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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-09-22

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

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


Saturday, September 22, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Markides slams 'slanderous' Bin Laden claims
  • [02] New airport security measures introduced
  • [03] 'Officials tried to cover up holes in uniforms'
  • [04] Air rage grounds CY plane
  • [05] Alpha Bank presents Olympic sponsorship package
  • [06] Leave your car at home today
  • [07] Two held after Larnaca stabbing
  • [08] Corporate tax issue delaying broader fiscal reform
  • [09] TV viewing soared on day of terror strikes

  • [01] Markides slams 'slanderous' Bin Laden claims

    By Elias Hazou

    ATTORNEY-general Alecos Markides yesterday categorically denied " slanderous"allegations that Cyprus could in any way be tied to Osama bin Laden's financial activities.

    The statements came as a response to comments made by former CIA director James Wolsey, who said that, as the world's " worst"tax haven, Cyprus should be barred from the EU until it handed over information on Bin Laden's financial dealings on the island. Reaction by the Cyprus Foreign Ministry was swift, calling on Wolsey to make a corrective statement, while a US embassy spokesman said Wolsey's personal opinion did not represent the policies of the US government.

    Amid the uproar created by Wolsey's comments, which appeared in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica , Markides proposed yesterday that a central government agency be set up charged with monitoring the world press.

    Ruling DISY party chairman Nicos Anastassiades yesterday suggested vested interests may be behind such claims, and described Wolsey as " just a pensioner, and I will stop there, because I do not wish to become uncivil."

    For his part, Markides said it was time to " set the record straight" .

    " Realistically speaking, all countries with advanced economies run the risk of having money laundered through their banking system. Just consider this: US government reports have shown that the United States itself is a 'high-risk' money-laundering venue.

    " It is true that the island's flourishing offshore sector is a prime target for persons trying to launder money generated from illegal or criminal activities.

    " But,"Markides went on, " the real question is: what does each country actually do to prevent that from happening? As far as Cyprus is concerned, we have received excellent ratings from international organisations regarding counter-money laundering measures."

    He was referring to the all-clear given to Cyprus by a G8 task force, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for European Co- operation and Development (OECD).

    Cyprus was fully co-operating with foreign law enforcement authorities in investigating and brining to justice persons involved in money laundering, Markides said.

    In fact, Markides yesterday revealed that, on his initiative, an investigation had been launched back in April 2000 to establish whether the Bin Laden money trail led to Cyprus. The ongoing investigation, carried out by KYP (the Cyprus intelligence service), has turned up no evidence of a link between the Saudi dissident blamed for last week's devastating terrorist attacks and Cyprus, according to the Attorney-general. " This man (Bin Laden) has nothing whatsoever to do with Cyprus."

    He added that Bin Laden had been placed on the Cyprus stop list two years ago.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] New airport security measures introduced

    By Elias Hazou

    LOCAL airport security officials yesterday announced a string of measures in the wake of heightened security concerns by airlines around the world following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

    Larnaca airport's Security Committee, chaired by Andreas Soshilos, the airport's director, convened yesterday to discuss ways of responding to demands by airlines flying to Cyprus.

    Prior to boarding, passengers will now need to fill in a boarding card in addition to displaying their passport. The names are then run through the computer and all passports will be stamped.

    had in the past adopted a policy of not stamping passports in line with the EU Schengen Pact but this has been reviewed in the light of recent events," Communications and Works Minister Averoff Neophytou said yesterday.

    Witnesses said new screening devices had already been installed at both airports, which together handle some four million people every year.

    Hundreds of everyday items, from tweezers to nail clippers, had been confiscated to meet new airline security regulations, they said.

    arriving from Middle Eastern and Gulf area countries in transit to European destinations will moreover need to undergo baggage checks and identification before catching their connection, instead of simply waiting for their flight in the waiting rooms.

    According to reports, the tightened security has already served to frustrate even airport staff, who have complained of being submitted to endless checks each day.

