|Wednesday, 29 November 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-01-11
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
 Turkish Cypriot on seven drugs chargesBy Jean Christou
A TURKISH Cypriot drugs suspect from the mixed buffer-zone village of Pyla was charged yesterday on seven counts of possession and intent to supply heroin within the Republic. Omer Tekogul, 42, pleaded not guilty in a case that had become a political hot potato compounded by the abduction of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas from British bases territory 10 days after the suspect's arrest.
Tsiakourmas, 39, a diabetic father-of-three, disappeared from his car 400 metres away from the Turkish-controlled areas, and is now facing almost identical charges in the occupied north. Diplomatic sources have said the Turkish Cypriot side wants a direct swap, a suggestion the authorities have ruled out.
The Larnaca court yesterday went ahead and set Tekogul's hearing for January 29. The court refused bail after prosecutor Eleni Kleopa argued the Turkish Cypriot had every reason not to appear at his hearing and could disappear into the Turkish-controlled areas where the authorities could not reach him. The court concurred and ordered that Tekogul be held in custody.
Police say they arrested Tekogul after a sting operation on December 2 outside the mixed village of Pyla in the Larnaca district, allegedly in possession of some 2 kilos of heroin. However, the Turkish Cypriot side, and Tekogul's lawyer Guzel Kardi, say the suspect was arrested within the buffer-zone village -- contrary to accepted procedures in the UN-controlled area.
The UN has said police should have informed them if they had the Turkish Cypriot under surveillance. Standard procedure would then have had the UN call in the Turkish Cypriot 'authorities' to deal with the case. However, police insist Tekogul was arrested outside the village. Close relatives of Tekogul and a handful of Turkish Cypriot journalists crossed the Green Line yesterday to attend the hearing.
The twin cases have further strained relations between the two sides, since evidence collected by the British bases indicates Tsiakourmas was abducted from SBA territory. His seizure followed a direct threat from the Turkish Cypriot side that Greek Cypriots would face abduction if Tekogul was not released.
Tsiakourmas` wife Niki and his brother Yiannis have travelled to the UK, where they are meeting with Foreign Office officials to pressure them into pushing for his release.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Hannay keeps low profile amid Tsiakourmas furoreBy Jean Christou
BRITAIN'S special envoy Sir David Hannay made a low-key arrival on the island yesterday amid security fears that his visit might be disrupted by friends and relatives of Panicos Tsiakourmas. The British High Commission yesterday refused to give out the details usually issued for visits by diplomats involved in the Cyprus problem.
"We are not discussing his schedule," said High Commission spokesman Jonathan Allen. He said Hannay was on the island and would meet both President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash over the next few days, but declined to give a time for the meetings.
The Tsiakourmas family holds Britain responsible for his December 12 abduction by the Turks from British Bases territory, from where he was taken to the occupied north and accused of possession of 1.5 kilos of cannabis. Initially venting their anger and frustration on the Turkish side, the family turned on Britain last weekend, staging a demonstration at the British base of Dhekelia, which turned violent when a handful of protestors kicked and bit an SBA police officer.
The issue became uglier on Tuesday, when DIKO deputy and anti-bases campaigner Marios Matsakis accused the bases of complicity in the abduction. Bases authorities dismissed Matsakis' claims as "scurrilous and contemptible" and a complete figment of the DIKO deputy's "fertile imagination". Security sources told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the British High Commission had "genuine security concerns" over the possibility that Hannay's visit might be disrupted.
"They are afraid that the Tsiakourmas family will turn up to kick and bite him," the sources said. Hannay is on the island as part of a new diplomatic push to kick-start the next round of UN-led proximity talks due to take place in Geneva on January 26.
US Presidential emissary Alfred Moses left the island on Tuesday at the end of a similar mission and UN envoy Alvaro de Soto will arrive shortly. The round of contacts also includes Athens -- from where Hannay arrived in secret yesterday - and Ankara.
On Tuesday, Hannay met Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. During the meeting, the two sides reaffirmed their governments' interest in the continuation of UN-led peace talks. Hannay said British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had asked him to go on a tour of the region, because he believed there were opportunities for progress. The British envoy noted, however, that it was necessary for the interested parties to co-operate.
Referring to the abduction of Tsiakourmas, Hannay said the British government was "taking action with all concerned to try to ensure that this matter is brought to a conclusion". "We are doing our best to get a satisfactory outcome to this", he added. The bases have found no evidence to suggest Tsiakourmas had any drugs in his possession.
