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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-07-30

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, July 30, 2002


  • [01] Banks on strike today
  • [02] Government seeks to play down sanctions busting claims
  • [03] Strawberry vision hampered by bureaucracy
  • [04] Farmers to stage blockade today
  • [05] No 'models' for high heels escort agency
  • [06] Desalination strike will not affect water supplies
  • [07] Bitter recriminations in election row
  • [08] I wasn't drunk, and I wasn't singing, released Greek Cypriot insists
  • [09] Israeli team cleared for Cyprus game after delay over guns
  • [10] Current heat wave 'normal for July'
  • [11] Police step up patrols after Pontians and Cypriots clash

  • [01] Banks on strike today

    By Elias Hazou

    BANKS across the island will be closed to the public today, after employees and employers failed to work out a deal on the renewal of collective agreements and demands for a more lax approach to the repayment of investment loans.

    ETYK (the National Bank Employees Association) is blaming the employers for the standoff, saying the strike was a necessary measure following management refusal to consider their demands. The association wants a laxer approach to the repayment of investment loans and the provision of housing loans, and are pushing for a revision of the collective agreements regimen.

    The repayment of investment loans is effectively related to the purchase by employees of various banks' shares on the stock market. In a press release, ETYK claimed that bank managements "played the market, allowing thousands of employees to take all the risk and then leaving them out in the cold". It went on to say that the employees' demands had been rejected outright by the Bank Employers' Association, which it accused of intransigence.

    Meanwhile sources said that hundreds of Bank of Cyprus employees were on the waiting list for house loans. There are a total of 10,000 bank employees in Cyprus.

    ETYK president Loizos Hadjicostis said yesterday the association's decision to carry out a strike was "irreversible".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Government seeks to play down sanctions busting claims

    By Elias Hazou

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday reiterated that Cypriot authorities could not have knowingly been involved in sanctions busting during the UN embargo on Yugoslavia, adding that the investigation launched by the Attorney-general would serve to clear up the case.

    Speaking at his daily briefing, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the government had urged Attorney-general Alecos Markides to complete the investigation as soon as possible, given the "obvious political ramifications of the case."

    But Papapetrou had no comment on how the investigation was progressing, noting it was wise to wait until it was first completed. Asked by reporters whether this affair might expose the island to the international community, Papapetrou said that would happen "only if the charges against Cyprus were substantiated."

    Last week, the Financial Times carried a piece highlighting Cyprus' role in enabling the Milosevic regime to bypass UN sanctions through the Cyprus Popular Bank and the law firm of DIKO boss and presidential candidate Tassos Papadopoulos. The _FT report said that, instead of taking measures against sanctions-busting companies, leading members of Cyprus' "close-knit elite" facilitated the transactions.

    The allegations came on the heels of a report compiled by Mortin Torkildsen, a financial investigator for the UN war crimes prosecutor. Torkildsen said that he estimated over $1.23 billion had been channelled by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic through eight offshore companies in Cyprus between 1992 and 2000. The companies named were all registered by Papadopoulos' law firm. Torkildsen concluded it was impossible for the entire amount to have originated from the Federal Customs Administration of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.

    Following Torkildsen's claims, the Central Bank denied categorically that Cyprus was involved in money laundering. After the FT report came out, the Central Bank admitted some Yugoslav cash in violation of the sanctions may have been channelled to the island, although Cypriot authorities could not have known about this at the time.

    However, the paper quoted Central Bank official Andreas Philippou as saying senior officials at the bank were in fact aware that front companies were set up in Cyprus as a means of avoiding sanctions.

    Yesterday, Central Bank director Christodoulos Christodoulou issued an announcement saying Philippou's statements had been twisted by the paper. He said he and another senior bank official were both present during Philippou's interview, and both of them agreed that the paper had distorted Philippou's words.

    Yesterday Attorney-general Markides entered the fray, refuting the FT's claims that he had avoided taking legal action against Tassos Papadopoulos' office. According to the paper, Ljiljana Radenkovic, a company employee in London, claimed someone forged her signature so she would appear to be the owner of the Antexol offshore company in Cyprus.

    But according to Markides, Randenkovic's testimony was contradictory, which undermined her reliability.

    Markides said that there had been no reason warranting legal action against Papadopoulos, adding that even if such action were to be initiated, Papadopoulos' immunity as deputy would first have to be waived by a Supreme Court decision.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Strawberry vision hampered by bureaucracy

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    A BRITISH businessman plans to set up a new strawberry farm, the first of its kind in Cyprus, which will provide Europe with strawberries all year round.

    Geoffrey Gunson, a resident of Cyprus for 11 years, said yesterday that starting up the project had proved difficult, and claimed his company - Straw Bear Ltd - faced considerable opposition from those who feared competition in the local market.

