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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-06-29

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

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


Saturday, June 29, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Producers to dump 2,000 tonnes of watermelons after bumper harvest
  • [02] Minister plays down Satanism fears
  • [03] Environment commissioner: EU postbag is full of complaints about Cyprus
  • [04] Taxi drivers suspend strike pending new talks
  • [05] Greek giant Delta to take over Charalambides dairies
  • [06] New bill seeks to target drug dealers, but critics unconvinced
  • [07] British fugitive flees northern Cyprus just as net closes in
  • [08] SEC working with US authorities over Millennium investigation
  • [09] Former fugitive Patsalides jailed for escape
  • [10] Rear seatbelts compulsory from Monday

  • [01] Producers to dump 2,000 tonnes of watermelons after bumper harvest

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    A SURPLUS production of watermelons will drive 2,000 tonnes back into the ground to rot this season in an effort to balance flagging market prices. Fruit producers are exasperated, as the bout of heavy rainfall and good weather has led to a surplus production of 5,000 tonnes, threatening market saturation and unprofitable price levels.

    Deputy Head of the Agriculture Department Thomas Papandreou said yesterday that if the excess watermelons were dumped on the Cypriot market, wholesale prices would fall short of covering producers' costs, creating a loss for them. One retailer from the Ayios Antonios market in Nicosia said the low price of watermelons was having a knock-on effect on higher priced goods, leaving many to rot.

    Papandreou explained that exporting the surplus would not be in the best interests of the government or the producers given the time of year and the cost of transportation, noting that 1,800 tonnes had already been exported this year.

    Exports after May or June prove no longer remunerative, since Greece or Spain have the greater advantage of lower transport costs to satisfy the market, said Papandreou. He maintained transportation costs, subsided by the government at 75 per tonne, were higher than production costs, making it unprofitable and costly to encourage exports at this time of year.

    "We are entering a demanding market. For our producers to remain competitive, they need to be better informed and more organised in order to gain the experience that will sensitise them to market forces," said Papandreou. "This is why we are given five years' harmonisation period from the EU, to change our way of thinking and gain experience."

    The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Christos Mavrocordatos of AKEL, said some of the surplus production needed to be destroyed and the producers compensated to bring equilibrium in the market and balance the price. He acknowledged watermelon cultivation was highly water intensive and proposed farmers be compensated for the destruction at 75 per tonne. Mavrocordatos attributed the problem to the absence of a proper agriculture policy, which would oversee production and consumption. He expressed the need for greater planning and consistent pricing to avoid the "anarchic functioning of the current market".

    "Farmers do not want to destroy their yield, they just want to make a living," said Mavrokordatos, adding: "The state has a responsibility to inform farmers of commercial trends."

    He maintained confusion existed between the two ministries of agriculture and commerce in their responsibility over production and consumption respectively.

    The opposition deputy claimed the markets for basic agricultural products such as potatoes, oranges and grapes were not going well. The consequences for the economy and the environment would be far-reaching if farmers left the agriculture sector, he warned. "The agriculture industry is sending out an SOS to the government, requiring proper agriculture planning," said Mavrokordatos.

    But an official from the Commerce Ministry maintained that government intervention was not always helpful. He said the solution was voluntary producer organisations, like those that existed in Europe, whose primary duty was to plan production in stages. He explained if individual producers grouped together in independent organisations, they would benefit from discipline, planning and marketing advice, thereby playing a vital role in accelerating harmonisation to the EU.

    Legislation covering recognition criteria for voluntary producer organisations will be reviewed this Monday. The organisations will be funded by the government before accession to the EU and then by the EU under its common agricultural policy.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Minister plays down Satanism fears

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE PANCYPRIAN Parents Association (PPA) called for stricter legislation to combat the "threat of Satanist beliefs trickling into children's minds", reports said yesterday.

    Represented by their chairman, Archimandrite Christoforos Tsiakkas, the PPA met on Thursday with the Justice and Education ministers to relay their demands for wider action against the filtering of satanic rituals into schools.

    They called for a re-evaluation of legislation protecting children, including banning the sale of indecent material - such as satanic publications, paraphernalia and games to minors - and providing the threat of legal punishment to those who sell such products.

