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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-02-14

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, February 14, 2002


  • [01] Can you escape from the Hard Sell Café?
  • [02] Pope, Patriarch and Dalai Lama to beam messages to Kykkos conference
  • [03] 'Chinese students picked dogs off the street and ate them'
  • [04] Cheese makers hold firm on strike threat
  • [05] Abandoned girl's mother tracked down in Colombo
  • [06] Hannay talks to both sides
  • [07] Kiosk robbers jailed for four years
  • [08] Resign, deputy tells Klerides
  • [09] He straightened the Tower of Pisa, now he's coming to fix Apostolos Andreas
  • [10] Stamp out trouble makers, minister tells Pontians

  • [01] Can you escape from the Hard Sell Café?

    By a Staff Reporter

    THERE are no timeshare operatives active in Cyprus! That may come as something of a surprise to the British holidaymakers in Paphos who have just signed up with a company called Vacation Escapes for a 'property bond' or a batch of holiday points which are equivalent to five weeks' holiday for 30 years.

    Vacation Escapes representatives based in Paphos hotly deny that they are spawned from the same murky pond as their timeshare cousins. But denials, along with a new name and a bit of fancy marketing, cannot conceal the fact that timeshare touts are selling dreams and cash headaches to those naive enough to be seduced by them.

    readers complained to the paper about the timeshare sellers who have descended on Paphos - one sent an e-mail which said: "It is now almost impossible to walk on the main thoroughfares in the tourist areas without being accosted three times in each 100 yards."

    So my husband and I set ourselves up as 'tourists' willing to be at the receiving end of a sales pitch that led us to a 90-minute presentation - with hard sell - at the company's main office on Tombs of the Kings road. The inside was laid out as a café area with tables and chairs, toasted sandwiches and cheap local champagne on offer.

    We joined about 24 other Brits - couples are the main target - who were on the receiving end of a personal, 90-minute presentation from one of the six salespeople present. Overlooking the proceedings, from a glass office on a higher level, were two older men. These silent overseers were regularly visited by the young and mainly British-born salespeople who popped up and down to the office, presumably to give updates on each potential sale and ask advice on how to convert any hesitant buyers.

    Our salesman was in his mid-thirties, a smooth-talking, British-born guy who showed the same level of passion towards his job as that of a religious zealot. But unlike most of the fringe religions, Vacation Escapes (or Resort Condominiums International Inc.) is in the business of persuading its converts to part with their money.

    The deal they are offering to hundreds of potentially gullible British tourists in the Paphos region works like this. A couple signing up for a 30- year property bond can then choose to holiday in any of the 94 countries and 5,300 destinations available - you have to book and pay for the flights through Vacation Escapes' own travel agency outlets. The cost is £31,300 sterling, payable as a deposit of 33 per cent (around GBP£10,300) with the balance due within 30 days.

    Of course, most of the couples approached just do not have ready access to that kind of money, but that's OK as the nice salesperson will kindly arrange a bank loan. I asked which bank and was told it was the Royal Bank of Scotland.

    Once your loan is paid up after three years, your only outgoing, says the Vacation Escapes salesperson, is an annual charge of £127 for admin and maintenance (inflation-linked over the following 27 years).

    Couples can assign their allocated weeks to friends and relatives and can gift their holidays in their wills to their offspring. The salesman also tells you that, if you decide you are unhappy with the deal, the company will give you a full refund less 10 per cent... now doesn't that sound wonderful?

    The reality, however, is that many British couples who sign up for this deal here in Cyprus have signed up to something they may very quickly regret - it's a hard-sell and these guys are very persuasive - without being aware of any consumer rights they may be entitled to.

    Here, they are foreigners in a foreign land and will therefore have no recourse to UK safeguards such as the Consumer Credit Act, Timeshare Act, Goods and Services Act and the Consumer Protection Act. Yet there is a law in Cyprus, based on EU legislation, which rules, among other things, that timeshare deposits are not allowed to be taken and allows for a 15-day cooling-off period. But how many tourists will be aware of that, and will those who regret signing up act quickly enough?

    Our salesman told us we had to make up our minds TODAY as it was a TODAY- only offer. Odd, then, that a few days later I passed the café to see another batch of tourists inside, presumably being told that theirs was a today-only offer as well.

    At those sessions the pressure is on, and couples are encouraged to put pen to paper before making their exit from the Vacation Escapes office.

