would be questioned on her return to the island. An officer which did not want to be named said: "Unless there is clear evidence that she was not involved in anything illegal, I imagine we will question her."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    [02] Desalination plant on schedule for December

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE GOOD news is that construction of the new Larnaca desalination plant is on schedule to pump its first drinking water on December 16, construction site manger Miki Peleg said yesterday.

    The even better news is Peleg’s claim that the Larnaca plant will produce 35 per cent more water daily than the Dhekelia plant, and at a lower unit cost to consumers than originally contracted for.

    But the bad news is the Water Development Department’s (WDD) emergency plan to moor a desalination ship off the Moni coast to get the island through the summer drought is still snagged in red tape and likely to be for months.

    "We are still on time for delivering water by December 16," said Peleg, site boss for the Israeli consortium, IDE-Oceana, which is building the Larnaca plant.

    "Most of the building has been completed. Last week, we started the erection of the electro-mechanical equipment. We are working long hours, weekends and holidays to complete the plant on time," he said. "We are installing all the machinery in parallel… to finish on time."

    Maximum Larnaca plant output will be 54,000 cubic metres of water per day, he said. This compares with the daily 40,000 cubic metres (40,000,000 litres) of water the Dhekelia plant de-salts at peak output.

    The government agreed to pay extra when it renegotiated the IDE-Oceana contract to advance the plant’s completion from the end of April 2001 to mid-December, 2000.

    But the new contract also raised the plant’s peak output, "so the price for the government and the people of Cyprus is much cheaper under the new contract than the old," Peleg said. The new deal gives "a big discount for the per-litre cost."

    Peleg did not know the exact rate the plant would charge for water, but suggested it would be less than the 54 cents per cubic metre the Dhekelia plant charges the WDD.

    The actual cost of building the Larnaca facility is around $40 million, Peleg said. But as the contract, as at Dhekelia, is a ‘BOOT’ contract, the state pays nothing for the plant and the builder recoups all costs over a 10-year period via the sale of water to the WDD.

    BOOT contracts mean the contractor builds the plant, owns and operates it for a specific period of time and then turns it over to the state, free of charge, when the term is up. Such plants cost the state only post-contract operation and maintenance expenses.

    Meanwhile with dam levels dropping to near-record lows, the WDD is still pondering the five tenders it has to moor a desalination ship off Moni to pump extra fresh water into the island’s rationed water system, WDD Chief Engineer Nicos Tsiourtis said.

    Once that consideration is done, the tenders will be sent to the Tender Board, Tsiourtis said, adding he expected this by "the end of this week," and surely by the end of next.

    There they will go through the normal bureaucratic evaluation before a bidder is actually awarded a contract to begin work. This could take months.

    The wining bidder then has four months to have a desalination ship moored off Moni and pumping fresh water onshore into the Southern Conveyor Project’s pipelines, which feed Cyprus from Larnaca to Nicosia, Tsiourtis said.

    But that means no ship-sourced water before "late December" at the earliest, he said. "If the tender is awarded in September, that means we’ll have water in January." Four months is the operative phrase, he added.

    Reservoir levels yesterday were at 12.2 per cent of capacity, holding a mere 33.4 million cubic metres of water, while at this time last year they were 17.5 per cent full, with 48 million cubic metres of water in them, the WDD said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    [03] Central Bank probing new claims of Serb money laundering

    By George Psyllides

    THE CENTRAL Bank is looking into a report in the Sunday Times claiming that Yugoslav companies used Cyprus to launder money syphoned abroad by President Slobodan Milosevic’s regime.

    The paper said investigators at the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control believed as much as $4 billion from the former Yugoslavia could have ended up in Cyprus alone. US Treasury officials are refusing to comment on the report.

    Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he was not yet ready to reply to the allegations.

    "We are aware of the report and we are looking into it. The Central Bank is collecting all the facts and we expect to announce something today," Afxentiou said.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides yesterday categorically denied the allegations, saying Cyprus had control mechanisms in place that satisfied foreign financial organisations.

    Klerides said such reports were prompted by ulterior motives.

    Cyprus has consistently been accused by western newspapers of turning a blind eye to Serbian money launderers – something banking authorities on the island have always denied.

    The Sunday Times report also claimed American officials were monitoring the case of a Yugoslav citizen who claimed to have had his account at the Nicosia branch of Beogradska Banka hijacked by money launderers. The Central Bank has since withdrawn Beogradska’s licence to operate, though it still retains a presence in Cyprus.

    The Sunday Times said the Americans suspected the case could provide them with clues on the methods used by Milosevic’s money launderers.

    But the Finance Minister yesterday dismissed the case as a dispute between two businessmen, which had started in Yugoslavia and continued on the island.