    Archimandrite Tsiakkas reported in the meeting that parents were contacting him on a daily basis expressing their fears of the spread of Satanism. He told the ministers how children could be lured in their everyday lives and that they needed protection. And he warned that "the increase in satanic rituals abroad" should act as an alarm bell to the dangers facing our country.

    Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides said the ministry was waiting for the PPA to gather their facts and evidence and present them to the ministry.

    "The problem, if it exists, is refined to very few cases. If the parents can bring us examples, we may investigate further the situation," said Ioannides. But he said that at present the ministry received only one allegation a year on Satanism. Despite this, the minister announced a seminar was being organised for counsellors and teachers so they might make themselves fully informed of the situation.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Environment commissioner: EU postbag is full of complaints about Cyprus

    By Jean Christou

    E.U. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said yesterday that the European Commission's postbag was full of letters from visitors to Cyprus expressing concern for the island's environment.

    Delivering a speech at Nicosia's Forum Hotel yesterday, Wallstrom, at the end of a two-day visit, also said that between 64 and 126 premature deaths in Cyprus could be avoided each year by applying EU air quality standards.

    "One criticism that is constantly levelled at Cyprus is that the rules and regulations that exist are not effectively applied and that when there is conflict between environment and development pressures, then environment loses out," Wallstrom said. "Once you are inside the EU it won't be enough to simply have the laws on your statute books - they will have to be effectively enforced."

    Wallstrom, who met President Glafcos Clerides earlier yesterday, said that a recent visit from EU experts had highlighted shortcomings in the ability of Cyprus to enforce EU environmental legislation and made recommendations on how these weaknesses could be addressed.

    "The well being of Cyprus depends on tourism and those tourists are drawn by the images in the holiday brochures of golden sand, clear blue water and unspoilt nature. Environment is the cornerstone of this image," she said.

    "But while the tourists are here they also develop their own images and these determine their impression of the country and how they report it back home. You may be surprised if I tell you that the Commission postbag is full of letters from people who have visited your country and many of those letters express environmental concerns on your island. They cover a whole range of issues from threats to areas of natural beauty to the stench from badly managed waste dumps."

    The Commissioner said that in the European Parliament she was regularly asked to respond to questions on Cypriot environmental issues. "All of these things construct an image of Cyprus to those of us who live beyond its coastline," she said, adding that Cyprus should not underestimate how the way that environmental issues were treated could be transmitted way beyond the island's shores.

    Wallstrom said much was written about how costly it was to implement EU environmental legislation, but insisted that the benefits far outweighed the expense.

    "Cyprus has an advantage over other candidate countries in that some of the benefits of environmental protection are already making themselves shown. With your history of water shortages you've been forced by circumstances to address the water issue. As I've already said, the arrival of over two and a half million visitors is secured by their sense that they are coming to a country with clean water and beaches. So there is a clear benefit to balance any cost," she said.

    Other benefits include those to public health, "cleaner air to breathe, cleaner water to drink and better waste management all improve the well being of the public".

    A recent EU study estimated that by applying EU water legislation Cyprus would benefit from 25 million to 100 million per year.

    "In addition to the benefits that can be costed, there are numerous others that cannot be accurately measured in monetary terms," Wallstrom said, citing benefits to the private sector in terms of productivity and reductions in production and maintenance costs.

    "The private sector will play a crucial role in this process. They will be the people who have to take the necessary measures and make the necessary investments," she said.

    "Balancing the need for environmental protection with the pressures to develop is never easy. I wouldn't say that it is a balance that we've always managed to get right inside the Union. You will find yourselves fighting constant battles. But if you can't preserve the environmental assets of this beautiful isle then you may find that it will be your children who will have to pay the price. You carry a heavy responsibility - charged with protecting not only the natural heritage of Cyprus but also that of the wider European family," the Commissioner said. "It would be a tragedy of huge proportion if we found ourselves in the situation where the last turtle left in Cyprus was the one on the 10 note! I know that you won't let that happen!"

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Taxi drivers suspend strike pending new talks

    By Alex Mita

    THE URBAN Taxi Federation (POAT) yesterday agreed to suspend its strike until negotiations were completed between the Communications Ministry and the union co-ordinating committee.