    Gunson said the $500,000 agricultural project had been in the waiting for more than a year due to bureaucratic delays and procedures.

    Gunson applied to buy 22 donums of land last year to produce hydroponically- grown strawberries. He needed special permission because the law currently limits foreign ownership of land to three donums. The Larnaca District Office finally rejected his application after much delay, stating that hydroponics was not an important technology for Cyprus.

    Hydroponics is a semi-organic method of producing certain types of agricultural produce without using soil. Hydroponically-grown produce has a longer shelf life, and strawberries grown by this method can last up to a week in the fridge.

    It is considered a 'hi-tech' form of production, which produces strawberries for 52 weeks of the year. The climate in Cyprus is ideal for hydroponics because the heating costs in winter are considerably less than in Europe, giving Cyprus an edge over its foreign competitors.

    Undeterred, Gunson leased 40 donums of land near Kalavassos to set up the strawberry farm. The location is over 100 metres above sea level making it perfect for hydroponics. "I already have a special agreement with an Italian company giving me the licence for a wide variety of strawberries that have a richer taste and smell," he said. The company has secured agreements to export the strawberries to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. "The farm poses no threat to the local market as only around 10 per cent of production will be sold in Cyprus."

    Gunson also intends to export strawberry plants to clients in the Middle East. Within three years, he hopes to have 11 million plants growing on the land, a 2,000 square metre greenhouse producing strawberries for export and a turnover of up to 1.5 million.

    "I have spent one year and $51,000 on legal fees and land surveys to get this thing going. I want to bring euros into the country, pay my taxes and hire many people but I'm getting no help from the government whatsoever," said Gunson.

    The farm is currently waiting for a response from the water department as to whether it can use the water from the Kalavassos dam. If the department refuses, Gunson will have no choice but to supply water from a well on the land. As farm manager, Andreas Parmaxis explained, the well water does not cater for strawberry production, only plant production, making the dam water essential to the farm's plans. Parmaxis said it would be a great shame, due to the variety of hormone-free strawberries the farm had to offer.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Farmers to stage blockade today

    By Alex Mita

    FARMERS will stage a one-hour demonstration across the island today, during which they will use their tractors and combine harvesters to block key routes in the Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos districts.

    The move is an attempt to ensure that the government meets their demands for compensation after drought and bad weather, as well as increased diesel prices and foreign labour costs.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous yesterday slammed the farmers' plans, insisting the government had by far satisfied their demands. He branded today's strike as "useless".

    But a spokesman for the Farmers' Union said the government was indifferent to the farmers' plight, accusing ministers of sounding reassuring in an effort to head off mass demonstrations, like the blockade that cut off Larnaca airport in March. The union man said the government was only willing to enter dialogue when the unions threatened strikes, and expressed hope that this time the Ministry of Agriculture would be more co-operative.

    The demonstration will take place from 10-11am, and will see farmers blocking the Akaki-Peristerona road outside the Omiros bakery; in Limassol, the Limassol-Paphos highway will be blocked at the Avdimou flyover and in Larnaca the Xylophagou-Ayia Napa road will be blocked off close to the Liopetri River. In Paphos, the farmers will block the Mandria roundabout, and in Troodos the Karvounas-Kakopetria-Kyperounta-Troodos roads.

    However, the union warned that should the government fail to take the demonstrations seriously, the farmers would step up their blockades.

    "Rest assured, if the government does not meet the basic issues of our demands we will take strict measures in September," the spokesman said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] No 'models' for high heels escort agency

    THE SUPREME Court has rejected an appeal by a Larnaca model agency to bring in 20 foreign women to work in a brothel in Cyprus.

    The company 'L.D. High Heels Model Agency Ltd' applied to the Interior Ministry in March 2001 for a licence to run a brothel and 20 work permits for female escorts. After the ministry rejected their application the agency applied for a judicial review to the Supreme Court.

    In their application, the agency set out their intention to open up a brothel in Cyprus with foreign employees. They concluded that no female Cypriots were available for such employment and said they had to look further afield for woman who would cater to the needs of foreign businessmen and tourists.

    They also gave assurances that the running of the brothel would be of the highest standards.

    The Interior Minister replied in May 2001, saying that the application had been reviewed and rejected "due to Article 6(1)(E) of the Immigration Law, Chapter 105, which prohibits all foreigners that prostitute or make profits from prostitution to stay in Cyprus."

    The appellants sought to contest the Minister's decision and took their case to the Supreme Court.

    Supreme Court judge Georgios Nicolaou, after reviewing both sides of the case, rejected the appeal. In his judgment of July 25, Nicolaou said, "The minister's reply, in his capacity as Senior Administrative Immigration Officer, was of informational content. The submitted request for 20 entry visas, without specific details of those persons, involved no executive decision of any kind."

    The judge went on to explain that the answer, therefore, only provided information as to how the case would be handled, as opposed to giving an executive decision that could be reviewed.

