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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-12-18

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, December 18, 2001


  • [01] Company denies cigarette smuggling allegations
  • [02] All claim victory in local elections
  • [03] A night of surprises
  • [04] Emotional triumph for Zampelas
  • [05] Hannay: Cyprus problem could be settled within six months
  • [06] Shares hit by holiday inertia

  • [01] Company denies cigarette smuggling allegations

    By Jennie Matthew

    A DOCUMENT released as part of an American legal settlement against British American Tobacco (BAT) suggests that Cypriot company Kental Traders Ltd is involved in a global cigarette smuggling ring allegedly manipulated by BAT.

    The claims were yesterday vehemently denied by Kental, which admits only to having worked as legal distributors for BAT in Romania and Bulgaria - a relationship they say ended three years ago.

    A report in yesterday's Guardian claimed that Dubai's Ambassador to London, Easa Saleh al-Gurg, was involved in the trade. But BAT documents seen by the Cyprus Mail, which name al-Gurg as supplier for Somalia, also identify Kental as "transit" suppliers to Sudan.

    Al-Gurg, awarded an honorary CBE by the Queen in 1991, allegedly oversaw the shipment of millions of cigarettes to Somalia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, the Guardian claimed.

    The minutes from a BAT company meeting on March 16, 1987, state that: "in future, transit to Sudan will be supplied via Kental and Somalia via Easa Gurg".

    Use of the word "transit" would appear to refer to smuggling, as a later reference indicates: "Opportunities for legal imports need to be fully investigated before we seek transit opportunities."

    According to the BAT minutes, those present at the meeting pointed out that Kental's request for legitimate import into Sudan of "500 million B&H, 450 million 10s and 50 million 20s", would probably be refused, "because it infringed NCC's rights as distributor" and because "it was very unlikely that Kental's customers would obtain import licences".

    The document was released to the public from the BAT archives in Guildford as part of an American legal settlement imposed on BAT in 1998.

    The company is now being investigated by the British Department of Trade and Industry for suspected global tobacco smuggling throughout the 1980s and 1990s - an allegation that it denies.

    It recently issued a profits warning, informing city analysts that sales could plummet by 500 million next year as it was forced to clamp down on illegal trafficking.

    Washington's Centre for Public Integrity (CPI) claims that BAT American subsidiary, Brown & Williamson, employed Kental as early as 1976 to "transit" cigarettes into Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, with hope of tapping into Iraq and Iran.

    In 1983, BAT paid Lebanese trader Souren Khanamirian commission on a shipment of 2,970 cases of BAT cigarettes, billing Kental for reimbursement, the Centre said in a special report earlier this year.

    The report says that in 1984, Kental wrote to Brown & Williamson to complain that their official agent in Lebanon, Albert Abella, was selling "duty-not-paid" cigarettes too close to home in Lebanon and Syria.

    Their letter of October 10, 1984 warns that, "your Lebanese agent should not be involved directly or indirectly. in the transit business, which is unlawful and a criminal offence in Lebanon," which "might have catastrophic repercussions" for both Abella and Brown & Williamson.

    Another company document seen by the CPI indicates that by 1987 Kental was pumping around four billion cigarettes into Lebanon's 'transit market' every year, with the hope of increasing business throughout the Middle East.

    But Kental yesterday denied any involvement in cigarette smuggling either now or in the past.

    They said they had never had any business with Sudan.

    "[Trade with Sudan] was discussed maybe 25 years ago, but it never happened, " said Company Director Marios Christofides.

    "Most of the people [at the meeting] are dead anyway. I don't think anyone's around now," he added.

    "We used to ship cigarettes legally to Romania and Bulgaria for BAT, but we stopped three or four years ago when they built their factories there," he added.

    He insisted that BAT had now abandoned all cigarette smuggling.

    Nevertheless, British and Italian parliamentary reports claim that Cyprus is a major centre for contraband cigarettes.

    Cypriot Ambassador to Rome Alexandros Zenon yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that he had reassured the Italian government that Cyprus had "the political will to eradicate this phenomenon".