    The committee yesterday met with House President Demetris Christofias, who urged them to stop the strike and enter negotiations to find a solution to their demands that the Licensing Authority cancel all applications for new professional driving licences.

    Christofias told the committee he had spoken with Communications Minister Averoff Neofytou, who assured him that no taxi licences would be issued until discussions between himself and the committee were completed.

    Union co-ordinator Kyriacos Moustsakas asked Christofias to intervene to bring the dispute to an end.

    Meanwhile, at Larnaca airport, where violent incidents erupted on Thursday, after private cabbies attempted to drop off and collect passengers in defiance of the strike, it was business as usual for airport taxis, who had joined the strike earlier in the day in support of their colleagues.

    But Neophytou yesterday launched an verbal assault against Moustakas, accusing him of misinforming the strikers that licences would be issued when his Ministry had no such intention.

    He also accused Moustakas of being behind Thursday's violent acts, as well as organising the blockade at the Larnaca airport roundabout later in the evening.

    Neophytou said it was only a matter of time until the problem was solved, but castigated Moustakas for having been "rude" to deputies and government officials last year when talks was taking place on whether taxis should be painted a uniform colour.

    "In no way will I give Moustakas a lifeline," he said. "He made a mess. Let him clean it up."

    The president of the Communications and Works Committee, Nicos Pittokopitis, urged the strikers to be responsible and enter discussions to find a solution to their problem.

    The DIKO deputy slammed Thursday's incidents and the industrial action in general, saying the cab drivers should not have gone to such extremes.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Greek giant Delta to take over Charalambides dairies

    By Jean Christou

    CHARALAMBIDES Dairies yesterday officially announced its takeover by the Greek company Delta in what it said was the biggest-ever investment by a firm from an EU country in the food industry in Cyprus.

    "This has never happened before," Antonis Charalambides told the Cyprus Mail. "They are very interested in the Cyprus market because of the island's imminent accession to the EU."

    Delta, which is also affiliated with French dairy giant Danone, on Thursday informed the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) that its subsidiary Delta Protypos Viomihania Galaktos S.A. has signed an agreement to acquire 61 per cent of the share capital of Cypriot dairy group Charalambides.

    The announcement said Delta's aim in acquiring Charalambides was to gain a foothold on the Cypriot market and to create co-operation agreements in the region. Emporiki Capital, the subsidiary of Commercial Bank SA, will also participate in the deal by acquiring a stake of 19 per cent, while the remaining 20 per cent of the capital will remain in the hands of the Charalambides family.

    "Charalambides is going to remain an independent company but of course will have to give word to the parent company," Charalambides said. "We as a family are going be remain as shareholders in the company. not only shareholders but managers as well."

    He said the Charalambides brand would also remain intact, but added it was too early to say whether Delta would shift the manufacturing of its products to Cyprus through Charalambides or whether the Greek company would use the Cypriot firm as its distributor in Cyprus.

    Delta already has a small foothold in the Cyprus market through sales of its ice cream, yoghurt and juices, which are currently distributed by Stephanides.

    A spokesman for Stephanides said yesterday he didn't wish to comment on the Charalambides takeover just yet.

    Charalambides, which was founded in 1945, says it holds a 55 per cent share in the dairy products market in Cyprus with its products on sale in 4,000 outlets islandwide. In 2001 the company reported revenues of 17.5 million and pre-tax profits of 1.85 million.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] New bill seeks to target drug dealers, but critics unconvinced

    By Elias Hazou

    PARLIAMENT this week made an attempt at better regulating drug use and possession laws, but critics yesterday claimed half measures were the order of the day, saying the government was still neglecting the demand side of the issue.

    At a session of the joint Health and Legal Affairs Committee held on Thursday to debate the amended bill on narcotics and psychotropic substances, deputy Attorney-general Petros Clerides conceded that the "battle to save the users had been lost," arguing that law enforcement was now left no other choice but to focus on cracking down on dealers.

    Among other things, the committee debated amendments to existing laws; one of these would allow a court to order the shutting down of an establishment or warehouse on the premises of which drug dealing is proven. Another proposal would allow dealers and users to stand trial in the same case.