    In closing, the judge said, "Based on the prohibitions stipulated by immigration law regarding making a living from prostitution, in either case, one could not expect a positive response to such a request."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Desalination strike will not affect water supplies

    THE Agriculture Minister yesterday assured the residents of Nicosia, Larnaca, and Famagusta that water supply to their households would not be affected by today's strike at the Larnaca desalination unit.

    Costas Themistocleous said his ministry had decided to replace the around 50,000 cubic metres of water per day produced by the unit with water from the Kourris and Dipotamos dams.

    The water from the dams would be processed at the Tersefanou and Kornos refineries, Themistocleous said.

    The minister said the government has taken all necessary measures and all pipes and pumps have been checked so that the system can respond to consumers' needs.

    Asked whether the dams could sustain the three districts for a long time, Themistocleous said the dams had ample supplies of water, adding that he hoped the dispute would be resolved as soon as possible.

    According to the union, the dispute centers on its members' unwillingness to enter into personal contracts with their employers.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Bitter recriminations in election row

    By George Psyllides

    JUST two days after the AKEL national party congress endorsed DIKO Chairman Tasos Papdopoulos as presidential candidate, a spat has broken out between KISOS and DIKO deputy chairman Nicos Pittokopitis over revelations Pittokopitis made regarding claims of a secret deal between KISOS and DISY for a transitional government.

    On Saturday, Pittokopitis told state radio that he had been told by senior KISOS members that some people in the party were negotiating with DISY for KISOS' former chairman Vassos Lyssarides to lead a transitional government.

    In a bitter reply, KISOS rubbished Pittokopitis' claims that he was in a position to know the contents of telephone calls made by the party chairman and other officials from briefings he received from his "agents" within KISOS.

    "Pittokopitis' behaviour, to resort to utter fabrications, is the lowest form of political behaviour, it insults his party and its voters, and puts his chairman Tassos Papadopoulos in a difficult position," a written statement said.

    Yesterday, Pittokopitis held a news conference, but refused to answer any questions or to substantiate the claims he made on Saturday.

    "The truth annoys some people and has its own cost; we will serve it forever because lying has short legs, especially in small societies," Pittokopitis said.

    He added: "Our hand is permanently extended for a warm and frank handshake with all opposition forces, for a reliable and honest co-operation that would bring change."

    "This is a reply to KISOS and I won't comment any further on the matter," Pittokopitis said.

    KISOS said yesterday that instead of apologising, Pittokopitis had "effectively" tried to justify his behaviour.

    "The manufacture of lies and fables and their substantiation with mentions about informants is an unprecedented practice for Cyprus.

    "If there are such people (informants), then Pittokopitis should present them to speak for themselves - otherwise he remains exposed as the manufacturer and promoter of slander, " KISOS said.

    The spat comes just two days after the AKEL national party congress endorsed Papadopoulos to stand as presidential candidate for the 2003 elections.

    In a congress shrouded in secrecy and marked by tight security, communist party members voted 939 for, 36 against, and 34 abstentions for the centre- right DIKO leader.

    In his speech to the congress, AKEL Chairman Demetris Christofias appealed to KISOS to co-operate, stressing that there was still time for co- operation of all the forces for "change".

    KISOS distanced itself from the three-party opposition coalition after DISY proposed a national unity government led by KISOS chairman Yiannakis Omirou.

    KISOS honorary chairman Lyssarides stressed that if AKEL did not change its decision to support Papadopoulos, then KISOS would have no choice but to fight the elections on its own.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] I wasn't drunk, and I wasn't singing, released Greek Cypriot insists

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE GREEK Cypriot man released from the occupied north last week claimed yesterday that the much-publicised stories of him singing in Greek before his arrest were a complete fabrication.

    Vassos Elias, 25, from Xylotymbou was convicted over a week ago for 'illegal entry to the north of the island' on July 12, through a village, which borders the Turkish-occupied areas and the British base of Dhekelia.

    He was released on Friday, but forced to face a 2,200-kilometre journey home through Turkey and Greece instead of a 100-metre walk across the Ledra Palace checkpoint, arriving on Saturday in Larnaca.

    According to media reports, Elias, a builder, was smuggled in by his Turkish Cypriot employee Osman Sinkerpi, who invited him for a drink at his local tavern in occupied Famagusta. The reports claimed that during the evening, he was having such a good time that he began singing loudly in Greek. They added Turkish Cypriot 'police' were called and he was arrested

    He was later remanded and later given an eight-day jail sentence, while his employee, Sinkerpi, was also jailed for eight days.

    But Elias denied yesterday that he was ever in a tavern, or got drunk and started singing. "Curiosity made me take a drive with my employee Sinkerpi after work to the occupied north. We went to his house first, and then he took me to his local coffee shop where I met some people that I knew from work. Around 8pm, we got in the car and drove off, at which point the police stopped and arrested us on the road," he said.