    He briefed the deputy Italian Interior Minister and chief of police, Alfredo Mantovano - author of a book branding Cyprus as a centre for cigarette smuggling - of the co-operation between the Italian financial police and Cypriot customs.

    He said Mantovano had been unaware of the co-operation because Italian financial police were answerable to the Ministry of Finance and not to him.

    But despite Italian reports to the contrary, the Central Bank yesterday denied that they had been asked to investigate the beneficiaries of bank accounts suspected of connection to cigarette smuggling.

    Mantovano claims enormous amounts of money are wired from the region of Apulia in Italy, where contraband cigarettes from Cyprus have been tracked, to Cypriot accounts.

    Central Bank senior manager Philipos Philippou said yesterday the Central Bank's main concern was that illegal profits should not wind up on the island.

    He said a January 2001 ban on cash deposits of over $100,000 per year, per bank account, had eradicated large imports of cash from cigarette smuggling.

    The prohibition was drawn up in November 2000, but nonetheless allowed for a "two-month grace period so that people could set up bank accounts in other countries," he said.

    While cash was the most common form of money associated with cigarette smuggling, Philippou admitted that the law did not prevent smuggling revenue from being deposited in Cyprus in other forms.

    Earlier this month, Greek police impounded more than 18 million suspected contraband cigarettes allegedly stored at Salonica port by Cypriot company C.T. Tobacco and Greek company Macrotrans Trading Ltd.

    Campaigners estimate that a third of all internationally traded cigarettes are smuggled - some 350 billion a year, costing governments billions of dollars in lost revenue.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] All claim victory in local elections

    By George Psyllides

    WITH the municipal elections over, and the battle for Nicosia - which took on quasi presidential status in recent weeks - won by an independent (but DISY backed) candidate, all the parties yesterday emerged as victors, at least according to their leaders.

    The real winner of the elections was without a doubt independent Nicosia candidate Michalakis Zampelas, who succeeded in delivering a huge blow to the three opposition parties - AKEL, DIKO, and KISOS - despite their frantic last-minute efforts to sway the vote towards their candidate, Kypros Chrysostomides.

    Zampelas yesterday reiterated that he was an independent, non-partisan man, who had decided to run as a candidate of his own free will.

    He said he could not ignore DISY, and thanked the party for its support, but stressed that the victory belonged to the residents of Nicosia.

    Zampelas said his opponent, Kypros Chrysostomides, was a gentleman, and thanked him for his kind words during his concession speech on Sunday night.

    He rejected charges by the leaders of the three opposition parties that supported Chrysostomides that he had bought votes and described the comments as abuse, to which he did not wish to reply.

    "I won't criticise or judge anyone," he said.

    Zampelas - an accountant - also rejected allegations that he had spent huge amounts of cash for his election campaign, challenging anyone to sit with him and put both candidates' expenses on the table, being sure that in the end Chrysostomides would be shown to have spent more.

    On the party front, all leaders appeared satisfied yesterday, and all claimed victory from Sunday's poll.

    Ruling DISY Chairman Nicos Anastassiades said that - in terms of participation on elected municipal councils, which were the party's target - DISY had been the winner, coming top in 25 out of the 33 municipalities with a substantial gap to runners up AKEL.

    "Results show that has DISY not been isolated," Anastassiades said.

    "The party has managed to preserve a large presence on local councils, despite the efforts to isolate it; the significant increase in the party's figures indicates people do not tolerate out-of-date mentalities."

    Despite saying he did not want to provoke any confrontation by commenting on Zampelas' victory, Anastassiades could not resist taking a shot at his opponents.

    "Let those who wanted to give the Nicosia election a presidential impact study its results; I don't want to provoke anyone; we'll keep the tones low due to the upcoming developments in the Cyprus issue," he said.

    But AKEL Chairman Demetris Christofias said the three-party opposition coalition had registered a huge success, noting that the defeat in Nicosia was brought about not because of voters' unwillingness to support Crysostomides but their willingness to support Zampelas.