    But the most contentious issue was differentiating between dealers and mere users. The Attorney-general's office proposed, for example, that people found with 30 grams or more of marijuana in their possession should be arrested as dealers. Clerides' rationale was that, since dealers were rarely caught in the act by police, they could claim the drugs were for their personal use; but the new law would place the burden of proof on them in a court of law.

    As one deputy sitting on the committee pointed out, in the year 2000 a total of 400 cases were tried in court, but only four persons were found guilty of trafficking.

    Kyriacos Veresies, president of the KENTHEA drug detox centre, acknowledged the rationale behind Clerides' proposal, but said such laws would convey the "wrong message." In his view, criminals would take advantage of such laws by working around the problem, for example by trafficking smaller quantities of drugs at any one time and then getting off lightly if caught.

    In addition with disagreeing with the overall approach, Veresies also told the Cyprus Mail that the amounts quoted by the Attorney-general's office were too high. He explained that 30g of marijuana or 10g of heroin were actually substantial amounts, providing users with several dozen "hits" if carefully prepared.

    Veresies went on to say that other countries, such as the Netherlands, had also started out with a 30g quota for mere drug use, but later had to reduce this to 5g.

    KENTHEA's chairman advocated a more demand-side oriented approach to the drug problem on the island. Citing official figures, he said that intravenous drug use among persons aged 17 and over was on the rise.

    Cyprus still lacks a drug rehab centre complying with international standards. Users sentenced to a few months' imprisonment receive treatment at the prison's hospital ward, which is not qualified in drug rehabilitation, says Veresies.

    The maximum penalty for drug use in Cyprus is six months imprisonment and there are thoughts on letting off persons aged under 25 with a clean criminal record. The treatment of dealers is relatively severe, compared to other countries: life imprisonment.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] British fugitive flees northern Cyprus just as net closes in

    By Jean Christou

    SUSPECTED British drug smuggler Brian Wright, who has been living as a fugitive in the north, has fled his hideaway just hours before he was to become the first Briton to be deported from the unrecognised breakaway regime, British newspapers reported yesterday.

    According to the Times, Wright, the man alleged to be the mastermind in a 300 million drug smuggling ring, left the island on a private boat early on Thursday and is thought to be somewhere in the Middle East. As an unrecognised entity, the breakaway regime has no extradition treaty with Britain.

    The Times quoted acquaintances of Wright, a wealthy gambler and racegoer, as saying he had put into operation contingency plans to escape as he felt the net tightening around him.

    When the Turkish Cypriots, acting in collaboration with British authorities, arrived to arrest him at his luxury villa in occupied Lapithos, he had gone. His BMW, which was later impounded by the 'police', was abandoned in a supermarket car park near by, the paper said. British authorities had moved to have Wright arrested after another member of the smuggling ring was jailed for nine years two weeks ago. Wright had sought refuge in northern Cyprus in February 1999 after the 15 members of his gang, including his son, also called Brian Wright, were arrested for importing 300 million of cocaine on yachts during the previous three years.

    The Turkish Cypriots agreed to invoke legislation dating from 1952, when Cyprus was a British colony, in order to aid the deportation. The law allows the authorities to deport undesirables to Turkey, from where they can legally be extradited to Britain. "Politically it's very sensitive," a British official told the Times. "But when it comes to serious crime or terrorism, we have to deal with the Turkish Cypriot authorities and they're generally willing to co-operate. It's not political and in no way does it imply recognition."

    After Wright's escape, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash publicly confirmed his 'police' force's co-operation with the British authorities. "The TRNC is not a shelter for foreigners with criminal records," he said. "Every country has the right to say to a foreign resident that they have overstayed their welcome, and ask them to leave through the proper channels."

    Wright, 56, nicknamed "Uncle", or "the Milkman" because he always delivers, is alleged to be behind the cocaine smuggling ring and the laundering of the proceeds through gambling based on doping and race-fixing, buying off jockeys in exchange for inside information.

    He was last seen on the island more than a week ago, shortly after a large sum of money had been transferred to a bank account in his family name. Sources close to him told the Times: "He's done a runner. Some people say he might have left northern Cyprus, others say he may be in hiding. As soon as he saw it in the press that the Turkish Cypriot police were after him, too, he took off. He had been living here in the north unnoticed for the past few years."