    Businessman Predrag Djordjevic attempted to ship cotton into Yugoslavia at the height of the Bosnian war in 1994, with a United Nations permit. Yugoslavia was subject to a strict UN embargo at the time.

    Djordjevic claims his Bulgarian trade partner deposited about £180,000 in Deutschmarks into his company account in Belgrade, and that the money was supposed to be transferred to Beogradska in Cyprus.

    However, the transfer was mysteriously blocked. After a long legal wrangle with Beogradska, Djordjevic found his money had been moved into an account with the Popular Bank.

    A company he had never heard of, Antexol Trade Ltd controlled the account.

    When the accounts were examined in court, Djordjevic discovered about $300, 000 had been transferred to Antexol’s Popular Bank account, which bore the same number as his account with Beogradska.

    Djordjevic, who finally received his money too late to save his cotton deal, is now suing the Popular Bank and Antexol Trade Ltd.

    Included in the lawsuit, which was filed in June, is a demand for compensation for what he alleges is embezzlement and withholding of money sent from abroad in April 1994.

    Popular Bank lawyer Kikis Tallarides yesterday told the Cyprus Mail he did not know anything about the case, and that he had not been handed the lawsuit.

    Former Antexol director, Cypriot lawyer Pambos Ioannides, disputed Djordjevic’s claims, accusing the businessman of trying to extort money by making allegations about the bank’s role during the Yugoslav conflict.

    "His demands are totally unfounded," Ioannides said. "There was no money laundering." Antexol ceased operations more than a year ago.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    [04] Rolandis goes down to Ayia Napa to see for himself

    By Jennie Matthew

    TOURISM minister Nicos Rolandis last night visited Ayia Napa in what could be the first step in a government clampdown on the resort’s increasingly notorious reputation

    The visit came amid growing concern among tourism officials about the impact of the bad publicity on the resort.

    Rolandis attended a 7pm meeting with the town’s mayor Barbara Pericleous, members of the municipal council, representatives of the local hotelier’s association, police and senior officials from the CTO.

    "I don’t want to comment about how much this is a priority, but the fact that the minister himself is meeting with members of the local authorities, implies that it is high on the government’s agenda," one senior tourism official said yesterday.

    The local media have unleashed a series of damaging reports about the resort’s sex and drugs scene. International press and television have also cashed in on the act, particularly in the UK – publicity that could pose a serious threat to the tourist boom currently enjoyed on the island.

    There are serious fears that unwelcome publicity will over time reduce the town to the seediness that rival resort Spanish Ibiza is now trying to shake off.

    CTO marketing director Lefkos Phylactides admitted that a future decline in family tourism in Ayia Napa was being "considered as a possibility".

    He went on to announce the decision to launch an investigation in to the reports, to catalogue what was actually going on in Ayia Napa and to find ways to counteract any worrying trends it might throw up.

    Yesterday evening’s meeting was due to address concerns about lawlessness and policing strategies, while proposals for a full investigation were to be outlined.

    Rolandis was due to complete his visit with a midnight walkabout. However, the minister yesterday denied to the Cyprus Mail that he would visit bars and nightclubs.

    "The idea is not to police the area, but to try and get a feel for it and understand it," Rolandis said.

    The minister is in a difficult position. Tourism is the backbone of the Cyprus economy and Rolandis is personally committed to outstripping previous numbers of visitors flying into Cyprus.

    He even suggested that people envious of Cyprus’ tourism, may be trying to blacken the resort’s name, in an effort to stem the island’s success.

    "The fact that Cyprus has a huge success in this area provokes envy. In July we had a 12.7 per cent increase in tourism. We’re expecting growth for the year as a whole to go over 10 per cent, when international tourism has only a three per cent increase -- that’s three times the international average," he said.

    Rolandis admitted to having had his eye on Ayia Napa for some time. "It came to my notice earlier [than this year] that there was a small problem with Ayia Napa, but I have heard that crime is a little worse this year," Rolandis said.

    "Nevertheless as Minister of Tourism I will not exaggerate the issue and I’m not prepared to destroy tourism for no reason," he told the Cyprus Mail. He has said repeatedly that a small percentage of the massive 2.7 million tourists coming to the island this year will inevitably fall foul of the law.

    But the statistics nonetheless eat into the ministry’s vision of safe, clean and quality tourism.

    In the last week alone, two Britons were fined for streaking in public in Ayia Napa (bringing to five the number of streakers fined in August), a Norwegian was fined £300 for possession of cannabis and a Briton jailed for ecstasy. Such offences have cropped up with alarming regularity throughout the summer.

    Policing is expected to come under scrutiny, but as the minister emphasised, "we must be careful in drawing the line between laxity and a police state – having so many police that tourists start fleeing."

    The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) want to see the emphasis on preventive rather than reactionary law enforcement, echoing concerns that conspicuous policing could do more harm than good.