    Christofias repeated his accusation that Zampelas had used unacceptable practices, but failed to be specific.

    He rejected Anastassiades' claims that DISY had emerged the strongest party and denied criticism that he had been involved in campaigning at a time when he was acting president of the republic.

    Christofias countered that it was President Glafcos Clerides who got involved, by attending a DISY conference and the opening ceremony of a hall named after Zampelas at the Employers' and Industrialists' Association building.

    DIKO Chairman Tassos Papadopoulos said he was happy with the results because his party achieved a three to five per cent increase in all areas.

    He said the alliance had been successful, describing the co-operation between the three parties as excellent.

    Papadopoulos said the three parties together got over 50 per cent of the vote in all municipalities, noting the defeat in Nicosia meant nothing because it had been marginal.

    "It was a marginal victory, which sends no messages at all," Papadpoulos said.

    He said there was absolutely no relation between the Nicosia poll and the presidential elections, conceding, however, that there had been defections from all three parties towards Zampelas.

    The Chairman of KISOS, Yiannakis Omirou, said Sunday's results had been positive for his party and that local government had taken a step forward.

    "The alliance has succeeded in the election; it has elected mayors in a large number of areas and has created a positive climate on which to build future co-operation, aiming at social, progressive and political developments," Omirou said.

    He added: "We are satisfied because we have had increases in all areas compared to the general elections."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] A night of surprises

    By George Psyllides

    SUNDAY'S local elections had many surprises in store for the candidates, although the prevalent lesson for the political parties was that not all their voters could be led like sheep.

    Independent candidate Michalakis Zampelas got all the headlines in sweeping aside opposition alliance candidate Kypros Chrysostomides, but other results were, if anyting more surprising.

    The independent mayoral candidate for Engomi, Nicos Pavlides, was not supported by any party, yet beat all the odds and saw off the two party favourites to win the seat in the Nicosia suburb.

    Pavlides received 45.78 per cent of the vote, while incumbent Ioannis Kallis, who was supported by the three-party opposition alliance, and DISY- supported Emilios Mitsingas ended up with around 27 per cent each.

    In Latsia, Costas Efstathiou, who was supported by the alliance and DISY, only just scraped 111 votes more than his independent opponent Andreas Gregoriou.

    In Ayia Napa, incumbent Varvara Pericleous pulled off a coup and managed to remain in office with a mere 15 votes more than alliance-supported Nakis Tsokkos,

    In a reversal of alliances, Pericleous was this time supported by DISY after having been voted in on the AKEL ticket in the previous poll.

    Another slap in AKEL's face was the victory of Andreas Soteriou Siappanis in Dherynia.

    Siappanis, a member of AKEL, went against his party and ran alone to beat alliance candidate Andreas Zacharia, avenging his defeat in the last municipal elections when he again went against his party and stood alone.

    The alliance favourite also took a beating in the village of Athienou in Larnaca.

    Gavril Kazazis, supported by DISY, received 45.47 per cent of the vote and was elected mayor ahead of Panicos Lytras who received 44.64 per cent.

    In the village of Timi in the Paphos district, residents elected refugee Vassos Tsoukkas as muchtar, giving their answer to those who a few weeks ago handed their voting cards in protest at the fact that a refugee was running for the position.

    But the greatest surprise, at least for some, was the re-election of three Tylliria area muchtars allegedly involved in the land scam case, which emerged a couple of months ago.

    Kato Pyrgos Muchtar Krinos Theoharous, 61, and his Pigenia counterpart Vassos Stylianou, 62, have both been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, fraud, and abuse of authority in connection to the illegal transfer of land in the remote Tylliria area.

    Andreas Lagos, the Pano Pyrgos Muchtar is still a suspect in the case.

    All three men have been released on bail.

    Theocharous' supporters in Kato Pyrgos on Sunday night celebrated his re- election by driving around the village sounding their horns.