    Very few cars will be allowed entry, and will be checked twice. The airport's management is also considering reinforcing the inner zone's perimeter.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neofytou said on Thursday that authorities would carry out strict checks on anyone using the island's two airports, and that this included officials, so far exempted from such controls.

    Airport sources said that so far no flights to Larnaca from airports in Europe or the Mediterranean had been cancelled.

    officials declined to confirm a newspaper report that certain air corridors over Cyprus had been closed to private light aircraft traffic.

    Philelephtherossaid the Nicosia flight information region had been congested in recent days from American military aircraft heading towards the Gulf.

    The airspace was "very crowded", a civil aviation official told the newspaper.

    The Nicosia flight information region covers a large expanse of airspace in the eastern Mediterranean.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] 'Officials tried to cover up holes in uniforms'

    By George Psyllides

    MEMBERS OF THE House Defence committee have called into question the role played by government officials after they apparently failed to inform deputies about a large quantity of defective camouflage fabric they had received for the manufacture of National Guard uniforms.

    In a closed meeting on Thursday, officials called on the committee to approve funds required for making the uniforms, but apparently failed to inform deputies about the defective material which had been received.

    According to House sources, the material was full of small holes, visible with the naked eye, which affect the fabric's specified endurance.

    More disturbing, however, is the fact that this was not the first time this had happened.

    The Cyprus Mailhas learned that the Auditor-general had already censured officials involved in the tenders' procedure - purchasing, quality checks, receiving goods, etc. - for turning a blind eye to an earlier batch of defective uniform material, which has already been made into uniforms and issued to conscripts.

    The Auditor-general wrote a letter to all those responsible for the receipt of the fabric, with severe warnings to stop receiving the flawed material.

    However, the practice was not halted, and thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money have now apparently been wasted on even larger supplies of substandard fabric that were ordered in spite of the Auditor-general's warnings.

    Incensed parliamentary sources told the Cyprus Mailit was obvious that government officials had tried to conceal the issue from deputies.

    Apparently, when asked by deputies, the officials replied the fabric was fine and in accordance with specifications.

    But deputies who had found out about the problem from other sources pressed hard, and, in the end, the Director of the State Warehouse, who drew most of the fire, admitted that there had indeed been a batch of defective material.

    On top of that, the committee heard that the colour used in the fabric ran when it was washed.

    The House source said the defence committee was now dealing with two problems: whether officials deliberately tried to cover up the issue and why the defective material was received in the first place.

    " Is it ever possible to accept uniforms with holes in them, and why did they hide the issue?"the source said.

    " There is a serious issue of concealing information from the House,"he added.

    A second House source said: " The same people who are paid by the government to protect against such irregularities tried to coax the committee into approving the funds."

    The Director of the State Warehouse, Andreas Christou, yesterday denied any responsibility in the affair, arguing it was the job of other committees to check the quality of the material.

    Christou told the Cyprus Mailthat the final decision had been made by the Central Committee of Returns and Claims after a secondary committee suggested to go ahead and receive the material.

    " We had nothing to do with it since the decision was taken by others, "Christou said.

    But one of the House sources said the Returns and Claims Committee was only responsible for making claims when the received material was found to be substandard.

    " The purchases are conducted by the State Warehouse and there are committees responsible for examining the quality,"the source said.

    The defence committee has expressed its determination to get to the bottom of the matter. It is understood to have demanded all the relevant details concerning the importer of the fabric, including a full list of shareholders. Officials on Thursday claimed they did not know who the importer was.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Air rage grounds CY plane

    A CYPRUS Airways (CY) plane on a flight from Moscow to Larnaca was forced to land at the Macedonia airport in Salonica on Thursday evening after three drunk Russian passengers caused trouble.

    The three passengers, two men and a woman, were arrested and were expected to appear before a court in Salonica yesterday.

    The three were identified as Julia Grigorieva, 37, Sergei Apikim, 32 and Alexander Surin, 30. The plane finally resumed its journey for Larnaca after a delay of about two and a half hours.

