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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-08-02

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, August 2, 2002


  • [01] Residents panic as Alassa burns
  • [02] Doctors claim some colleagues involved in massive insurance scam
  • [03] Rats blamed as typhus cases rise
  • [04] Police called in over pictures of bishop
  • [05] Cabbies' anger as new taxi licences approved
  • [06] AremisSoft settles SEC investigation
  • [07] Security guard stabbed outside US radio station
  • [08] Foreign office adds timeshare and buying property in the north to travel advice
  • [09] Digital TV in Cyprus by 2010
  • [10] Greens chain themselves to fence in antenna protest
  • [11] Father tells of shock over Napa drugs sentence

  • [01] Residents panic as Alassa burns

    By Alex Mita

    FEARS WERE raised for the lives of many elderly residents who lived in the higher parts of Alassa as the smoke began to seep over their houses.

    British residents in the village were appalled by the lack of co-ordination by the fire service and the police.

    "There is only one fire engine that is supposed to save the village," said one resident. "It's disgraceful."

    The man said when he first saw the fire, it was close to the carton box factory across the street, but it closed in at lightning speed.

    "I was sleeping, and my wife woke me up saying we had to get out of here, so we took the car and drove were we thought it would be safe, but now we are getting out of here," he said.

    No effort was made by the police to evacuate the village and people ran around screaming the names of wives, daughters and mothers in the overwhelming confusion.

    When asked why only one fire engine was dispatched to the village, firemen could give no answer. On the top of the hill, a woman whose restaurant had been burned to the ground was serving cold water and soft drinks. "It was my restaurant that burned down," she told the Cyprus Mail, sobbing as she poured two glasses of diet coke. "It's gone, it's gone. I am ruined."

    "My sister-in-law's house caught fire inside."

    Another man said everything happened so fast there was little anyone could do."

    "The radio said all the fire engines are at our village. Where are they?"

    "We ran and saved the house but all my animals are gone and my olive trees."

    Suddenly a hysterical child began to run towards the flames on the cliff next to his house, screaming for its mother, who thought he was playing at a neighbour's house but was grabbed by one of the residents and taken to his mother.

    Two men shouted at the firemen for not doing anything. "Our houses are burning and you are just sitting there," they said.

    Elsewhere, a 20-year-old woman, seeing the flames from her living room, ran through a glass door and was taken to hospital with lacerations all over her body.

    Black veil of smoke covering the mountains and the air was stifling. Across the village, Pambos Chistofi stood shoulders hunched and watched as his carton box factory went up in smoke. Christofi told the Cyprus Mail there had been 40 employees in the factory when the flames began to engulf it.

    "It's a miracle we managed to get out at all," he said. "We did everything we could, I am ruined, it's all over. You can see for your self. Look at this."

    Behind him his wife broke down after witnessing the smouldering ruins of their life's work.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Doctors claim some colleagues involved in massive insurance scam

    PRIVATE doctors have accused their colleagues of allegedly amassing hundreds of thousands of pounds from scamming foreign insurance companies, it was reported yesterday.

    The charge was officially made to Larnaca police, and both the Pancyprian Medical Association and Cyprus Tourism Organisation confirmed they had also received a number of similar complaints, said Simerini newspaper.

    According to local doctors' charges, the alleged scam operates as follows:

    Foreign tour operators, in co-operation with Cypriots, allegedly sell tourists visiting the island package deals that include "health facilities". The only requirement for the "holiday deal" is that these tourists must have health insurance.

    Once in Cyprus, the tourists suddenly develop "health problems" and are transferred to certain private clinics allegedly in on the scam for "treatment". Once in the clinic, false medical slips are allegedly filled out and charged to the "sick tourist's" insurance company. And, it goes without saying these fees are said to be "extortionate".

    In other cases tourists are allegedly genuinely provided with dental work or ophthalmic care, but again the insurance companies are sent incorrect medical information forcing them to fork out huge sums of money for health insurance payouts.

    This scam, according to the local paper, is ideal since everyone benefits: the tourists involved in the crime take advantage of an extremely cheap, sometimes free, holiday; and clinics and tour operators make a bundle on the alleged doctors' fees and medical treatment.

    However, according to the head of the medical association, Dr. Antonis Vassiliou, investigating such a case and proving someone's guilt would be extremely difficult. Witness testimony is vital in cases like this, something that is highly unlikely, because no-one benefiting would want to "rat out" their accomplices, he explained. As for using detectives to uncover the truth, said Vassiliou, the medical association was not in the practice of employing them.