    But in Pano Pyrgos, the 35 souls that make up the community chose to be more discreet.

    Despite their re-election, the three Muchtars will have to wait for the court verdict to decide whether they will keep their position.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Emotional triumph for Zampelas

    By a Staff Reporter

    MICHALAKIS Zampelas cried when it was announced that he was the winner of the battle for Nicosia. According to his wife, that was why he delayed addressing his supporters. Zampelas himself said reports claiming his doctor had advised him to delay in order to avoid getting emotional were total nonsense.

    But Kypros Chrysostomides was left alone to bear his defeat. Apart from AKEL's George Lillikas, no one from the three-party alliance was there after it emerged that Chrysostomides had been beaten. He was flanked by his wife Eleni, who had her birthday yesterday, and his two daughters Daphni and Georgia.

    Zampelas said he had known about his victory around half an hour before it had been confirmed by the media, but wanted it to be official and wanted to wait for Chrysostomides to concede defeat.

    The Nicosia election was won in Kaimakli - Zampelas' home suburb - and Pallouriotissa. The two suburbs - considered to be AKEL bastions - should have delivered the alliance 60 per cent of the vote.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Hannay: Cyprus problem could be settled within six months

    By Jean Christou

    BRITAIN'S special representative for Cyprus Lord David Hannay said yesterday he believed the Cyprus problem could be settled within the next six months.

    He also made it clear that the solution of the problem would have to be decided by the Cypriots themselves, and not by any outsider.

    Lord Hannay arrived on the island yesterday morning on a three-day visit and will have contacts with both sides before he leaves. He made no statements on arrival at Larnaca airport.

    But speaking after a meeting yesterday with House President Demetris Christofias, Lord Hannay said: "It's a good time to be here because there is a little bit of hope now, while previously there was just a lot of frustration."

    He also said Cyprus' friends abroad had "unreservedly welcomed the rather courageous decisions taken by the two leaders, which led to the meeting of December 4 and is now leading on to a negotiating process to begin on January 16."

    At their first face-to-face meeting in four years on December 4, President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash agreed to begin direct talks with no preconditions, with all issues on the table. They said they would continue to negotiate in good faith until a comprehensive settlement was achieved and that nothing would be agreed until everything was agreed.

    Lord Hannay also said that the EU's weekend Laeken summit had unreservedly welcomed these initiatives and added that, "there is a real prize to be obtained which is to get a settlement under the UN aegis and see a reunited Cyprus join the EU."

    He said he would be working for a settlement but pointed out that this issue was not for outsiders to settle, but for the Cypriots.

    'The future of the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots is going to be decided by yourselves and not somebody else," Hannay told journalists, explaining that outsiders had the task of "helping but not interfering with the peace process".

    Asked if he believed it was possible to find a solution within the next six months, he replied "yes".

    Hannay dismissed press suggestions that Britain had prepared proposals for the two sides, adding that it was not his job to do that. Denktash has said that the problem should be solved by June 2002, a statement which President Clerides has also welcomed.

    Today, Lord Hannay will have a working breakfast with President Clerides and will later on meet Denktash in the Turkish-controlled north of Nicosia.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Shares hit by holiday inertia

    By a Staff Reporter

    STOCKS ended 0.3 per cent down yesterday as trading volume hit a holiday low of 4.0 million.

    The all-share index closed at 134 points after hitting an intraday high of 135, which it was unable to sustain until the close of trading.

    The blue chips FTSE/CySE index dropped 0.15 per cent, closing at 530 points. Around half of the sub sectors ended marginally in the red, among them banks.

    The banking sector dropped 0.16 per cent as Laiki Bank shed two cents to 1.54. Bank of Cyprus added one cent to 1.94 while Hellenic Bank ended unchanged at 93 cents.

    Overall, 46 titles recorded gains compared to 50 decliners and 52 that remained the same.

    "We should not expect much excitement on the market at this time of the year," said one Nicosia broker. "Trading on the stock market is probably not the number one thing on people's list of things do during Christmas week."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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