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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-02

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, March 2, 2001


  • [01] Markides ridicules Mamas' claims
  • [02] British tourist held after police find 40 ecstasy tablets
  • [03] Police looking for Russian man in connection with murder
  • [04] Nepotism made a criminal offence
  • [05] Pittokopitis admits to exceeding overdraft (by £63,000), 'but who doesn't?'
  • [06] Central Bank: 'no comment' on Milosevic gold claim
  • [07] Gay convict in church trial given pardon
  • [08] Klerides backs privatisation of CSE
  • [09] CSE all-share index gains by 1.26%
  • [10] Latest batch of illegal immigrants came through the north
  • [11] New delays in desalination project
  • [12] Kiosk suspect held after Nicosia car chase
  • [13] Private carries get go-ahead for scheduled flights
  • [14] Police under fire for use of handcuffs
  • [15] £90,000 redundancy package not enough, say sacked forestry workers

  • [01] Markides ridicules Mamas' claims

    By George Psyllides and Martin Hellicar ATTORNEY-general Alecos Markides yesterday ridiculed claims by Sigma's Demetris Mamas that he had acted under pressure from rival TV bosses in calling an investigation into whether a Mamas interview with a key witness could prejudice a trial.

    The interview, aired on Sigma on Tuesday night, featured Christiana Andreou, the former fiancée of Petros Patsalides, who goes on trial on Monday suspected of involvement in a nightclub shooting. Patsalides gained notoriety after escaping from police custody and surrendering to Mamas after 18 days on the run.

    Two Russian girls were seriously hurt in the machine-gun attack, which came after Patsalides allegedly clashed with bouncers as he tried to drag Andreou out of the club.

    On Wednesday, Markides launched a probe into whether the interview could be prejudicial to Patsalides' trial.

    Yesterday, Mamas accused the Attorney-general of being "selectively sensitive", arguing that nothing had been done against other members of the media, who had "convicted" Patsalides before the trial.

    And he accused the Attorney-general of failing to react when Bishop Neophytos of Morphou urged clerics not to appear as witnesses in an ongoing Church conspiracy trial.

    "I accuse the Attorney-general of showing selective sensitivity and I have reasons to suspect he is acting under pressure from other channel bosses or a specific minister," Mamas told the Cyprus Mail.

    But the Sigma journalist went even further, accusing Markides of turning a blind eye to charges levelled against CID officers, who Patsalides claims had threatened, while they were questioning him, to strip his ex-fiancée naked, take pictures and beat her.

    Yesterday, Markides rejected Mamas' charges, saying they were "products of his imagination".

    He told the Cyprus Mail the suggestion to look into the contents of the interview came from State Attorney George Papaioannou, who had watched the programme.

    Markides said Papaioannou had drafted a letter to send to the chief of police asking him to launch an investigation.

    But, Markides said, it was not fair for Papaioannou to take responsibility for such an issue, so he signed the letter himself.

    The Attorney-general said it was the first time such a case had emerged and there were no grounds for comparison.

    "It is unprecedented for Cyprus to have a crucial witness going on television to contradict a statement given to police in the course of a criminal investigation into a case where the charge is attempted murder against the witness herself."

    He added: "That position cannot be compared with other incidents like the statement of the Bishop of Morphou."

    "After all, the Bishop of Morphou did not interview a witness.

    "Whether offences have been committed or not will be judged if and when the relevant investigation file is submitted to me by the police," Markides said.

    Patsalides, 34, gave himself up to Mamas in the early hours of Saturday morning.

    Mamas, with a TV cameraman in tow, escorted the fugitive to Nicosia police headquarters.

    Sigma gave extensive coverage to Patsalides' surrender, and rival stations, which missed out on the event, complained that police had kept their cameras away from police headquarters at the crucial time.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] British tourist held after police find 40 ecstasy tablets

    By a Staff Reporter A BRITISH tourist was yesterday remanded in custody for eight days by a Famagusta court, suspected of possession and trafficking of around 40 tablets of ecstasy.