    Rolandis was to be accompanied in his walkabout by the town’s police commander and divisional commander, by senior CTO officers Takis Makris and Lefkos Phylactides, and by Iris Karayiannis, the ministry official responsible for tourism. Justice Minister Nicos Koshis had originally intended to accompany Rolandis, but has since pulled out for other commitments. Asked if he would talk to tourists, Rolandis said he would "play it by ear".

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    [05] Kurdish asylum seeker starts hunger strike

    By Jean Christou

    A KURDISH asylum seeker who threatened to set himself alight last month began a hunger strike yesterday to draw attention to his plight.

    Mehmet Dhogan, a 33-year-old Turkish national, began his hunger strike at Eleftheria Square early yesterday. He told the Cyprus Mail he was willing to remain there until he died unless the government allowed him to seek asylum in another country.

    So far he has been stopped from leaving the country twice in the two years that he has lived in the Republic. Before that he had lived in the occupied areas for three years after fleeing Turkey, leaving his pregnant wife and an 18-month-old son behind. Dhogan has never seen his five-year old daughter, he told the Mail and cannot return to Turkey where he said he faced imprisonment.

    He has repeatedly asked the government to help him relocate to another country, but said so far no one has responded to his request.

    "Every time I go they say come back next week and next week and next week," he said. He receives £183 per month in welfare but is unemployed.

    Dhogan has also made an application to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to be officially classed as an asylum seeker, but has received no reply from the organisation, he claims.

    Frustrated by the lack of response, Dhogan last month demanded to see Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou at his offices threatening to set himself alight unless he was allowed to leave for another country where his family can join him.

    He soaked his clothes in petrol and stood with a lighter in his hand in front of the building. Police and fire brigade rushed to the scene but disaster was averted when Christodoulou interrupted a conference to meet with Dhogan.

    The Minister said the government was waiting for the UN decision on Dhogan’s refugee status after which they would help him relocate if his application was successful.

    But the Kurdish man says he is tired of waiting.

    "Either I leave from Cyprus or I will die here in this square," he said yesterday.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    [06] GlobalSoft ends on high note

    By Jean Christou

    Market players went through the motions again yesterday as yet another lifeless trading session saw the all-share index fluctuated from red to black and back again to close at 381.83 points, or 0.08 per cent down.

    Opening on a slight downward note the index flatlined until the last 15 minutes, hitting a low of almost a half per cent before insignificant gains pulled prices up slightly but not enough to end in the black.

    The undisputed winner was GlobalSoft which gained 44 cents to close at £4.80 as over 1.4 million shares changed hands. Trading on GlobalSoft accounted for a record 39 per cent of yesterday’s volume of £16.6 million, which itself was a major improvement on Monday’s abysmal record low of £9.5 million.

    GlobalSoft’s share opened at £4.30 but only a lucky few managed to grab the stock before the price rocketed to end a whopping ten per cent up.

    Observers say it was massive block buying by foreign investors which boosted GlobalSoft and left all other stocks in the doldrums.

    "GlobalSoft did very well because foreign investors bought large amounts of shares," said investment consultant Demos Stavrides. "Other than that investors seemed to be rather nervous even from the beginning of trading."

    Stavrides said investors are not really in the mood to play the market and were waiting until the end of the holiday period. He said that by the end of this month there should be some indication of how September’s trading might kick off.

    But brokers believe that as long as liquidity remains tight investors will continue to be reluctant to put more capital into the market and rule out any overnight change which might push the index back over the 400-point barrier.

    All sectors, except ‘other companies’, which only gained its 1.46 per cent on the back of GlobalSoft’s success, were down yesterday from a low of 1.28 per cent in tourism to a minor slip in banking stocks of 0.32 per cent.

    Both Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Laiki have taken a holiday hammering with BoC shares closing at £6.66, down six cents and Laiki shaving off one cent to close at £9.59.

    For two companies whose combined market capitalisation accounts for nearly half the market’s total, the island’s leading banks have recently only managed to muster around ten per cent of transaction volume.

    Hellenic Bank gained three cents to end at £2.21 on the back of its expected six-monthly results due to be announced next Monday.

    The bank is also expected to open its first branch in Salonica at the end of this month. Hellenic already has five branches in Greece, all Athens based.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, August 23, 2000

    [07] Missing man found dead in car

    A 46-YEAR-OLD man was found dead yesterday in the Pervolia area, near Larnaca.

    Antonis Antoniou, nicknamed ‘Tony’, from Acropolis in Nicosia had been missing since Saturday afternoon.

    A passer-by found him dead in his grey BMW car at 6.45pm. There are reports that the car was seen in the area on Saturday.

    An autopsy was carried out last night, but the pathologist was unable to confirm the cause of death.

    Larnaca police are investigating the case.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail


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