    Another problem related to the case are the doctors' fees, he said. There are no limitations on what a doctor should or should not charge for professional expertise, which was why insurance companies could be billed for exorbitant amounts of money, he said.

    Vassiliou said any doctor guilty of such a scam faced serious medical disciplinary charges, as it was inexcusable for medical practitioners to profit from business dealings of this kind.

    Moreover, he said: "Swindles of this sort undermine the medical world and I appeal to all doctors and tour operators to avoid involving themselves in such transactions, that insult the Cypriot community and undermine the prestige of Cypriot tourism."

    CTO head Frini Michael and Dr. Vassiliou were yesterday unavailable for further comment.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Rats blamed as typhus cases rise

    By Alexia Saoulli

    TWENTY-one people have tested positive for endemic typhus so far this summer, Veterinary Services head Fidias Loucaides said yesterday.

    The causative bacteria for endemic typhus is Rickettsia typhi, a disease carried by rat fleas, he said. The reason it is endemic is because it occurs naturally and consistently in a particular area - in this case in areas heavily populated with rats and mice.

    "Although this type of typhus cannot be directly spread from person to person and personal hygiene is not a contributing factor," Loucaides told the Cyprus Mail, "it is easily transferred from the infected fleas onto humans."

    According to Nicosia pathologist Dr. Costakis Zarifis, endemic typhus causes about 12 days of high fever, with chills, a headache and general aches and pains followed by a rash. The rash spreads to the whole body except for the face, palms, and soles of the feet. On the whole, however, people usually recover uneventfully from endemic typhus, although the elderly, those with other medical problems, or people mistakenly treated with sulfa drugs may have a one per cent death rate from the illness.

    "If diagnosed and treated promptly with specific antibiotics, such as tetracycline and chloramphenicol, it is not life threatening," he said. "However, if left untreated, it can kill you."

    The incidence of this type of typhus is a common occurrence on the island every summer, said the vet. Last year, the veterinary services hi-tech laboratory tested 65 blood samples and found 41 positive.

    "This year, the hospitals have sent us 51 blood samples so far and 21 of them have tested positive for the disease. But this number is not representative of the number of registered cases as we are only sent a few of the total number of samples taken. This is because we are used as more of a confirmation base for results, rather than as a primary testing centre, " said Loucaides. Of the 21 cases, two individuals are reportedly suffering acute renal failure as a consequence of the disease, he said.

    The best way to prevent the spread of typhus was to exterminate rat populations, he said.

    "You have to ensure that all known infected areas are eradicated of the vermin, including homes and farms. However, rats tend to be more common in rural areas because of the greater number of garden animals and farms around as compared to towns. It's not so much the animals, such as chickens or goats, that attract the rats, but the food and water their owners provide for them."

    Health Ministry, Head of Health Services, Sophoclis Anthousis said that although environmental prevention measures had to be carried out, chemical intervention was also an option.

    "Farmers have to learn to clean up all traces of food and water once they have fed their animals," he said. "If there is no food around for the rats to feed on, they'll stay away. Also food trays should not be left exposed, food storage barns kept shut and animals must be kept in healthy, clean living conditions so as to reduce rat populations and subsequent rat reproduction." If these initial prevention methods are not effective, he said, chemical means, such as rat poison, had to be used.

    "The Agriculture Ministry is currently selling villages around the island rat poison at cost price. However, killing off the rats is not enough, you also have to get rid of the fleas. This is because the fleas need blood to survive and once the rat is dead it will look for its nearest host, in other words other animals or humans. In light of this, the Health Ministry has implemented an insecticide spraying programme to eliminate the fleas once the rats have been taken care of," said Anthousis.

    But, this was not an epidemic outbreak, nor was it related to the fatal disease called relapsing fever as some papers had suggested, he said.

    "Thank goodness relapsing fever does not exist in Cyprus. Endemic typhus is common and its incidence rates this year have been within the normal range and spread throughout the island, not limited to one specific area or district."

    Anthousis said endemic fever was more common in the summer because people were more exposed and tended to work or play outdoors a lot more than in the winter - but was unrelated to the heat.