    Police arrested 27-year-old holidaymaker Wayne Peter Stewart from Enfield after they found 30 whole ecstasy tablets and 10 half tablets in his apartment in Ayia Napa.

    Police found another tablet, along with a small quantity of what is thought to be cannabis, in the suspect's car.

    One more tablet was found in Stewart's pocket.

    The court, sitting in Paralimni, heard that the suspect allegedly admitted the tablets were his, brought form England on February 25.

    Police believe that Stewart, who was due to be leaving for England on Sunday, was selling the ecstasy at £10 to £15 per pill.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Police looking for Russian man in connection with murder

    By a Staff Reporter POLICE said yesterday they were eager to question a Russian man in connection with the murder of a 29-year-old Russian woman found in her Limassol flat with her throat cut on Wednesday.

    Marina Sliptchenko's body was found by her ex -roommate Victoria Scouratova, who decided to look for her after repeated phone calls went unanswered.

    Sliptchenko was found face down in a pool of blood in the flat's sitting room.

    Police said there had been no signs of forced entry into the apartment on Kimonos Street in the Ayios Nicolaos suburb.

    This, coupled with the fact that no evidence of struggle or sexual assault was found by the state pathologist, led police to believe the assailant was someone Sliptchenko had known.

    Police think the perpetrator attacked the 29-year-old from behind and cut her throat.

    The victim was found apparently ready for a night out, fully dressed and wearing jewellery and make-up.

    According to pathologist Sophocles Sophocleous, the woman died from a five centimetre deep wound to her throat.

    Sliptchenko was a permanent resident of Cyprus and worked in the offshore field.

    Police were yesterday seeking for a Russian man, who reportedly had a bitter argument with the victim recently.

    Sliptchenko arrived on the island four years ago and had no relations with the any of her neighbours.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Nepotism made a criminal offence

    By a Staff Reporter NEPOTISM was yesterday made a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment, but parliamentary deputies acknowledged their approving a relevant bill was unlikely to stamp out the widespread scourge.

    "If we do not create an anti-nepotism ethic, both within society and in authority, no law will stop it," Yiannakis Agapiou, of main opposition party AKEL, said during the debate of a relevant bill at yesterday afternoon's House of Representatives plenary session. The bill was approved unanimously.

    The new law makes it illegal for any unauthorised person to intervene in the appointment or promotion of any person to any post within the civil service or semi-governmental organisations. It provides for up to 12 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £2,000, or both, for those found guilty of practicing nepotism.

    Marcos Kyprianou, of opposition party DIKO, said the new law would at least make it easier for politicians to say no to those seeking favours. "It provides a convincing answer to those who say to us: 'well, if you wanted to help, you could'. It allows us to respond: 'Sir, you are asking me to break the law'," Kyprianou said.

    Androula Vassiliou, of junior government coalition partners the United Democrats, spoke of the need to teach the values of meritocracy to the young. "We must cultivate in small children the idea that they must rely on their own strength alone," she said.

    Nepotism is widely acknowledged to be rife within governmental and semi- governmental sectors.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Pittokopitis admits to exceeding overdraft (by £63,000), 'but who doesn't?'

    By Melina Demetriou BREAKING his silence over claims of irregularities in a Paphos co-operative bank whose committee he chairs, DIKO deputy Nicos Pittokopitis yesterday admitted to exceeding his overdraft limit by £63,000, but insisted that he had done nothing wrong.

    But the Chairman of the House Watchdog Committee was not impressed: Christos Pourgourides called on his colleague to apologise for his mistake, and said the matter would be discussed at the Committee.

    The issue emerged after a report drafted by the director of the co- operative movement's audit service was leaked to the press.

    The report said that accounts belonging to members of the Paphos Hellenic Co-operative council showed overdrafts in excess of £93,000.

