|Friday, 4 December 2020|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-12-13
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Thursday, December 13, 2001
 Local firm could face court after seizure of contraband cigarettesBy Jennie Matthew
GREEK crime fighters could haul C.T. TOBACCO into court over one of the biggest seizures of contraband cigarettes in Europe, according to the Finance Ministry in Athens.
The company, owned by Christoforos Tornaritis, was listed alongside two other Cypriot companies, for suspected connection with a huge smuggling ring in Greece, Cyprus, the Balkans and Western Europe, responsible for handling more than 50 million packets of cigarettes this autumn.
Greek authorities said earlier this month they had impounded more than 18 million packets of cigarettes at Salonica port.
The consignment had been stored in warehouses 24 and 26 by C.T Tobacco and Greek company Macotrans Trading Ltd.
Another 10 international smugglers are also under investigation.
Although Tornaritis admits to storing the cigarettes in conjunction with Macotrans (to maximise security), he flatly denied any criminal activity.
Belittling the accusations as "fantastical" he called the Greek authorities "frivolous" and "arbitrary".
C.T. Tobacco claims Macotrans told them on December 7 that the Greek checks had found nothing, before being subjected to an "unprecedented" attack from the Greek Finance Ministry, accusing them of smuggling.
"This claim is totally unfounded because our company always operates within the framework of legality. Where in the world is legal merchandise impounded or confiscated and to what extent can EU legislation permit this?" said the statement.
A spokesman for the Greek Finance Ministry retorted that Tornaritis can save his explanations for Greek justice, when he is "soon be called to testify".
According to Greek newspaper Politis , the Greek government will confiscate the 18 million cigarettes within days, to collect part of the tax from 158 loads placed in warehouses without paying duty.
The discovery coincides with the publication of a new book, written by a senior member of the Italian government, which calls Cyprus a centre for contraband cigarettes. The author -- Italian deputy interior minister and former judge Alfredo Mantovano -- says Cyprus should be barred from the European Union until it mends its ways.
Miliardi in fumo(Millions Up In Smoke) devotes an entire chapter to Cyprus, packed with evidence to support allegations about the island's guilt over cigarette smuggling.
According to Politis, the revelations prompted Cypriot ambassador to Rome, Alexandros Zenon, to send a top-secret communiqué to Nicosia demanding an explanation.
The message includes a complete analysis to of Mantovano's thesis to Finance Minister Takis Klerides and Attorney general Alecos Markides.
A report drawn up by an ad hoc Italian parliamentary committee meeting on May 5, named Cyprus as a centre for contraband cigarettes.
So has a British parliamentary report and earlier this year, a Dutch Euro MP refused to vote for the Poos report because of the island's record on cigarette smuggling.
Italian sources, quoted as "reliable" by Politis , say phenomenal amounts of money are wired from Apoulia, the Italian region opposite Albania, to Cypriot bank accounts.
Italian sources claim that is the place most contraband cigarettes passing through Cyprus end up and that there is no other legitimate financial activity linked to Cyprus to justify the cash transfers.
The source was surprised at unwillingness from some Cypriot state services to help in investigations, adding that Italian financial crime busters are trying to identify who the beneficiaries of the accounts are.
Smuggling is expected to top the agenda during a prospective visit of Italian Interior Minister Claudios Skazzola to Cyprus.
Rome now considers an Italian-Cypriot corporation protocol on illegal activities, dating from 1990, out of date.
Due to be re-signed during the visit, Rome wants the focus to shift to cigarette smuggling, illegal immigrants and the island's status as a tax haven.
Information requested by Markides last August about Tornaritis, has already been sent from Athens to Nicosia.
The Finance Ministry has denied any knowledge of the latest reports to accuse C.T Tobacco of cigarette smuggling.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 CY adopts a moufflonBy Jean Christou
CYPRUS Airways (CY) is one of the first companies to 'adopt' an animal from Limassol zoo under a scheme to raise money to improve the welfare of its occupants.
" We adopted a moufflon, which has been the symbol of Cyprus Airways since the 1960s,"said CY spokesman Tassos Angelis. " It is with us and it's a sign which has not been changed throughout all these years. We want to give the message of commitment towards our traditions and our country and at the same time assist the endeavour to help the zoo and the welfare of the animals there."
Limassol municipality announced in June that it would launch an 'adoption' scheme to help finance the ailing zoo, which receives a negligible amount in state help.