    It was the third time that such an incident has occurred on a CY flight from Moscow to Cyprus. In all of the previous incidents, the planes were also forced to land in Salonica.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Alpha Bank presents Olympic sponsorship package

    ALPHA Bank Group yesterday presented its sponsorship schemes for the 2004 Olympics, announcing the launching of a " major infotainment campaign"in Greece and Cyprus.

    The scheme, aimed at marketing the bank's sponsorship of the 2004 Games, to be staged in Athens, will involve the issuing of credit cards and the holding of exhibitions on some of the Games' less-known sports events.

    Leading the marketing campaign is the Athens 2004 Gold Visa Card, to be issued in a limited edition. A small percentage of the proceeds from use of the card will go to financing the Olympics. Cardholders will pay an annual fee of 40 with a premium interest rate of 8.75 per cent. In addition, a points system from purchases will allow cardholders to win Olympic Games gifts and paraphernalia. Other side benefits include free travel insurance. Applications for the card are available only at Alpha Bank branches. Initially, 4,000 cards will be issued in Cyprus.

    For the broader public, the group will initiate " Panorama" , a series of events exhibiting some of the lesser-known Olympic sports events, such as baseball and the trampoline. Three such sports fairs are scheduled to be held in Nicosia, Larnaca and Limassol. Visitors to the fairs will be able to meet with Greek star athletes and Olympic champions.

    Yiannis Costopoulos, chairman of the group, said yesterday an estimated 43 million would be generated from sponsorship. Alpha Bank is one of the four major sponsors of the 2004 Games.

    " This is a national effort,"Costopoulos said, " and I am confident that all Cypriots will contribute to this great undertaking."He added that some 5,000 Cypriots would be hired as volunteer workers for the Games in 2004.

    Responding to concerns over security at the Games, in light of the recent terrorist attacks in the United States, Costopoulos remarked that " we should not allow the fear of terrorism to get the better of us" .

    On the impact on the Greek and Cypriot banking sectors from last week's events, Costopoulos said that, while knock-on effects were expected, " in time we will return to normalcy" .

    Regarding Alpha Bank's activities in Cyprus, Costopoulos noted the group's operations would " expand"and that " a new approach, a new forward way of thinking, will be applied" . He did not elaborate.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Leave your car at home today

    CYPRIOT drivers are being called upon to leave their cars at home today to take part in World Car Free Day.

    Communications and Works Minister Averoff Neophytou and Environment Minister Costas Themistocleous, in association with the Mayors of Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos, will be closing off certain roads in each city from 8am until 2pm to decrease the amount of traffic in town.

    In Nicosia, Archbishop Makarios Avenue and the surrounding roads will be closed.

    The aim for the day is to prevent pollution caused by cars, persuade people to use the bus, bicycles or walk and to give the city centres back to the people.

    The French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet introduced World Car Free Day in 1999.

    A total of 990 countries in Europe, America and Asia will be participating in World Car Day today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Two held after Larnaca stabbing

    TWO men were yesterday remanded in custody for eight days in connection with the stabbing of two Larnaca men outside a bar in the Phinikoudes area.

    The condition of the two men injured during the 3.45am incident is said to be serious but not life threatening.

    Police said, 42-year-old Vasos Posnakides and Artemis Petrides, 38 - both Black Sea Greeks - were returning from a restaurant where they had eaten with Posnakides' wife and daughter.

    When they got to a bar on Evanthias Pieridou Street, Posnakides went in and bought a packet of cigarettes.

    Outside the bar was 25-year-old Vassos Constantinou, who allegedly swore at Posnakides' wife and daughter, prompting an angry exchange.

    Police said that at that point Petrides allegedly pulled a balisong or butterfly knife and injured Constantinou in the belly and side.

    Another man, Briton Garry Mahone, 20, was caught in the fray and stabbed in the stomach area.