    The deputy had remained lip-tight over the allegations until yesterday, when he called a news conference at the House to clear the air.

    Pittokopitis admitted that he had taken out a loan of £93,000 from the bank he chaired, breaking his overdraft limit of £30,000.

    "I took out this loan last October and I had until December 30 to pay it out. But I paid all the money back by December 1. I invested that amount in the CSE but not on private placement," he stressed.

    The audit service's report said there were disciplinary responsibilities concerning the matter, which needed to be investigated.

    Members of the co-op council had purchased shares worth thousands of pounds without any security, the audit found.

    But Pittokopitis insisted on his innocence: " Private and co-operative banks allow their customers to exceed their overdraft limits all the time. In my case, the loan payment was guaranteed. What I did was not a secret. At the end of the day, the Bank's activities are monitored by the audit service and by the Co-operative Movement's office."

    The deputy admitted that what he had done constituted a breach of etiquette, but "80 per cent of account holders do this once in a while," he said.

    Pittokopitis blamed political opponents for orchestrating the leak in an attempt to cast doubt on his honour and dignity ahead of the May parliamentary elections.

    "These people are jealous of my contribution to this country. This sort of things always happen in pre- election periods," he charged.

    But Pittokopitis also blamed the audit service for allowing the leaking of the report before submitting it to the House for review.

    "I've chaired this bank for the last 18 years. That was the first time in my life I went into overdraft. I never gave anyone the right to question my honour and my credibility. Let the people judge me," he concluded.

    However, Christos Pourgourides, the DISY chairman of the House Watchdog Committee did not let his colleague off the hook.

    "If you look in the mirror and see an ugly face, you're not supposed to break the mirror," Pourgourides said.

    He described Pittokopitis' statements as big words and called on him to apologise for his mistake, adding that the matter would be discussed by his Committee.

    The DISY deputy also blamed the Ministry of Commerce for having allowed such illegalities to occur.

    When asked about the matter, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, who supervises the Co-operative Movement's operation, said he hadn't been briefed about it yet.

    "I've just received the audit report an hour ago," he told reporters at the House yesterday morning.

    "Inspections are carried out routinely, but it is impossible to keep an eye on all 350 co-operative banks 24 hours a day," the minister said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Central Bank: 'no comment' on Milosevic gold claim

    By Jean Christou THE CENTRAL Bank said yesterday it had no information relating to reports that money from the sale of gold by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had ended up in Cyprus.

    "The Central Bank does not have enough information to comment on these reports," a spokesman told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Reports from Yugoslavia on Wednesday said Serbian prosecutors had asked police to look into press allegations that Milosevic had sold state gold abroad and laundered the proceeds through bank accounts in Greece and Cyprus.

    According to the reports, Milosevic allegedly sent 173 kilos of gold worth $1.08 million to Switzerland between September and November last year and transferred the money abroad.

    The gold allegations are a new headache for the Central Bank, which has consistently denied any Milosevic links with bank accounts in Cyprus.

    In January, the Attorney-general gave the go-ahead for the Central Bank to hand over the accounts of seven Yugoslav offshore companies to Carla del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

    Last October, the Cabinet froze the accounts of 12 such companies operating in Cyprus over possible links with Milosevic.

    Del Ponte paid a brief visit to the island at the beginning of October last year as part of a tour of countries in the region to gather information about 38 associates of Milosevic.

    When she visited the island requesting the information, the government immediately complied by freezing the accounts.

    Rumours that Milosevic channelled $100 million in funds through various countries including Cyprus have abounded for years, but the government and Central Bank have consistently denied the island was involved.

    But in December, the new governor of the Yugoslav Central Bank claimed that US investigators had traced $1 billion transferred from Belgrade to Cyprus.