Under the scheme, 'foster parents' can be anything from individuals to families, school classes, clubs, foundations and companies. Adoption is for one year, with the fees corresponding to the cost of feeding and maintaining the animal. In return, foster parents are given a photograph of their 'pet', a sticker and one year's free entrance to the zoo.
Fees start at £30 per year for smaller animals, such as canaries, hamsters and rabbits, going up to a hefty £1,500 for lions, bears and tigers. 'Parents' are also issued an adoption certificate.
But so far only three companies have come forward to adopt an animal - CY, the Limassol Co-op and Virardi Enterprises. The Co-op shelled out £1,000 for a leopard and Virardi, like CY, opted for a moufflon at £600.
" A lot more companies should be interested in this effort,"Angelis said adding that it was a wonderful idea. " We strongly support this endeavour, "he added.
Zoo vet Lambros Lambrou told the Cyprus Mailyesterday that they had had enquiries not only from companies but also from individuals. " After Christmas we will organise a campaign in schools and also in hotels,"he said, adding that many companies had asked the zoo to wait for the New Year, when they would be organising their budgets for 2002.
" People are interested and they want to help,"he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Mayoral battle turns nasty as opposition trains big guns on ZampelasBy George Psyllides
WITH time running out ahead of Sunday's municipal elections, the battle for Nicosia, which has taken quasi presidential proportions, was yesterday rocked by ferocious attacks against independent candidate Michalakis Zampelas, found by a recent poll to lead official opposition candidate Kypros Chrysostomides by seven per cent.
The attacks against Zampelas indicate a clear shift in the strategy of the three parties supporting Chrysostomides, which are now trying to convince voters that Zampelas is not independent and that a vote for him is a vote for ruling DISY.
AKEL Secretary-general Demetris Christofias said that, no matter how hard he tried to deny it, Zampelas was DISY's choice.
Christofias claimed Zampelas was handing out money with the sole purpose of winning votes.
He added that, should Zampelas win, DISY would be celebrating, and urged AKEL followers to honour their party and vote for Chrysostomides.
KISOS Chairman Yiannakis Omirou echoed Christofias, claiming Zampelas was not an independent candidate but rather DISY's " Trojan Horse" .
Omirou repeated Christofias' vote-buying allegations, insisting that a candidate with a political past like Chrysostomides would be more befitting for Nicosia.
The two leaders were flanked in their attack by DIKO Chairman Tasos Papadopoulos, who argued for a partisan mayor, saying a technocrat could not possibly represent Cyprus successfully in European Union and other international forums.
DISY Chairman Nicos Anastassiades described Christofias' comments as the " the biggest insult for Nicosia residents and AKEL supporters ever uttered by a party leader" .
He wondered how a party leader could suggest his own followers might be tempted by bribes, by urging them not to take money supposedly offered by a rival candidate.
This, he added, suggested AKEL followers were misers, ready to abandon their ideology to vote for someone else for a few pieces of silver.
" They are Judases then,"Anastassiades said.
He said most of the local authority candidates backed by AKEL were on the party's payroll or on the payroll of PEO, a trade union controlled by AKEL.
The DISY leader pointed out the three opposition parties had decided to back Chrysostomides after a process so protracted that other candidates who turned down the ticket described it as degrading and insulting to human dignity.
Zampelas avoided replying directly to the attack, insisting that Nicosia's problems did not have party colours and that the next mayor should be an efficient technocrat.
" Regarding the abuse from Mr. Chrysostomides, it's obvious that he has panicked,"Zampelas said.
He said the bribe card used by his opponents was one of many allegations used against him and that he would not reply.
" I will not reply; I will not criticise; I will not judge; I will be judged through my programme by the residents of Nicosia,"he said.
Chrysostomides said his long involvement in politics taught him to be ready for victory and defeat.
" You should know though that victory will be on our side,"he said.
" In this way, I'm replying to Mr. Zampelas' comments that I have panicked, "he added.
Chrysostomides declined to comment on the allegations that his opponent was 'buying' votes, saying he never made such an allegation and that the party leaders should be asked about them.
But deputies from DISY and AKEL battled it out too yesterday.
DISY's Prodromos Prodromou said Christofias was evoking party patriotism to prevent people from thinking and acting freely.
He charged that even AKEL deputies went from door to door in Zampelas' home suburb of Kaimakli trying to sway voters.