    Couples who part with the hefty deposit via their credit card will then have to pay off the loan plus interest. How much interest? I couldn't find out, although I asked twice to see the contract I was being asked to sign - I was told I could not see it until I was ready to sign. And I guess there's no point either in complaining to your credit card company that you didn't realise what you were signing.

    But what about the promise of a full refund less 10 per cent? I have no experience of what happens after signing the agreement - it may indeed be that some couples are happy with the prospect of a 30-year timeshare deal and with parting with £10,000 up front, plus another 20 grand in a month - so I don't know what happens if you try to get your money back. My suspicion - founded on well-documented timeshare reports - is that it won't be easy, if it's possible at all.

    Will Vacation Escapes happily part with the money their operatives have pressured you into paying? Or will it be like trying to get blood out of the proverbial stone?

    How many credit card companies will be sympathetic to your plight because you made a huge mistake in signing in the first place? By the time you have made repayments on the loan - plus all that interest - will there be enough money left in your bank account to fight a court action?

    Locking oneself into any deal for 30 years is to my mind ridiculous, but alas, in Paphos at the moment there seem to be plenty of tourists following the Vacation Escapes route to the Hard Sell Café. How many will sign up and how many of those will regret it later?

    I don't know, but what I do know is that these salespeople are well trained, and once they've got you into that café, getting out without signing up to a deal that sounds attractive but often proves a financial nightmare is not easy. I managed it, will you?

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Pope, Patriarch and Dalai Lama to beam messages to Kykkos conference

    By Jean Christou

    THE CHURCH is organising a major ecumenical conference next month at which messages from the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be beamed in by satellite, the Archbishopric confirmed yesterday.

    The conference, which is being organised by the Kykkos Research Centre, will take place from March 8-11 and will host some of the biggest names in religion and politics in the region.

    Those slated to attend the conference include Orthodox Patriarchs from Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders are also expected to attend, along with high-ranking representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Armenian and Maronite churches.

    In addition to religious leaders, politicians from the region will also be attending, including Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Greek Culture and Education Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Greek party leaders and Athens Mayor Demetris Avraamopoulos.

    Local representation will include President Glafcos Clerides and House President Demetris Christofias. The highlight of the conference will be the satellite messages from the Pope, the Patriarch and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist's exiled spiritual leader.

    The conference will focus on religion and civilisation, with topics including the future of religion and politics, globalisation as a challenge and a threat and the prospects for ecumenical dialogue in the 21st century.

    Frixos Constantinides, a spokesman for the Kykkos centre, yesterday declined to reveal further details, which he said would be officially announced shortly.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] 'Chinese students picked dogs off the street and ate them'

    By George Psyllides

    POLICE yesterday remained tight-lipped over reports claiming Chinese students staying in Nicosia had admitted to immigration officers carrying out routine checks that they were eating dogs.

    Immigration Department officer Sotiris Tryfonos told the Cyprus Mail: "In a routine check at a Nicosia flat where Chinese students live, officers found bones, which apparently belonged to animals."

    But sources yesterday confirmed that the students had in fact admitted to eating dogs when asked by the officers about the origin of the bones.

    There were also a couple of live dogs in the flat, the sources said.

    It is understood, however, that although it is illegal under cruelty laws to eat cats and dogs, police will not prosecute the students, as it would be very hard to prove they had actually eaten dog meat.

    The students allegedly snatched the dogs, fed them special foods to clean their system then slaughtered them and cooked them.

    CSPCE Chairwoman Toulla Poyadji said the society did not have any evidence concerning dog eating on the island, but recalled a similar case a few years ago, again involving Chinese nationals.

    She said a group of Chinese workers working on the sewage system near the village of Avgorou in the Famagusta district had been catching stray dogs, which they then ate.

    Poyadji said she managed to save the last animal before it was cooked.

    But she warned that such habits could have serious effects on health.

    "The dog I saved was full of parasites," she said.

    Poyadji said the society had had reports of many cats and dogs going amiss from various areas but said there was no information about their fate.

    She did say that animal lovers were worried that Satanists were increasingly using animals in sacrificial rituals.

    For this reason, she had warned all members of the society to keep a watchful eye out on people wanting to adopt dogs and cats, she said.

    Veterinarian Zacharias Evangelou warned that dogs could carry serious disease that could be transmitted to humans, and that eating them was not very wise.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Cheese makers hold firm on strike threat

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE BATTLES between cheese manufacturers and milk producers continued yesterday, with threats and counter-threats from the government over the distribution of precious milk supplies.