    In May last year, the Central Bank revoked the licence of Beogradska Bank, Serbia's largest bank, and the oldest offshore banking unit on the island. The move was made after citing insolvency.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Gay convict in church trial given pardon

    By a Staff Reporter COSTAS Savva -- one of two men jailed last month for conspiring to defame Limassol Bishop Athanasios -- yesterday walked free from the Nicosia central prisons after serving less than a month of a three- month sentence.

    Savva, who is HIV-positive, was released after receiving a presidential pardon on compassionate grounds. He told reporters his medical condition had made him an outcast during his time behind bars.

    Savva had confessed to lying before last year's church probe into claims that Athanasios was gay and was jailed early last month along with fellow false witness Manolis Ilia. Both Savva and Ilia apparently told a Church investigative committee they had had sex with Athanasios. They both later claimed they had been bribed to make the claims by two Limassol archimandrites.

    The two archimandrites and a third layman are still on trial for allegedly defaming Athanasios.

    After months of lurid claims, the popular Limassol Bishop was cleared of the gay claims by a Major Holy Synod, which convened in Nicosia last November. Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos has recently resurrected claims that his Limassol counterpart is homosexual.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Klerides backs privatisation of CSE

    By Martin Hellicar GREEK trouble-shooters called in by the state to sort out the ailing Cyprus Stock Market (CSE) have recommended it be privatised, with the government as main shareholder, at least initially.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides yesterday gave clear signs of state backing for these recommendations, saying implementation of the Greek experts' ideas was "what mattered".

    The CSE index has shed some 700 points over the past year, amounting to some £6 billion in cash terms. Faced with droves of increasingly miserable and angry investors, the government has been keenly seeking ways to resurrect the market.

    One of these initiatives was to call in a team of Greek experts, headed by Dr Demetris Tsimbanoulis. At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Tsimbanoulis, flanked by Klerides, presented the findings of his team's draft 600-page report into the CSE and its watchdog body, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

    The main recommendation for reviving the market was to privatise it.

    "The CSE must, step-by-step, become a company - so it can compete internationally," Tsimbanoulis said.

    "The aim is to improve competitiveness so that the CSE becomes a company that can compete with other markets; a company with multi-part management including the Central Bank, the CSE board, investment companies, institutional investors and small investors. It would be up to parliament to decide who was involved," the expert said.

    He said the state would have, at least at first, the biggest holding in a privatised CSE and would also act as watchdog.

    "The government must still act as referee but the CSE must function on its own, under the SEC and the Finance Minister," Tsimbanoulis said.

    Klerides backed this and other recommendations from the experts.

    "What matters is the implementation of the suggestions of the study, so we will set up a special team made up of SEC, CSE and Finance Ministry representatives to implement these suggestions," he said.

    Privatisation of the CSE is unlikely to come any time soon, with Tsiopanoulis saying it would take two years to implement his team's ideas "even if things move very fast".

    The bulky report also suggests a "special section" be created in the bourse for trading in shares from neighbouring and Mediterranean countries, to attract foreign investment capitol.

    "This should be seen as a challenge for Cyprus to take advantage of her geographical position," Tsimbanoulis said.

    A FTSE 20 index - covering the 20 best-traded shares - was recently introduced on the CSE. The report recommends the introduction of a second separate index to cover the next 40 best-traded shares, covering the "middle range" of companies.

    Parliament has already introduced a number of law changes aimed at boosting the market, but with little effect.

    Last month, the government proposed the creation of a £100 million stabilisation fund to help shore up the bourse. The rescue effort appears destined to be scuppered by rejection from all opposition parties.

    Striking a positive note, Tsimbanoulis said he was "optimistic" about the market's future. "The market has problems but is not on its death bed," he said.

    He said the market had slumped because its structure could not handle the vast number of companies that rushed to list when it was riding high 18 months ago.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] CSE all-share index gains by 1.26%

    By Jean Christou INVESTORS were given a small respite yesterday as the all- share index managed to clock up minor gains of 1.26 per cent.

    Although trading opened on a pessimistic note, a rush to buy blue chips, mainly banking stocks, pushed the index up to close at 197.7 points.