    Officials in Britain believe he was kept afloat by family and friends in Britain, who would occasionally fly out to visit him carrying cash in suitcases. The manager of a nearby casino was taken in for questioning by the Turkish Cypriot 'police', but later released.

    He was reported to be Wright's right-hand man on the island and had allowed him to buy his luxury villa in his name. Friends of Wright said that he had left on a private boat last Thursday and had been heading for a country in the Middle East. Britain has no extradition treaties with Jordan, Yemen and Egypt, one of which is likely to be his destination, the paper said.

    He is expected to lie low for several weeks while contacts prepare false travel documents on his behalf and organise a flight elsewhere. Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Rwanda also have no extradition treaties with Britain. Customs and Excise officials in London said that they were unable to discuss operational activities. "We would not be able to say whether anything had gone wrong as Customs and Excise don't discuss operations until someone has been charged," a spokesman told the Times.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] SEC working with US authorities over Millennium investigation

    By Jean Christou

    SECURITIES and Exchange Commission (SEC) chief Marios Clerides yesterday confirmed that Cyprus was co-operating with an American SEC investigation into a company named Millennium Financial Services, in which Cyprus-based investors have reportedly lost several million pounds.

    Clerides told the Cyprus Mail they had received a number of complaints from Millennium investors in Cyprus six months ago, which he had passed on to the American SEC. "For around six months, we didn't hear anything and now they have come back to us seeking more information," he said. He refused to say, however, whether the complaints had come from Cypriots or from foreigners living in Cyprus, or to divulge how much money was involved.

    However, reports said yesterday that the small number of investors involved had lost around one to two million pounds with the company. "The American SEC is now conducting a big investigation and have asked us for more information," Clerides said. "There might even be other countries involved."

    According to reports yesterday, US authorities were looking into complaints from 150 investors in 20 countries, including the UK and Ireland, and to a lesser extent France, Germany, Greece and Italy.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Former fugitive Patsalides jailed for escape

    By Elias Hazou

    THE SAGA of the Petros Patsalides case wound down yesterday, when the former fugitive and shooting suspect was sentenced to seven months' imprisonment for escaping police custody.

    In January last year, Patsalides was arrested after a drive-by shooting outside Nicosia's Dow Jones disco. It emerged that Patsalides' had been in the club at the time, and witnesses said he had earlier tried to get her to leave the place with him, but she refused. Two Russian girls were injured from the stray bullets fired by a machinegun.

    The ensuing storyline was full of twists and turns, as the suspect managed to escape police custody in old Nicosia, where he took police ostensibly to show them a weapons stash. The 34-year-old was at large for 18 days, in the end turning himself over to well-known Sigma TV reporter Demetris Mamas. The controversial Mamas' involvement alone served to catapult the case to number one news item for some time.

    In the initial hearing, Patsalides' girlfriend, believed to have been the target of the angered attack at Dow Jones, had a change of heart and decided not to press charges.

    Last July, the unlikely couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony held in an office behind the bars of the Nicosia central prisons.

    With the charges of shooting with intent to kill and illegal arms possession having been dropped, the prosecution was pressing for a conviction for Patsalides' escape from police custody.

    An anticlimax to the affair unfolded yesterday, as a Nicosia criminal court perfunctorily sentenced Patsalides to seven months' imprisonment, effective 24 February 2002; that means Patsalides will be out in three months' time.

    As the defence lawyer told the court, Patsalides and his beloved planned to have a religious marriage as soon as he got out of jail.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Rear seatbelts compulsory from Monday

    AS OF Monday, the use of rear seatbelts will be mandatory in all vehicles equipped with the safety devices.

    The law, approved unanimously by parliament almost a year ago, will make drivers liable if a child is riding in their car without a belt on; adults in the back seat are themselves liable if they fail to wear a seat belt. The law covers vehicles of less than 3.5 tonnes.

    The fine for not strapping on is 50; drivers caught without belt also incur penalty points.

    According to police statistics, over the past five years 284 drivers and passengers lost their lives on the road; out of these, only 45 were wearing a seat belt. Fatalities usually occur when persons are hurled outside, crashing against the windscreen. A police announcement issued yesterday said that at least 28 lives could be saved every year if drivers complied with seatbelt regulations.

    Rear seatbelts are mandatory in most EU countries.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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