    The Cyprus Cheese Producers' Association held firm on their threat to suspend production today unless the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) caves in and grants them extra milk supplies.

    The spat broke out last week when the MMB awarded Lanitis 10 tonnes more milk a day, ignoring rival demands from cheese makers.

    They stood by their threat to strike today on the grounds that the nation's valuable cheese exports are in jeopardy.

    But Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis was unimpressed. He said their demands were unjustified and threatened to withhold their annual government grant if they staged a work stoppage.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Abandoned girl's mother tracked down in Colombo

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE MOTHER of a 12-year-old Sri Lankan girl found abandoned four months ago in a house in Nicosia has finally been tracked down by Interpol.

    The woman, living in Colombo, is blind and dumb, but allegedly wants her daughter to come back and live with her, Phileleftheros reported yesterday.

    The news comes just as the child is beginning to thrive in her new environment, living with a foster family and enrolled at a state elementary school.

    She is learning Greek, has made friends and is developing well according to the Welfare Department.

    Her mother originally sent her to Europe in hope of a better life, but her plans were foiled when agents pocketed the money and left the girl in Cyprus.

    Police found her abandoned in a house in Ayios Dhometios, Nicosia living with two men who took no care of her and did not send her to school.

    Although her mother insists she is capable of raising her daughter, the girl has expressed a desire to go back only for a holiday, wanting to stay in Cyprus with her friends.

    According to the newspaper, the Welfare Department is willing to fund a return ticket so she can go on holiday, at a cost of £400.

    The girl is something of a protégé of the department, after she spent Christmas at the home of Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Hannay talks to both sides

    By a Staff Reporter

    BRITAIN'S special envoy for Cyprus Lord David Hannay yesterday held separate meetings with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to discuss progress on the face-to-face talks. No statements were made.

    Hannay had a working breakfast with Clerides, then crossed over to the north to meet Denktash. He was due to leave the island yesterday afternoon.

    On arrival on Tuesday evening, Hannay said 2002 would be a make or break year for Cyprus and was hopeful for a settlement later in the year.

    Hannay said he did not bring with him any proposals, ideas, plans, blueprints or suggestions and had only come to listen to the views of the two leaders.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Kiosk robbers jailed for four years

    By a Staff Reporter

    TWO LIMASSOL men were yesterday sentenced to four years in prison for the armed robbery of a kiosk on New Year's Eve.

    Spyros Georgiades, 39, and Evripidis Papachristou, 42, were found guilty of robbing the Dias kiosk on Ayias Fylaxeos Street at knifepoint.

    The court's decision, however, was not unanimous as one of the three members voted for the defendants to be put away for five and a half years and not four.

    The defence asked the court to consider the defendants' personal and family problems, stressing that they were both drug users who needed help, not punishment.

    The two judges who voted for the four years said they took into consideration the men's clean record, immediate confession of the crime and co-operation with police.

    They also considered the fact that both men at the time of the robbery had been under the influence of alcohol and medicines, and were desperately looking for money for their fix.

    The third judge said that being a drug user did not justify anyone to commit armed robbery and suggested that five and a half years would be a more appropriate penalty due to the severity of the offence.

    Papachristou and Georgiades were arrested on New Year's Eve shortly after robbing kiosk owner Pambos Kourtouzis at knifepoint.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Resign, deputy tells Klerides

    By Melina Demetriou

    DIKO deputy Zacharias Koullias yesterday called on Finance Minister Takis Klerides to resign, charging him with political responsibility for the stock exchange (CSE) fiasco.

    This is the second time in a month that Koullias calls on a state official to step down in the House Finance and Watchdog Committee investigations in alleged stock market fraud.

    The DIKO deputy last month joined the chairman of the watchdog committee, Christos Pourgourides, and other parliamentarians in calling on Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou to resign, accusing him of abusing his position to obtain shares on private placement.

    The two committees yesterday held their second joint meeting to examine possible responsibilities that the minister may have had for the stock market crash.

    During the marathon session, Koullias lashed out at Klerides, suggesting he should resign out of political sensitivity over the losses of small investors.

    "The stock market crime is no smaller than the crime of the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation," he said.

    Klerides hit back: "Koullias has issued his own findings and imposed judgement before the investigation is finished."

    The deputy retorted it was the minister who had appointed the stock market authorities to protect the public but claimed he had done nothing to stop the CSE from collapsing.

    "The government is burdened with political responsibilities and the Finance Minister should step down," he insisted.

    But Klerides once more fenced off criticism, citing relevant laws and facts to argue that he had been powerless to reverse certain decisions made by the stock market authorities.