Tsiakourmas' wife Niki arrived back on the island yesterday after travelling to London to meet with British Foreign Office officials. On arrival at Larnaca airport she told journalists that Britain had accepted and admitted responsibility and that it was a political issue.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Doctors determined to strike tomorrowBy Jenny Curtis
DOCTORS at state hospitals have vowed they will walk out on strike tomorrow and say the government's refusal to meet their demands for better pay and conditions is to blame. Health Minister Frixos Savvides has described the move as "irresponsible" and is calling doctors' union PASIKY to call off the action and meet for talks instead, saying he recognises a review of salaries is overdue.
Doctors, however, insist the offer of discussions is not enough and only firm and detailed promises will make them cancel. "Our only resort left is to strike and we are definitely going to go ahead because we haven't had any firm answers from the government," PASIKY President Stavros Stavrou told the Cyprus Mail.
One of the main bones of contention is doctors' starting salaries, which are very similar to those paid to teachers, despite the fact that doctors have to do a minimum of five years of extra studying before they begin at the bottom end of the scale. However, Stavrou emphasised that it was not just low salaries his members were concerned about, but also the state of some health services.
Cancer care is something that particularly worries him and he says it is imperative more funding is set aside for this area. "Overall, we want a mutually acceptable solution for both sides and if we get it we won't need to take the strike action on Friday. But at a time when we don't have a proposal, either written or oral on the negotiating table, we are left no choice but to take this action."
Stavrou refused to specify what starting salary the doctors want, but said the new figure must be "significantly higher" than the existing £950 a month. "We want to be paid according to our qualifications and responsibilities. The current rate does not justify the amount of work we put into our jobs, which is well beyond the standard 40-hour week."
Savvides, however, is adamant that negotiations will not begin until the strike has been called off. He insists he is willing to sit down with Stavrou and set up a timetable for the demands to be met, adding that if they are not fulfilled within that timeframe, the doctors would be perfectly excused to take strike action.
"Mr. Stavrou knows there's no chance of us officially negotiating with him until he has confirmed the strike is off. He said earlier this week he had nothing against me, yet he has been publicly putting me down and I don't think this type of behaviour is acceptable." The minister said he was extremely frustrated with the doctors' refusal to cancel the strike, especially as the ministry has made repeated declarations that it was ready to talk.
"If we had refused I could understand, but the fact that they are carrying on regardless makes no sense - you strike to get attention, yet they already have ours." Savvides confirmed the government would increase salaries for doctors at the lower end of the scale and he admitted the current £950 was "a little on the low side." However, he said the government would be reluctant to raise wages for those at the top, claiming they already earned a lot of money.
"Salary rises across the board are not feasible and it's something we can't afford, but certainly some doctors deserve to earn more than they do currently." He also promised to make more money available for cancer services, which he considered to be a "high priority" area. There are concerns about the welfare of patients on the day of the strike, but Stavrou has insisted emergency care and vital operations will still be carried out, adding: "no lives will be put at danger by our industrial action." Savvides confirmed that a team of doctors would be on hand to work in the event of serious accidents. "I don't believe people will not receive the treatment they need and it will be more of an inconvenience than a danger."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Farmers fear diesel rises will kill them off for goodBy Jennie Matthew
PLANNED hikes in the price of diesel have already got consumer shackles rising, two years before the six-fold increase in duty is due to come into effect, despite government uncertainty about the path ahead. On Monday, Finance Minister Takis Klerides told Parliament that diesel tax must reach 14.2 cents a litre by January 1, 2003 - more than six times the current two cent a litre tax.
In a country where diesel users far outweigh the European average, that means a lot of unhappy motorists - both private and business. At the end of 1999, nearly a third of all licensed vehicles on the road were diesel powered. Buses and taxis, many trucking companies and almost all farm machinery, use diesel rather than petrol. The Farmers Union EKA yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the tax hikes could finish off an already struggling agricultural sector, while the Taxi Drivers Union saw the onslaught as another looming battle with the government in their attempts to keep fares down.
Suppliers and transportation companies are more tight-lipped on a change still two years away, but admit that doubling the cost of diesel will have an inevitable knock-on effect on prices.
The fact that minimum consumer taxes and axing heavy state subsidies is mandatory for European Union harmonisation is cold comfort to consumers. Villagers, who use their pick-up trucks to travel into Nicosia and Limassol for work, are the biggest group of private diesel consumers.
Diesel may give you slower acceleration, but it goes almost three times further than petrol - perfect for long-distance travelling.
"A gallon of petrol takes you about 31 miles, a gallon of diesel can take you 80 miles," confirmed a representative from an international company. The catch comes in a £240 vehicle licence - three times the price of the £80 licence for petrol vehicles. Even so, one industry analyst said diesel users still netted a huge benefit at the end of the year, impossible in 2003 once diesel becomes only marginally less expensive than petrol.