AKEL deputy George Lillikas said Chrysostomides was only trailing by two per cent and assured that by Sunday he would be leading by as much.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Confidence-building on talks agenda?PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides could discuss confidence-building measures when he meets Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash next month, the government spokesman said yesterday.
Mediators trying to solve the island's division have in the past been reluctant to pursue such measures between the Greek and Turkish communities, fearing they could shift the focus of talks away from the goal of settling the stalemate.
"Discussions on measures which can be adopted quickly, improve the climate and facilitate a settlement cannot be ruled out," Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told reporters.
Clerides and Denktash are poised to resume direct talks on January 16.
Several steps aimed at improving the climate between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been raised in the past, but they were never adopted.
The suggestions included handing over the Turkish-controlled ghost town of Varosha to UN control -- from where it could possibly be re-occupied by Greek Cypriot residents, a reduction in Turkish forces on the island and a freeze on arms spending.
Pressure is mounting for a settlement to the conflict on the island as it prepares for European Union membership.
Cyprus is now a frontrunner to be included in the EU's next expansion wave, expected to start in 2004. Turkey has said it could annex the occupied north if Cyprus joins without a settlement, possibly dashing its own decades-old hopes of joining the EU.
EU member Greece, frequently at loggerheads with Turkey over Cyprus, has said the island must join in the next enlargement wave or it will block the entire expansion process.
Clerides, who took the unprecedented step of visiting Denktash at his home for dinner in occupied Nicosia last week, planned to return the invitation soon, Papapetrou said.
He said Clerides may issue the invitation in the last week of December, earlier than the mid-January date initially speculated on.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Cyprus closes one more chapter in accession talksCYPRUS, the Czech Republic and Slovenia took a big step forward in their bid to join the EU yesterday by completing talks on justice issues, a sensitive area that includes fighting terrorism and illegal immigration.
The three countries convinced the European Union their police, judiciary and border guards met the standards demanded by the wealthy 15-member bloc, which they hope to join by 2004.
In doing so, they widened the gap with the biggest EU candidate Poland, whose failure to make progress in this week's membership negotiations has fuelled fears it might keep other countries waiting and delay the whole enlargement process.
" (The EU) said it appreciated our efforts after September 11...with measures taken against the threat of terrorism and money laundering," Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told reporters.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said the island's ability to meet EU standards in the area of justice and home affairs disproved allegations, repeated since September 11, that it was an international haven for money launderers.
" We have a special responsibility (in this area) because we will form the border after accession between Europe and a very volatile part of the world, " he said.
Justice and home affairs is one of 31 chapters where the 12 candidates have to bring domestic legislation up to EU standards. Hungary has already closed the chapter.
The tiny ex-Yugoslav republic of Slovenia now leads the 12 candidates with 25 chapters after completing talks on justice and home affairs, taxation and free movement of people. Cyprus comes next with 24 chapters closed.
The European Commission, which is leading the enlargement talks, says up to 10 countries have a chance of closing accession talks by the end of 2002 and of becoming full members by 2004. (R)
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Plans for desalination unit shelvedTHE cabinet yesterday shelved plans for a new desalination unit to be operated by the Electricity Authority (EAC) in the Vassilikos area of Limassol because of the recent surplus rainfall.
Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous said the plans had been scrapped but could re-surface at a more appropriate time in the future.
Rainfall for the first 10 days of December has been as much as 250 per cent of the entire monthly seasonal average in some places.
The substantial re-stocking of the nation's dams will lessen summer water shortages.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Police on gambling alert in run-up to ChristmasBy Rita Kyriakides
POLICE have been on full alert for gambling since the beginning of December in an effort to counter the expected increase over the holiday period.
Police Spokesman Stelios Neophytou told the Cyprus Mailyesterday that the Crime Prevention Unit would remain vigilant until January 6.
" There is always an increase in gambling over the holiday periods. We have seen many cases where families have been left without the bare necessities over the Christmas period because they have lost everything to gambling, "said Neophytou.
He added there was a possibility that recent robberies could be linked to gambling.
" People involved in the robberies could be stealing to gamble,"he said.
Police have been investigating any venue they might suspect is being used for gambling, even private residences.
In the first 11 days of December, there have been 279 investigations into possible gambling with 14 cases involving over 100 people.
A total of £4,300 has been confiscated, as well as cards and other gambling materials.
The maximum penalty for gambling is a £1,000 fine and/or one year in prison.