    Volume remained low at £8.6 million, as 65 companies recorded gains compared to 63, which sustained losses, and 84, which remained unchanged.

    The two sub-sectors which gained most, were the FTSE/CySE top 20 and banking, which added 2.04 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

    Banking stocks were hammered on Wednesday after Bank of Cyprus (BoC) announced its annual results, which investors saw as disappointing.

    But by yesterday, some investors at least were showing an interest in attractively priced shares in the two main banks.

    BoC added five cents to close at £2.74, while Laiki notched up seven cents to £2.21 and Hellenic Bank added three cents to close at £1.20.

    Trading in BoC and Laiki, which topped the day's most-active list, accounted for nearly one quarter of total volume.

    "The banks did quite well today considering," said Nicosia broker Demos Stavrides.

    "They started low but there was a surge of interest during the session and also near the end."

    Other gainers included GlobalSoft, which added five cents to £3.25, and Sharelink, which also ended five cents higher at 82 cents.

    Stavrides said traders were hoping that yesterday's gains might signal the start of stabilisation on the market in or around the 200-point mark.

    "What we have to do now is try and regain the confidence of the investors," he added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [10] Latest batch of illegal immigrants came through the north

    By Jean Christou THE BRITISH bases yesterday remanded 26 illegal immigrants for seven days, while the Larnaca court held over another three from the same group for eight days.

    The Sovereign Base Area (SBA) court heard that the illegal immigrants, believed to be Iraqi Kurds, were arrested on Wednesday and had entered Cyprus through the occupied areas.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need confirmed the remand and said the St George centre in Dhekelia had been temporarily delegated as a prison to house the illegals.

    Only 16 of the 26 immigrants were carrying Iraqi identity cards. None had passports.

    The Larnaca court heard yesterday that the immigrants had paid $700 dollars each to the captain of the ship, which dropped them on the island.

    The bases said on Wednesday that the immigrants had left Iraq nine days ago. They were put in a container and taken to an unknown destination where they were loaded on a boat, which they say was manned by two people, and promised they would be taken to Greece.

    The immigrants were then dumped in the sea off Cyprus and said they came ashore, walking for four or five hours before finally being arrested.

    Only three days ago, the bases sentenced another 15 suspected illegal immigrants to two-month imprisonment for illegal entry.

    Both the bases and the Cyprus Republic have been plagued with immigrant landings in recent years.

    Cyprus has agreements with Lebanon and Syria for the immediate return of immigrants who arrive on the island, but the bases does not. Authorities have come down hard on suspected immigrant vessels within the island's territorial waters and only four days ago intercepted and turned away a boat load of men believed to be Iraqis.

    Reports have suggested that the word had spread throughout the Middle East that the British bases are the place to land for illegals hoping for a fast- track to the UK.

    Need denied the reports, which he said wrongly quoted him as saying the bases were a good place to come if immigrants expected to end up in Britain.

    "No, the bases are not a good place to come," he told the Cyprus Mail. "There is not any precedent of any immigrant getting into the UK from the bases. The bases are a very bad place to come to if you are an immigrant (hoping to get into the UK)."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [11] New delays in desalination project

    By Jennie Matthew ISRAELI contractors working to upgrade the Larnaca desalination plant are on track to forfeit their £1.4 million bonus, as further delays jeopardise the chance of water being pumped by Easter.

    A catalogue of delays has set the plant back from mid-December, to mid- January, to the end of February, and now to March 15.

    But the Agriculture Ministry yesterday doubted that the latest target date would be met.

    "Experience shows we shouldn't be confident," senior water engineer Nicos Tsiourtis told the Cyprus Mail.

    Engineers are currently carrying out the final countdown to check that all components are working.

    The repeated delays have been blamed on the continuous discovery of more parts that need to be checked.

    The contractors were offered a £1.4 million carrot to get water pumping by December 16.