A litre of petrol currently costs 41.9 or 44 cents. A litre of diesel retails as low as 17.1 or 21.5 cents. Add an extra 12.2 cents and the price will rise up to 33.7 cents. A more moderate 30 per cent rise on petrol duty will fix it just five cents higher than diesel duty at 19.5 cents a litre.
Not surprisingly, farmers are outraged. "We are already asking for a government subsidy to buy diesel for farm use at two thirds the market price, as farmers do elsewhere in Europe, such as in France and Greece," said the secretary general of EKA, Nicos Kousoutis.
"We've already drawn up a petition against the increase in imported agricultural produce. With the diesel increases we won't be able to compete with importers and our nation's farmers will abandon their trade," he added.
But, is the government likely to offer a carrot to ease the pain of the stick? The Finance Ministry was yesterday non-committal.
Permanent Secretary Andreas Trifonides said no details, timetable or concrete policy had been worked out yet.
He said the announcement in the House on Monday was purely "informative". He expects a clearer picture to emerge in the next couple of weeks, after negotiations with the House Finance Committee begin.
An official at the Communications Ministry said that an assessment of the wider impact on the cost of public transport was "premature".
He did add, however, that the government was deeply committed to subsidising public transport. The expectation that the state will level out the gulf between licences for petrol and diesel vehicles is unlikely to satisfy taxi drivers, anxious to use the tax increase as bait to eek out privileges hitherto denied by the government.
The Taxi Drivers Union, which represents more than half the country's 1,200 cabbies, wants duty free taxis, free road licences and cheaper loans to buy cars, with interest rates axed to 3-4 per cent. The union resists all efforts to up taxi fares. "Fares must remain very low so that taxis can be used by everyone, poor as well as rich," said union president Kypros Andreou.
January 1, 2003 is the deadline date for increasing VAT to 15 per cent, and adopting higher EU minimum taxes on alcohol and tobacco, as well as petrol and diesel.
But economist Marios Clerides yesterday denied there was a risk of serious inflationary pressures on the market.
"Yes, it will heat the price index, but as a tax the pressure will be deflationary. There will only be a momentary jump in prices, which will filter out in a year's time," he told the Cyprus Mail.
The government intends to scrap the defence levy, lower import duties and raise the tax-free threshold from £6,000 to £7,000 by the same date.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Fanieros convicted in share scamBy a Staff Reporter LARNACA club owner Antonis Fanieros and two co- defendants were yesterday found guilty of embezzling £143,000 worth of shares.
Fanieros was convicted on 13 charges including forging cheques, circulating them and obtaining money on false pretence. He was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud. Christos Hartoumbalos from Vryssoules was found guilty on all 14 charges, while his brother-in -law Petros Georgiou was found guilty on only three counts of false pretence, forging cheques and circulating them.
Defence lawyers are expected to plead for mitigation before the Larnaca District Court passes sentence. Reading out his 100-page verdict, Judge George Aresti examined in detail the events that took place on February 29 and March 3.
On the first date, Hartoumbalos and Georgiou used a certificate for Bank of Cyprus shares issued to George Alexandrou Melekki from Dherynia to sell his shares for £73,000. On the second occasion they followed the same procedure to sell Louis Cruise Line shares for £70,000. On neither occasion was Melekki aware that his shares were being sold, indicating the defendants had forged his signature to gain the certificate of approval.
The verdict said Hartoumbalos and Georgiou turned up at Stock Exchange offices in Nicosia, sold Melekkis' shares and transferred the two checks worth £143,000 to Larnaca, where they were cashed by two of Fanieros' friends, who then deposited the money into Fanieros' bank account. The men had denied the charges.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Government waiting on Markides over radar tendersBy a Staff Reporter
THE COUNCIL of Ministers is waiting for the Attorney-general to deliver his opinion before taking action over the delay in sorting tenders for the supply of radars to the Cyprus coast guard.
The delay meant the radars could not be ordered in time to help prevent a recent wave of illegal immigrants late last year.
Speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the matter had been discussed by ministers but that further action would be decided once Attorney-general Alecos Markides had submitted his opinion. "The radar issue did appear before the Council of Ministers. It was decided that the Cabinet would wait for the Attorney- general's report and suggestions before going into the matter further."
Papapetrou said the Cabinet had asked Markides to provide his opinion as soon as possible -- "because time is of the essence in matters such as this" -- but that, as an independent official of the Republic, the Attorney- general could not be given a specific time-frame to operate within.
The spokesman added that once Markides had given his opinion, ministerial sessions would be set up to investigate the issue further.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001