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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-28

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2001


  • [01] Central Bank knew about Serb cash, but insists nothing illegal took place
  • [02] 'World's oldest wreck' lying 200 miles off Cyprus
  • [03] Fresh loan claims against Pittokopitis
  • [04] Bomb goes off in school toilets
  • [05] EU says harmonisation not complete without action on Akamas:
  • [06] Cook appeal to Denktash to return to talks
  • [07] Foot-and-mouth measures extended
  • [08] Government criticised for failing to investigate Kapsos complaint
  • [09] Clampdown on illegal street collections
  • [10] Anguished veteran pleads for help

  • [01] Central Bank knew about Serb cash, but insists nothing illegal took place

    By George Psyllides NEW evidence emerged yesterday to confirm Cyprus had been used by Yugoslav officials for the transfer of millions of dollars from Belgrade, although the Central Bank insists there was nothing wrong with the practice.

    Alithia reported yesterday that, between 1995 and 1998, sackfulls of cash were flown from Yugoslavia to Cyprus, two to three times a week, and were received at the airport by Yugoslav nationals working at offshore banks, and high-ranking Popular Bank employees.

    Alithia said the information on the issue had been passed on to them by a police officer and a customs official who served at the airport during the period.

    The customs official said he had been present in numerous cases when the twice-weekly JAT flight from Belgrade arrived carrying sacks full of cash from Yugoslavia.

    The cash was then counted in the customs offices at the airport, before being handed over to Popular Bank employees.

    At some stage later on, writes Alithia, the bank even asked for permission to take a money counting machine on site.

    Counting was always carried out in the presence of customs officials.

    The police officer said that on several occasions he had escorted the money from the airport to a Popular Bank branch in Larnaca.

    All the officers escorting the money were armed with automatic weapons, the policeman said.

    But a Central Bank official yesterday assured the Cyprus Mail there had been nothing illegal going on.

    Andreas Philippou said the Central Bank knew about the transports of money, which he said were earmarked for meeting Yugoslavia's needs.

    He pointed out that the United Nations embargo against Yugoslavia was lifted in 1995 following the Dayton peace deal that ended the fighting in Bosnia, but Yugoslav officials chose to move the money this way because they were afraid that the United States and the European Union would re- impose sanctions on them.

    Philippou said he did not know who received the money and what happened to it after that.

    The new Yugoslav authorities have sought the government's assistance in tracing the millions of dollars it said were siphoned from the country through Cyprus by former president Slobodan Milosevic.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] 'World's oldest wreck' lying 200 miles off Cyprus

    By Jean Christou WHAT may be the oldest ever shipwreck has been discovered 200 miles off the coast of Cyprus by an American company searching for an Israeli submarine lost 31 years ago.

    While searching for a missing submarine in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1999, a group of leading deep-water explorers discovered the wreck, which has rested at the bottom of the ocean for more than 2000 years.

    The find had been kept secret for the past two years and the exact location has still not been revealed, but it is believed the ship, probably Greek, was on its way from Rhodes to Alexandria in Egypt carrying thousands of amphorae, the New York Times reported yesterday.

    Nauticos, the company that located the Israeli submarine, together with the American Institute of Nautical Archaeology, are looking for a corporate sponsor to pay for a return expedition and are also planning a documentary on the discovery, 10,000 feet underwater.

    Archaeologists say no Minoan ship has ever come to light, and if one did it would be the earliest known shipwreck. For them, the find is the Holy Grail of shipwrecks.

    The wreck site is around 65 feet long and contains an estimated 2,000 to 3, 000 amphorae. Most of the large clay jugs are between two and three feet long and date from the Hellenistic period.

    The Nauticos team also found four more ancient wrecks in the area and videotaped one of them.

    Sophocles Hadjisavvas, the Director of the Antiquities Department, said they had not been made aware of the find, but said it was likely the location was west of the island.

    "We can't exclude the possibility that the ship had sailed from Cyprus either," he added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Fresh loan claims against Pittokopitis

    By George Psyllides FRESH allegations emerged yesterday concerning apparent irregularities at a Paphos bank chaired by DIKO First Vice Chairman Nicos Pittokopitis.

    They were the latest in a string of alleged indiscretions involving the outspoken deputy.

    On Saturday, it emerged that Pittokopitis was one of five DIKO members who took out a loan for 25,000 from the Paphos Greek Co-operative Bank in 1994, and who had not paid a cent in repayment instalments since. Pittokopitis chairs the committee of the co-operative.

    The loan is now understood to stand at 39,000.

    Yesterday, Alithia reported that a second loan, this time with Pittokopitis as one of the guarantors, had been taken out in December 1996, but again no repayment instalments had been made to date.

    The loan was for 15,000 but yesterday it stood at 19,824, Alithia said.

    A member of the bank, who did not want to be named, confirmed the reports about two latest loans yesterday.

    When asked if Pittokopitis was involved in any other alleged irregularities, he would neither confirm nor deny.

    The source said the bank had repeatedly sent notices for the repayment and spoken to those involved in person, but to no avail.