    Elias insisted he was not dancing on tables, nor did he get drunk and break into song. He told the media his account on Saturday, but said he was disappointed to find that none of the channels had set the record straight.

    Regarding the whole incident, he said, "It was an experience I will never forget and I hope no one else will have to go through it." He said he had no idea what was going on while he was being transported, other than that he was being put on a plane to Istanbul.

    "I have no complaints about the way the Turkish Cypriot authorities treated me but at some point I got worried that the flight to Turkey was not going to be a stopover," said Elias.

    On landing in Athens, he said he finally felt safe and is now happy to be reunited with his wife and four-year-old daughter and get back to the work, which has built up while he was away.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Israeli team cleared for Cyprus game after delay over guns

    By Ori Lewis

    ISRAEL'S Maccabi Haifa finally received permission to fly to Cyprus for a Champions League qualifying match after resolving a dispute over security guards that had left them stranded at Haifa airport yesterday.

    Israeli soccer officials said the Shin Bet, Israel's security agency, and the Cypriot authorities had reached agreement after Haifa were initially refused security clearance because they wanted to take armed guards with them.

    UEFA has ordered Haifa to host Belshina Bobrisk of Belarus in the first leg of their Champions League second qualifying round tie in Cyprus tomorrow because of security concerns about playing the match in Israel. The match will be played at Nicosia's GSP Stadium.

    The Israeli soccer officials gave no details but said yesterday's incident had been resolved with high-level intervention.

    "I am not privy to the details of the agreement between Israel and Cyprus, but it is not important. The result is that Maccabi Haifa will play," Israel Football Association Chairman Gavri Levi said.

    He suggested Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had intervened.

    "We managed to mobilise the prime minister and the foreign minister. Even the Cypriot president (Glafcos Clerides) was involved," Levi said.

    Israeli and Cypriot government officials did not immediately comment.

    Israeli Science, Culture and Sport Minister Matan Vilnai regretted yesterday's incident, which he said could have resulted in the team being ousted from the tournament.

    But he said: "I am pleased to say we managed to resolve the matter. All the relevant agencies are satisfied that the players are well protected and it was good to see that everybody on our side and in Cyprus worked together for a successful conclusion."

    UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has ordered all Israeli clubs to play their "home" matches in European competitions in Cyprus because of security concerns caused by the heightened cycle of violence in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict over the last 22 months.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Current heat wave 'normal for July'

    THE heat wave affecting the island is a usual phenomenon and temperatures for July were normal, the weather service said yesterday.

    Senior Meteorological officer Loizos Stephanou said July had in fact been a "very good month" compared to the temperatures recorded in past years.

    "In July we had normal temperatures, even lower (than normal) during most days, which means that July was a very good month compared to other years," Stephanou said.

    Stephanou said yesterday's heat wave was a "usual phenomenon" and reminded that 42 to 43 degree temperatures had already been recorded in June and earlier this month.

    He said temperatures today would reach 41 degrees and would continue through Wednesday with a slight fall from Thursday.

    Asked whether the stormy weather currently battering Greece might affect Cyprus, Stephanou said there was no such indication yet.

    "Our data do not justify any concern that we would have the same weather phenomena as in Greece," he said.

    He added that the system affecting Greece was beginning to weaken and it did not seem that it would affect the island.

    Meanwhile, the Labour Ministry yesterday notified employers that because of the prevalent temperatures and humidity workers should not be directly exposed to the sun between 12pm and 4pm.

    In a written announcement, the ministry said that light work could be carried out under shade, wearing light clothing and with the supply of plenty of cool fresh water.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [11] Police step up patrols after Pontians and Cypriots clash

    POLICE were stepping up patrols in the Ayios Andreas area of Limassol after a street fight between Greek Cypriots and Pontians on Sunday, district police director Theodoros Stylianou said yesterday.

    Two Greek Cypriots and two Pontians were arrested, while four people sustained light injuries.

    According to Theodorou, around 70 people took part in the brawl, which started after 60-year-old Argyroulla Emiliou told off a group of Pontians for making too much noise.

    The men allegedly assaulted Emiliou and hit her.

    Her son entered the fray using a bat to hit the Pontians, who left the scene.

    They returned shortly afterwards with reinforcements, resulting in the escalation of the fight.

    Two Pontians were injured, as were Emilou and her son.

    The three men were treated in hospital and discharged, while Emiliou was kept in as a precaution.

    Theodorou said police were increasing their patrols in the Ayios Andreas area to prevent similar incidents and a potential vendetta.

    Limassol Mayor Demetris Kontides said he had requested increased policing of the area a long time ago in order to prevent such incidents.

    Kontides said it was natural for problems to emerge in areas inhabited by people with different a culture and behaviour.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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