    For every delay since then, they forfeit larger portions of the bonus money.

    If the £20 million project is still not finished by April 16, they lose all the extra cash.

    The Larnaca plant is being upgraded to pump out 52,000 cubic metres of water a day, from an earlier plan for a 40,000 maximum output in order to end water rationing.

    President Glafcos Clerides last month announced a nationwide end to water cuts, despite the fact that the Larnaca project was still unfinished.

    The decision was made ahead of schedule, thanks to the first wet autumn and winter in six years.

    Winter rains have boosted water levels in dams to 16.4 per cent of capacity, compared to 12 per cent at the same time last year.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [12] Kiosk suspect held after Nicosia car chase

    By George Psyllides AFTER AN early morning chase in the streets of Nicosia yesterday, police detained a 23-year-old man sought in connection with the attempted armed robbery of a Limassol kiosk 10 days ago, and a 22-year-old suspected of car theft and numerous burglaries.

    David Theodorides, a Greek from Georgia, and Oleg Abdullaiev from Chechnya were headed to Nicosia shortly after midnight when they were stopped by police near Latsia for a routine check.

    The two men had no documents on them and were asked to follow the officers to Lycavitos police station to confirm their identity.

    But instead they sped off in an effort to elude the police.

    Their car was eventually intercepted on Evagoras Palikarides Street in Strovolos, but the suspects abandoned it and tried to escape on foot.

    Theodorides was picked up shortly afterwards while Abdullaiev was arrested at around 4.30am.

    Theodorides was yesterday remanded in custody for seven days in connection with the Papagalos kiosk attempted armed robbery.

    On Wednesday the Limassol district court renewed the eight-day remand order of three other Pontian men held for the same case.

    The court heard that three hooded men armed with a G-3 army issue assault rifle tried to rob the kiosk, but were chased away by its owner Lucas Papademetriou.

    Two of the suspects were arrested while trying to escape after crashing their car into the traffic lights.

    The third man, who was armed, escaped through the nearby fields.

    Police said Theodorides had admitted yesterday that he was the gunman, while naming the other three as taking part in the failed robbery.

    Theodorides allegedly told police that he hid the rifle somewhere in the Episkopi Sovereign Base Area.

    The three suspects deny having anything to do with the robbery.

    Abdullaiev was remanded in custody for eight days suspected of car theft and 28 burglaries in Larnaca, fetching £40,000.

    Police found that the car the suspects were driving had been reported stolen from Larnaca and that the registration plates had been faked.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [13] Private carries get go-ahead for scheduled flights

    By a Staff Reporter THREE private air carriers were yesterday, for the first time ever, given the right to offer scheduled flights in and out of Cyprus from 22 less popular destinations, including Moscow, Dublin, Prague and Rhodes.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou yesterday informed private carriers Helios, Aerotrans and Eurocypria - the charter subsidiary of the island's national carrier - of a cabinet decision, taken on Wednesday, to allow them to offer flights out of Paphos and Larnaca airports.

    Neophytou said the measure was a "first step" towards full liberalisation of the air transport sector early next year.

    "This is a significant step forward because it is the first time since the Republic was founded that a private company is getting a license to schedule flights from Cyprus. Thus far, such licenses were only granted for chartered flights," Neophytou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [14] Police under fire for use of handcuffs

    By Melina Demetriou THE POLICE came under fire from the House Human Rights Committee yesterday, over alleged mistreatment of suspects.

    The committee convened to discuss cases of policemen handcuffing suspects in minor offences.

    A 1999 circular from the Attorney-general called the police to handcuff suspects only in two cases: when they were suspected of serious crimes and when there was a reason to believe they could escape.

    The committee charged that the police routinely handcuffed suspects who didn't fall in either of those categories.

    Yiannakis Thoma of Akel reported a case where police had allegedly mistreated two youngsters arrested in connection with a hooligan incident following a basketball match between APOEL and AEL two weeks ago.