    "If you're in the fields, under the scorching summer sun, you're likely to roll your shirt sleeves up aren't you? With your arms exposed like that, it is also more likely that fleas will be able to bite you. That is why these prevention measures are particularly important during these months, so that we can limit the incidence rates of this disease."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Police called in over pictures of bishop

    By George Psyllides

    ATTORNEY-general Alecos Markides yesterday instructed police to launch an investigation into who was behind the photographs and video footage showing the Bishop of Paphos half-naked on a beach after an early morning swim.

    The photographs were published on Wednesday in Paphos newspaper Apokalipsis, but they were also sent, along with the video-footage, to the mass media and to Markides, who was asked in a note from the sender what he intended to do about it.

    But it looked like the attempt to harm Chrysostomos had backfired yesterday as Markides launched an investigation into what he described as an "unbecoming attempt to murder the character of a bishop of the Orthodox Church".

    "The Attorney-general will intervene but not in the direction they think," Markides said.

    He added: "They were looking for the state to take action against a bishop because he went for a swim at an apparently secluded beach were they lay in wait to take pictures and video.

    "What are they asking us to do?

    "Charge him with offending public decency?

    "I'm sorry, that's not going to happen," Markides said.

    Markides said that fact that those who took the pictures had sent copies to so many people, including the mass media, made it obvious that their aim was anything but to do a service to the Church or the pubic interest.

    "Their aim was to inflict the greatest possible damage to the reputation and character of the Paphos Bishop," Markides said.

    The Attorney-general said that it initially looked like the bishop's constitutional rights had been violated, because, irrespective of his clerical duties, he too was a citizen and had the same fundamental human rights as everyone else.

    "There is a prima facie brutal violation of constitutional rights and possible criminal offences; but let's not forget the article concerning conspiracy to destroy an individual's reputation," Markides said.

    He added that he had instructed police to proceed with an inquiry into the case and report their findings as soon as possible.

    "It is clear, at least from what I saw and understood, that it is entrapment," Markides said.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the publication of the pictures was "unacceptable scheming, which degraded the level of public life and the social level of Cyprus as a whole".

    "These practices should become a thing of the past once and for all and it is the duty of society to reject those who attempt to use such means," Papapetrou said.

    Chrysostomos yesterday issued a stern warning to those behind the publication that he would not show any leniency.

    "They wanted to destroy me; they haven't succeeded because I wasn't doing anything I should be ashamed or scared of," Chrysostomos said.

    He added: "And if I was going to be lenient, now the axe would fall heavy on their heads."

    Chrysostomos said he knew who the mastermind was, but refused to reveal the name, leaving it to the police and the courts.

    "Those who took the video were paid; the Attorney-general would do well to order their arrest to find who was the mastermind behind them," Chrysostomos said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Cabbies' anger as new taxi licences approved

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE LICENSING Authority (LA) announced yesterday it had issued 250 new taxi licences, despite claims by taxi drivers that the saturation of licences on the market was shrinking their income and leading to an increase in overcharging.

    Costas Tsirides, LA head, said that after taking into account views of all interested parties, 250 out of 1,066 applications for new urban taxi licences had been approved.

    The licences will take effect from November 1, 2002, and include the added proviso that the vehicle can only be driven by the licence owner or persons the LA has approved on the owner's request.

    "A large number of taxi owners operate their taxis by renting them on a 12- hour basis for 25 per shift, giving them a total of 1,500 a month," Tsirides pointed out.

    He maintained the procedure for revoking taxi licences was time consuming and needed reviewing in the next House Communications Committee meeting.

    "The LA should have the power to revoke licences when taxi licence owners are abroad or are failing to utilise them themselves," said Tsirides.

    He also called for the amalgamation of the two bodies, the Licence Authority and the Licence Review Authority, into one new body that would function faster and more efficiently.

    Meanwhile, the increasing number of taxi licences essentially gives taxi drivers a smaller share of the pie creating unwelcome consequences, the President of the Pancyprian Federation of Urban Taxis, George Koronides, said yesterday. "The lower income means we are working too many hours creating tiredness and encouraging some unprofessionals to overcharge," he said. "Those who overcharge unsuspecting customers tend to be seasonal drivers and target vulnerable tourists that have just arrived on the island. These people lack manners, professionalism and a conscience," added Koronides.

    The relevant authorities need to look at the problem, maintained Koronides, not just enforce penalties, but look at the crux of the problem. "Who are we giving these licences to," he asked, "and why is the taxi service in Cyprus losing its dignity?"