    As to why no legal measures had been taken all this time, the source replied: "If you were in the committee (of the bank) would you go after yourself?"

    The allegations against Pittokopitis first emerged earlier this month when a report drafted by the co-operative movement's audit service was leaked to the press.

    The report said that Pittokopitis had exceeded his overdraft limit of 30, 000 by 93,000.

    DIKO's third ranking member admitted to borrowing 93,000 from the bank, but insisted he had repaid the loan before the deadline last December 30.

    But last Friday Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, whose ministry oversees the co-operative movement, revealed before the House Watchdog Committee that the cabinet was investigating allegations the money had not yet been paid back.

    On Friday the cabinet appointed a two-member committee to look into the bank's accounts.

    Pittokopitis, who has kept a low profile in recent days, countered that the timing of the revelations - two months before the elections -- indicated that those who leaked the reports were out to get him and hurt his party.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Bomb goes off in school toilets

    By a Staff Reporter A PIPE BOMB exploded in the toilets of a Limassol secondary school during lessons yesterday morning, spreading panic among students.

    No one was hurt by the 10am blast but both students and teachers at the Polemidhia gymnasium expressed fears about the safety of their school. They said things could have been much worse had the homemade device gone off a few minutes earlier, while students were changing classes.

    Bomb attacks on cars and businesses are not uncommon in Limassol, but an attack on a school during school hours is unheard of.

    "We were in class and we heard this almighty bang; we did not know what was going on," one student said.

    Students stopped lessons to protest against the attack while teachers held an emergency meeting and demanded that a 24-hour watch be placed on the school.

    Police cordoned off the blast site and carried out forensic tests. They said the device had been placed in a toilet bowl of the boy's toilets and had caused extensive structural damage.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] EU says harmonisation not complete without action on Akamas:

    By Jean Christou THE JOINT EU-Cyprus Parliamentary Committee (JPC) yesterday warned the government it could not close the chapter on the environment until it took steps to protect the Akamas peninsula.

    In a special resolution passed at its closing session in Limassol, the JPC said it "regarded the fate of the Akamas and the success of the efforts to ensure its conservation as an area of European environmental importance. being necessary in order to close the respective chapter of negotiations".

    The JPC said that, until then, the government should adopt the World Bank plan for the Akamas and should also suspend the procedures of examination and issue of planning permission for tourist and other large-scale developments in the coastal areas and tourist zones, "to the extent that such areas are included in the management plan of the World Bank".

    It also said the acquis communautaire should be adopted and applied with specific emphasis given to the Habitats Directive and the NATURA 2000 programmes, as well as adherence to the Berne Convention and the Rio Convention.

    The JPC wants the immediate establishment of a technical committee made up of representatives from government, NGOs, environmental movements, Akamas residents and the Technical Chamber, to examine the World Bank plan for its formulation and adoption by a permanent committee.

    The Akamas was earmarked for National Park status more than a decade ago. Since then, both the EU and the World Bank have come down in favour of preserving the area.

    The EU has already warned the government that it was "watching" Akamas developments with an eye on Cyprus's commitments to European conservation programs.

    But last year, the development lobby appeared to have won when the Cabinet announced a plan to sanction "mild and controlled" tourism development on the peninsula. The only areas to be spared were the already protected turtle-nesting beaches of Lara and Toxeftra and the Akamas state forest.

    The subsequent outcry, coupled with government experts' concerns about the workability of the cabinet plan, has contributed to the government's hesitation in wrapping up the Akamas issue.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Cook appeal to Denktash to return to talks

    By a Staff Reporter BRITISH Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has called on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to return to the UN sponsored proximity talks.

    Speaking at a meeting of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in North London on Monday night, Cook along with his Greek counterpart George Papandreou, said Denktash had two choices: either he could make history by working towards a just solution or history would pass him by.

    "Our objective is a single Cyprus, a united state with a single citizenship, a single security system," Cook said. "Cyprus should be one state which offers the same guarantees of human rights to all citizens with freedom of movement, access to the whole island."

    Cook said he regretted that Denktash had withdrawn from the talks but added there was no way that the UN and the international community could recognise the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus as an independent state.

    Cook also referred to the abduction from the British bases last December of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas who is facing drugs charges in the north

    Cook said Tsiakourmas' "kidnap" was "an affront to both Cyprus and Britain."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Foot-and-mouth measures extended

    By Noah Haglund PREVENTIVE measures against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease will be extended with the spread of the disease into mainland Europe, Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous said yesterday after meeting officials from his department yesterday.

    Additionally, the disinfection of shoes at the airport, which until now applied only to arrivals from the UK, will be extended to all incoming flights and will also be introduced at ports. Crates coming from infected countries will also henceforth be disinfected.

    The Minister has agreed with the unions that these measures will continue through today's civil service strike.

    He added that, fortunately for Cyprus, the foot-and-mouth virus did not like high temperatures, dry weather and strong sunlight. He also said that, according to UNFICYP, the measures being taken in the occupied areas were satisfactory.