    "We received a complain that police had handcuffed the teenagers and then hit their heads against the ground. The two suspects later asked to see a doctor while in police custody, but were not taken to hospital until the day after," he said.

    Thoma said his party had checked the facts and sent a letter to Attorney- general Alecos Markides.

    Markides, who was present at the yesterday's meeting, said he had not received the letter yet, and that he would look into the matter.

    The committee was shown a video of two young suspects being taken to court handcuffed.

    "These 17-year-olds were suspected of causing a violent incident. Why did the police have to treat them this way?" asked Committee Chairman Yiannakis Agapiou of AKEL.

    "I saw with my own eyes a 25-year-old lawyer being immobilised by five policemen in Limassol Police Station. They treated him like he was a murderer. The duty officer who was there told me: 'If he had done that to me I would have killed him'.

    "It later turned out that the man had been illegally arrested and held. The Police Chief apologised to me for this. I thing the police should start watching their manners if we want to join the EU and enjoy the same rights as the Europeans do," Agapiou argued.

    "We are determinate to put an end to this inhuman treatment that undermines the dignity of suspects," he added.

    Senior Police officer Nathanael Papageorgiou promised the police would arrange seminars to remind its employees of the provisions.

    "But how can we always know whether there is a chance of someone escaping?" he asked.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [15] £90,000 redundancy package not enough, say sacked forestry workers

    By Jennie Matthew WORKERS at the Cyprus Forestry Industries (CFI) have gone on strike to protest against a £3.6 million redundancy package for 40 colleagues laid off yesterday.

    The listed company offered the package to 40 sacked technicians after being forced to close two sections of the three-site company due to a lack of wood supplies.

    Falling local wood supplies and increased imports have suffocated productivity at the CFI and the dismissed workers have had next to no work to do for nearly a year.

    The company is worth £11.96 million on the stock market. The government owns 51 per cent of shares, while 800 private shareholders own the rest.

    "If we hadn't made these redundancies, then the whole company might collapse. They made a lot of efforts to absorb as many workers as possible, cutting down the number who actually lost their jobs," Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    The redundancies had been under review for over three years, he added.

    But the PEO union claimed the redundancies had come as a "surprise".

    The technical workers have been employed at the plant for between five and 25 years, on an average salary of £9,600 per annum.

    Those left jobless are being offered a £90,000 payout each -- nearly ten times their annual salary.

    But the sacked workers yesterday went into work regardless and attended a two-and-a-half hour meeting with trade union officials and CFI chairman Costas Zachariades to negotiate a better deal.

    The 150 workers who have kept their jobs are striking alongside their redundant colleagues.

    "They have been trying to squeeze more out of us at constant meetings over the last three days. As far as the company is concerned, our decision is final. There is pressure for us to raise the sums, but I don't really think we will," Zachariades told the Mail.

    "We shall look afresh at their demands, but we won't give more money," said Rolandis.

    But the unions are adamant that they will secure a better deal.

    "It's more than the money. The sackings were too sudden. The workers are very angry and so they went on strike. Some people have been working there for 20 to 30 years. We're worried about the job security of the people who are staying," said PEO secretary general Michalis Papanicolaou.

    "They want more everything. What we offered was made out of the kindness of our heart," said Zachariades.

    The five-figure sum is a combination, he says, of a "generous gift", government redundancy money and the employees' provident fund.

    The government said the payout was higher than usual, because the provident fund had made money on the stock exchange.

    The board took the redundancy decision three days ago.

    "We informed the Ministry of Labour immediately and the redundancies are effective as of now," Zachariades said.

    Raw material supplies have run out. The chairman said restocking forests had been considered, but said there was not enough land or water to make the project feasible, adding that replanted trees would take years before the wood would be ready for the factory.

    The axed wing of the business at Kokkinotrimithia amounts to 15 per cent of company turnover, and nearly a fifth of total staff.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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