" As an enforcement agency, we are responsible for upholding the law. The courts have the final decision as to how severe the punishment will be, "said Neophytou.
Meanwhile, crime statistics released by police headquarters yesterday showed that most crimes had been concentrated in Limassol last year, while statistics up to October this year show that Nicosia has taken over.
According to the statistics to October this year, Limassol has had the most arson with 20 of the 52 cases investigated, the most robberies with 210 of the 639 cases, as well as the most bombings with 21 out of 41 incidents.
Nicosia has the most thefts, with 171 out of 507 cases, and the Famagusta area has the most drugs, with 88 out of 323 cases.
Bombings are the most difficult cases to solve, with only a 19.51 per cent success rate, while police have been very successful with drug-related cases with 93.19 per cent of them solved.
There have been a total of 3,414 cases of serious crime nationwide, of which 2,783 were solved.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Keep price controls as long as possible, consumers' body pleadsBy Alexia Saoulli
THE CYPRUS Consumers Association yesterday called on the Prices Committee to extend pricing controls on basic products for as long as it could, despite the committee's support for EU-driven liberalisation measures.
Controls on the price of milk and bread should both be lifted within the next couple of months, Commerce Ministry Commercial and Industrial Officer Andreas Galatariotis said yesterday, saying that, despite some dissenting voices, most committee members backed price liberalisation.
The European Union requires all prices to be liberalised once a country joins. The Cyprus government, however, still sets prices for all milk and common bread.
Milk is set at 41 cents per litre and common bread at 40 cents a loaf.
The government's Prices Committee is made up of advisory representatives from various unions, the Finance and Commerce Ministries, the Planning Bureau and the Consumers Association, and is responsible for examining and discussing price suggestions, which are then presented to Minister Nicos Rolandis in detail. The minister then makes a decision, based on these suggestions and for the " greater national good" .
The Prices Committee is currently investigating a study that suggests two out of the three remaining price-controlled products - milk and bread - be liberalised. The third is cement, which is not being discussed at present, as the liberalisation of that sector would likely wipe out Cypriot manufacturers unable to compete with cheaper foreign - mainly Lebanese - imports.
But the Consumers' Association disagrees with the plan.
" We are not in favour of liberalising prices for milk and bread just yet, for a number of reasons,"said Dinos Ioannou, General Manager of the association.
" As far as milk products are concerned, we do not feel there are sufficient conditions for healthy competition in the market yet, as there are only three dairy companies: Charalambides dominating roughly 57 per cent of the market, Christis with about 31 per cent, and newcomer Lanitis with around 12 per cent.
" Our concern is that they may create a cartel and increase the prices, thus causing problems for the consumer."
" As far as bread is concerned,"he added, " the government only sets the price of common bread. Although the prices are controlled by competition, because there are 400 bakeries in Cyprus and very few bakeries still produce the common bread, we still feel that having that as a base control price will stabilise prices on other breads."
Although his association does not feel as strongly about the bread price control issue, Ioannou felt that since lower income people or people from large families bought a lot of bread, " why rush to liberalise its price, since there is still some time to go before Cyprus' EU accession, when prices will eventually be forced to liberalise?"
Galatariotis of the Prices Committee disagreed.
" Trends indicate that price increases have slowed down on products that have already been liberalised, and besides huge supermarkets make cheaper offers than the common bread, already benefiting lower income families,"he said.
" I am confident that bread will be liberalised very soon and milk within a month or two, and that this healthy competition will only bring about desirable results that protect the consumer."
He added that an independent competition association was responsible for controlling and regulating healthy competition and that monopolies and oligopolies were not in themselves sinful.
" What is sinful is to take advantage of, and abuse, a monopoly or oligopoly position in the market.
" If this happens, the Ministry will intervene, as will the competition association, to ensure that consumers are not manipulated and the situation does not get out of hand,"he said.
He said Rolandis would be presented with a list of suggestions just as soon as every member's views had been recorded.
Galatariotis added the consumer had the right to free choice at reasonable prices, which he said was what liberalisation would achieve.
The Financial Manager of Charalambides Dairies, Andreas Alexandrou, told the Cyprus Mailthey supported liberalisation - as long as " it is full liberalisation" .
" In other words,"he explained, " you cannot liberalise the sale price, if you continue to control the purchase price.
" This is not liberalisation" .
He said that, as things stood, the purchase price of milk from dairy farmers was controlled. If the dairies still had to buy from a controlled body, at a controlled price, then they should continue to sell at a controlled price, he said.