    Four countries have now been hit with the latest outbreak of foot-and- mouth: Britain, France, the Netherlands and Ireland.

    Foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus and affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, swine, sheep, goats and deer. The disease is harmless to humans.

    In response to growing public fears over the safety of agricultural imports, the Green party has called for Cyprus' politicians and farmers to form a committee dedicated to informing the public about food safety.

    Green party spokesman George Perdikis described the committee, which was to meet for the first time yesterday afternoon, as a "permanent communication link between the representatives of the farmers and the politicians for the consumers' good."

    Recent outbreaks of Mad Cow disease (BSE) and Foot and Mouth disease, along with media reports on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have all contributed to consumer unease over food purchases.

    For the past several months, consumers in Cyprus have shown an increased weariness of imported meat and dairy products, opting instead for Greek and Cypriot alternatives, one hypermarket in Nicosia has reported.

    Perdikis charges that: "people do not fully understand the problem and they just get scared and stop buying things, which sometimes is not fair." Afterwards, he says, they return to their normal buying habits.

    "Panic is not a good advisor," he warned. "We have to promote legislation, we have to promote wise systems that will secure the consumers and not just avoid eating certain foods for a couple of days or weeks."

    As of yesterday afternoon, representatives from the Greens, DIKO and United Democrats (UD) had expressed interest in the committee, along with representatives of the farmers and agricultural lobbies. The Green party spokesman was hopeful that other parties will follow suit

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Government criticised for failing to investigate Kapsos complaint

    By a Staff Reporter OMBUDSWOMAN Eleana Nicolaou yesterday slammed the government for failing to investigate a disgraced ambassador's complaint that an Agriculture Ministry employee had threatened and insulted him.

    Nicolaou also found that another complaint about the same civil servant, again from suspended ambassador Charalambos Kapsos, had never been looked at at all.

    The complaint about the threats and insults was lodged in September 1999, a month after Kapsos was suspended from his position as ambassador to Cairo for alleged abuse of position. Kapsos is currently on trial for misappropriating state funds during his tenure in Egypt.

    In a report released yesterday, Nicolaou notes that it took the government three months to appoint someone to investigate Kapsos' complaint. Another five months then passed before the investigator took a statement form the accused Agriculture Ministry employee, the Ombudswoman stated. She described these delays as inexcusable.

    The Attorney-general's office eventually decided there were not sufficient grounds on which to prosecute the Ministry employee.

    The ombudswoman also found that Kapsos' complaint that the Agriculture Ministry employee had illegally imported a large quantity of pork into Egypt had never been probed by the government.

    Kapsos is alleged to have illegally imported large quantities of wine into Egypt for parties thrown at Cyprus' Cairo embassy.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] Clampdown on illegal street collections

    By a Staff Reporter EIGHT people have been arrested in a police clampdown on illegal street collections, four of them in Larnaca and the other four in Nicosia.

    One of the suspects was yesterday remanded for two days by the Larnaca District Court, while the other seven have been charged and released.

    Police said the first scam involved two women from Larnaca, aged 39 and 40, who were asking for money for charity in downtown Larnaca on Monday night. Police questioned the women and found they had no licence to collect money. The women named two Greek men, aged 27 and 45, as the organisers of the unlicensed street collection. The men were arrested later in the day.

    The two women and the 27-year-old man were later charged and released while the other man was held in police custody. He was yesterday brought up before court in Larnaca and remanded for two days.

    In Nicosia meanwhile, four women from Limassol were arrested for collecting money at the junction of Limassol and Aglandjia Avenues without a license, again on Monday. The four were charged in writing and later released.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [10] Anguished veteran pleads for help

    By a Staff Reporter A VETERAN who suffered multiple injuries in the 1974 invasion yesterday broke down outside the House of Representatives, pleading with the government to give him a job.

    Petros Louca, now in his late 50s, has had a string of operations since the war, and has not been able to work.

    Thirty members of the 'Pancyprian Organisation of Living Victims' have been unemployed since 1974, while 44 others work in government departments, but claim to be underemployed and underpaid.

    Government officials earlier this month admitted the state had failed to address the matter because of slow and bureaucratic procedures.

    "Give me a job to earn 400 a month. I have no dependants. I speak three languages. I am here today to fight for the rights of all war victims, for the rights of their families," Louca said, addressing DIKO deputy Stathis Kittis who happened to be outside the House at the time.

    "I don't want people to feel sorry for me. If I have nothing to eat the state provides me with nine vitamin capsules a day. I'm not complaining about that. But shouldn't we have a chance to work?" he asked.

    Louca suddenly broke into tears in front of reporters, television cameras and Kittis, who couldn't find the words to ease his pain.

    "I am so ashamed of what I am doing, of exposing myself in this way," he cried.

    In a charged atmosphere, Kittis threw the gauntlet to the government: "The House has heard that people not entitled to state allowances citizens are entitled to 'hunger-allowances'. But unfortunately the legislative body does not have the power to impose decisions on budget matters. It's entirely up to the government to fix this problem."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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