    The two suspects fled, while a customer at the bar allegedly saw a Russian woman coming out of a narrow side street and getting rid of the knife.

    Police eventually arrested the suspects three hours later at 6.50am.

    They were recognised by the owner and a customer of the bar.

    The court heard that police were still looking for the blade allegedly used during the fight.

    When asked if had any objection to his remand, Posnakides asked the court why the men who allegedly insulted his wife and daughter had not been arrested and put on trial.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Corporate tax issue delaying broader fiscal reform

    By Melina Demetriou

    GOVERNMENT indecision on changes to corporate tax rates demanded by the EU by the end of the year is delaying the submission of a wider tax reform bill to the House.

    The House Finance Committee yesterday warned the government that the delay in tabling the tax reform package before Parliament could result in the expected proposal being voted on during the presidential election campaign kicking off at the beginning of next year.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides, who yesterday briefed the Committee about the government's thoughts on tax reforms, said that the tabling of the proposal had been stalled by pending decisions regarding corporate tax changes demanded by the EU for Cyprus to join the block.

    He said the government had yet to deal with the thorny issue of abolishing international business tax breaks in order to stay in Brussels' good books.

    The government wants to find a compromise that will serve both offshore companies and the island's accession ambitions.

    Offshore companies registered in Cyprus currently enjoy a 4.25 per cent corporate tax rate, compared to 20 or 25 per cent for local firms. The tax breaks have made the offshore sector one of the government's main sources of income, but both the EU and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are seeking an end to this preferential treatment for international businesses.

    The minister said there were different ways of getting in line with the EU directive.

    He said the government would tackle the matter together with Parliament before submitting a proposal to the EU by the end of December.

    After negotiation between Cyprus and the EU, the final form of the proposal will be decided so the House can go ahead and vote on it, he added.

    But Committee chairman Marcos Kyprianou of DIKO yesterday stressed that: " We don't want alternative scenarios and ideas thrown on the table. We need the ministry to submit a complete proposal to us so that we can position ourselves on it."

    Kyprianou, KISOS deputy Doros Theodorou and Stavros Evagorou of AKEL warned that if the government failed to submit the tax reform package to the House within the next two months then deputies would have to decide on it during the presidential election campaign. The 2003 election campaign, kicking off at the beginning of next year, is bound to influence parties' moves and attitudes.

    The minister said the tax reforms were aimed at a fairer and simpler tax system and referred to a number of provisions he said would be included in the package.

    He said taxpayers would be taxed " in a direct way"without having to fill a tax form in order to combat tax evasion, a measure that would also save the state a lot of money currently spent on bureaucratic procedures.

    The package would also include a provision abolishing tax on profits from exports, said the minister.

    Another provision would forbid companies belonging to the same group sponsoring each other by any means, including transferring products, profits and losses from one company to the other.

    Klerides said the tax-free ceiling had not been decided yet, pending discussion on social benefits for the low and average income groups.

    The tax-free threshold currently stands at 6,000 per year but could increase to 10,000.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] TV viewing soared on day of terror strikes

    EIGHT out of 10 Cypriots tuned into their televisions on the day the hijack- terrorist attacks took place in Washington and New York.

    Between 4pm and 9.29pm on September 11, AGB (Cyprus) Ltd, a television audience measurement company, recorded an increase of 37 per cent in television viewing around Cyprus. During these times, live coverage of the events in the United States was being aired on four of the island's television channels.

    AGB found that compared to the previous week's ratings, on the same day and at the same time, 43,400 more viewers tuned in nationwide. This means that a total of 162,510 viewers were watching the September 11 tragic events.

    Cyprus was not the only country with a dramatic increase in TV ratings last Tuesday. Italy saw a 51 per cent increase, Lebanon 45 per cent and Greece 36 per cent. Countries that missed out on the live coverage due to time differences also noted a drastic increase in their ratings when the events were being aired. Australia's ratings went up 73 per cent and the Philippines' by 52 per cent.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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