" We have no objection to liberalisation, as long as it works both ways,"he stressed.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Stocks slip with all eyes on GlobalSoftSTOCKS ended 0.8 per cent down yesterday, paring early gains driven by bank stocks as investors locked in profits.
The all-share benchmark lost 1.17 points to close at 138.15, off an intrasession high of 140.15. Turnover slipped to £5.77 million on 18.4 million shares traded.
Heavyweight banks ended broadly unchanged, with investors largely ignoring a report in a weekly financial newspaper that Laiki was in talks with HSBC, which wanted to up its stake in the bank. Laiki swiftly denied the report.
Traders said market attention was partly diverted by GlobalSoft, and a Securities Commission statement that it had recommended its suspension from trading.
The Securities Commission said on Tuesday it wanted the suspension pending review of a report into possible irregularities committed by the company. Stock Exchange directors, citing lack of available evidence, refused to approve the regulator's request.
"The law dictates that a decision (for suspension) must be based on evidence, which we do not presently have," bourse chairman Paris Lenas told reporters. GlobalSoft has not commented on the issue.
Regulators started investigating GlobalSoft after American authorities launched their own inquiry into AremisSoft, its US affiliate, earlier this year.
Former AremisSoft executives had their bank and broker assets frozen by a US federal court in October amid allegations the company had overstated revenues and inflated the value of customer contracts and acquisitions.
AremisSoft owns some seven per cent of the Cypriot concern. One of the former AremisSoft executives cited in the US lawsuit, Lycourgos Kyprianou, is chairman of GlobalSoft.
Its stock lost two cents, or 10 per cent, to close at 16.2 cents on a relatively low volume of 173,479 shares.
Declining issues beat advancing ones 98 to 40 with 28 unchanged on 166 traded. There were 4,570 deals. (R)
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Ministry insists private water salesmen undergo thorough health checksBy Alexia Saoulli
THE HEALTH Ministry yesterday dismissed as " false"widespread reports that water sold from private tankers and dispensers did not undergo proper testing.
The denial came after deputies on the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday expressed concern when - during a discussion about bottling plants - a Ministry representative apparently told them that water tank-trucks and special vending machines were merely given a visual check.
Press reports yesterday even suggested that the water being sold like this might come from unknown sources and claimed drivers did not possess Health Ministry certificates deeming their water " safe for consumption" .
But Health Ministry Chief Health Inspector Mamas Philippou yesterday told the Cyprus Mailthese claims were nothing short of " false" .
" I have read these articles myself and all I can say is that they are extremely misleading and that there has obviously been some sort of misunderstanding,"he said.
" I think it is important that the public knows the water being sold for consumption by these water tank-trucks and vending machines has been checked and is continuously checked by the Health Ministry."
Philippou described the lengthy, process that the owners of trucks and vending machines had to go through before their product was allowed for public sale.
" First, they have to send a sample of the water, at their own expense, from a chosen water source to the state lab for chemical and microbiological analysis.
" After the water has been deemed clean and suitable for consumption, they are awarded a certificate that states just that. Meanwhile, the actual compartment in which the water is supplied is examined visually to see whether or not it is clean.
" The water suppliers then return to their source and fill their tanks with the Ministry approved water.
" Once their tanks are filled, the water is inspected by Health Inspectors and sent for analysis once more. Upon determining it's safe for consumption, they are awarded a certificate from the Health Ministry as well as the local municipality, and allowed to distribute their water to the public, "Philippou said.
But the story does not end here. Every so often, water containers and vending machines undergo spot checks, and if their water is contaminated, those responsible are prosecuted.
The president of the water-tank suppliers' union, Yiannakis Myltiados, also confirmed the rigorous inspections that each and every one of his members has to go through in order to become a certified supplier.
" There are about 70 of us and our water is checked chemically and microbiologically at least every two months.
" Although sometimes we're checked every two weeks, 10 days or even three days,"he said, adding that with such frequent spot checks it was not worth jeopardising your livelihood by selling unclean water.
Philippou also said that the vending machines' contents had to be analysed monthly and the results posted to the Ministry. Records are kept to ensure that this process is adhered to.
DISY deputy Lefteris Christodoulou, President of the House Commerce Committee, said yesterday " the issue concerning healthy water will be examined in detail in the New Year, from its distribution, to transportation and consumption" .
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001