    He said that, under a new law, the Finance Minister could have a say in stock market issues only when the Government Commissioner who heads the Securities and Exchange Commission has a disagreement with the CSE Council and asks him to rule on the subject.

    The minister cited five cases in which he had ruled against a company's listing.

    Klerides vowed that if any members of the CSE Council or the Securities and Exchange Commission were found to have acted against the law, he would hold them responsible, noting, however, that he was not authorised to sack any of them before their term of office expired.

    Klerides also blamed auditors for admitting companies into the stock market without them qualifying for entry.

    "The auditing system in Cyprus as well as in other countries has serious shortcomings," he admitted, urging the House committees to find the guilty ones so that lawsuits could be filed against them.

    Deputies from several parties insisted that the minister should have realised between 1999 and 2000 that the way in which the stock market was operating was illegal.

    "Did it ever occur to you that there was a conspiracy aiming to rip off the public for the benefit of a few big investors?" asked Doros Theodorou of KISOS, citing several examples of frauds which he said had been committed.

    "There is no way that the minister failed to see this storm of crimes," Koullias added.

    Klerides gave a rather diplomatic answer: "This question should not be posed. The one who has the authority to monitor stock market dealings should always be suspicious."

    "Since you admit that there are offenders then as a minister why don't you point the finger at one of them?" asked Kikis Yiangou of AKEL.

    "Your investigation should find out who is to blame, I can't accuse people without any evidence," Klerides said.

    "You should ask him to point the finger at someone who is innocent, that would be more interesting," joked Koullias.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] He straightened the Tower of Pisa, now he's coming to fix Apostolos Andreas

    By Jean Christou

    THE UNITED Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is this month bringing in the man who straightened the leaning tower of Pisa to present a report on the restoration of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the occupied north.

    The monastery, one of the most sacred shrines on the island, is situated on a cliff in the north easternmost corner of the island. It is to be restored under a joint UN-US plan, following years of neglect and exposure to the elements.

    UNOPS said yesterday that Italian architect Professor Giorgio Croci would be arriving in Cyprus on February 27 for a three-day visit during which he would present his report on how the restoration should proceed.

    Croci is holds the chair of structural Restoration of Monuments and Historic Buildings in the Faculty of Engineering at Rome's La Sapienza University.

    He is a consultant to the Italian Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and has participated in Commissions for the study of the leaning tower of Pisa, the project for a bridge over the Strait of Messina and the restoration of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. He is also a consultant to UNESCO, ICCROM and the Council of Europe and has worked on a number of high-profile projects outside Italy, including being invited to draw up plans for the restoration of the Al Ghoury Mosque, Chephren's Pyramid at Giza and the Hanging Church in Cairo, in co-operation with the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation. Croci also took part in a joint American- Turkish workshop on the preservation of major historic monuments, including Agia Sophia in Istanbul.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Stamp out trouble makers, minister tells Pontians

    By a Staff Reporter

    INTERIOR Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou yesterday urged Pontians to co-operate with the authorities to contain the minority of their compatriots who gave them all a bad name.

    Christodoulou's plea came in the wake of a huge fight in Paphos reportedly involving around 30 Pontians in which an English Cypriot man sustained serious head injuries after he was whacked on the head with a spade.

    The town has a large community of Pontians - ethnic Greeks from the Black Sea region, many of whom hold Greek passports. But the behaviour of some of them has reportedly been causing discontent among residents, prompting DIKO deputy Nicos Pittokopitis to demand immediate measures.

    Christodoulou yesterday avoided commenting on Pittokopitis' call, but revealed that he had instructed that claims by the deputy concerning the residential status of some Pontians be examined.

    The minister said that Pontians - especially the leaders of organised groups - should be cautious since a small minority among them behaved in ways that reflected negatively on the overwhelming majority who were peaceful and good family people.

    Christodoulou urged Pontians to co-operate with authorities so that the "bad elements" could be contained and subsequently stamped out.

    But he also warned against the creation of a negative climate towards the community, saying this would be unfair and reminding people that Cypriots living in Athens and elsewhere in Greece occasionally got arrested, but no one made a big fuss about it.

    Pontians blame the media for the negative publicity, claiming a common squabble was presented as a fight between savages.

    They said that it was not the first time an isolated incident had been presented as a clash of rival gangs or factions.

    Residents said the reason there were so many people on Monday night was that they lived in a small area and that when there was a fight people gather to see what was going on and to try and stop it.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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