    He said the disparity in VAT registration was also creating unfair competition, antagonising taxi drivers more. Drivers making over 9,000 a year are obliged to pay VAT, creating a 13 per cent price difference. Koronides called for a VAT exemption for all taxi drivers to equal the competition.

    The head of the Taxi Drivers' section within the POVEK union agreed that the quality of drivers given licences needed to be controlled, calling for a more comprehensive system of examination. Kyriacos Moustakas claimed that the questions asked in a licence application test were a joke, leading to many irresponsible drivers blackening the reputation of taxi drivers. Moustakas is an advisory member of the Disciplinary Council set up in 1992 to review complaints against taxi drivers. "Nobody has come to us with one name that we could investigate, penalise and make an example of in all these years," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] AremisSoft settles SEC investigation

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    AREMISSOFT CORPORATION yesterday settled a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into allegations that it inflated the value of its revenue, contracts and acquisitions in a final judgment of a US District Court.

    The international software company and its successor company, Softbrands Inc., agreed, without admitting or denying the allegations, that it will be subject to stricter penalties if it violates securities laws in the future, according to a SEC report.

    The SEC complained that AremisSoft and two of its former chairmen, Roys Poyiadjis and Lycourgos Kyprianou, allegedly overstated the company's revenues in its annual report for 2000 and inflated the value of acquisitions made in 1999 and 2000, engaging in massive insider trading during that period. The SEC charged them with making more than $300 million in secret stock sales while AremisSoft was reporting inflated revenue.

    The company, which filed for bankruptcy in March, had the proceeds of its former officers' fraudulent AremisSoft stock sales frozen by a preliminary injunction but failed to reply to a court order directing all defendants to return the assets to the US and make an accounting report.

    Poyiadjis, Kyprianou and a third former officer, M.C. Mathews, are under criminal indictment for allegedly duping shareholders out of hundreds of millions of dollars by fabricating revenue. Charges include insider trading, money laundering and various counts of fraud.

    The two former chairmen currently live in Cyprus, and the US government intends to bring them to justice back in the US, said SEC official Richard Sauer in a Bloomberg wire press.

    Regarding the settlement, Sauer was quoted as saying, "We're happy to have this part of the case resolved, but the more critical aspect is the efforts of the SEC and the US Department of Justice to obtain the return of illicit funds to the US."

    The US Attorney initiated a civil action in March seeking to recover funds held in four bank accounts in the Isle of Man. Reports suggest up to $175 million of the alleged illegal proceeds had already been frozen by the High Court there. According to the SEC report, the Isle of Man Attorney-general applied for an external confiscation order in June in a move to repatriate the funds to the US.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Security guard stabbed outside US radio station

    POLICE were yesterday investigating the claims of a security guard at the American radio station in Nicosia that he had been assaulted and stabbed by two unknown men.

    Charalambos Iakovou, 63, alleged that he had been stabbed by two men, possibly of Arab origin, while he was on guard duty outside the station in Makedonitissa.

    The assault, Iakovou claimed, took place at 2am, while he was near the station's entrance.

    The assailants who were hiding near the garbage storage pulled out a knife, injured him on the hands and abdomen, and then fled north, Iakovou said.

    He was treated in hospital and subsequently discharged.

    Police however were treating the incident with suspicion, especially after state pathologist Eleni Antoniou, who examined Iakovou after the incident, said that his wounds were too symmetrical to have been inflicted during a struggle.

    Nicosia Police Director Nikos Theodorides said that Iakovou's claims were puzzling.

    It is the second time Iakovou has reported that unknown individuals had approached the radio station.

    On January 17, he told police that while he was on guard at the station, individuals of Arab origin had attempted to enter the compound using a ladder.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Foreign office adds timeshare and buying property in the north to travel advice

    By Soteris Charalambous

    BRITISH High Commission spokesman Stewart Summers yesterday confirmed that a recent warning about buying property in the north added to the Foreign Office travel advisory had been prompted by the increase in numbers of Britons making enquiries on house buying and the media coverage given to the politically sensitive subject of buying in the occupied areas.

    The amendment to the website, instigated by Summers, was made last month, and the advice on buying property follows immediately after the British government's recommendations on visiting northern Cyprus.

    It reads: "The non-recognition of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' and the possibility of a future political settlement in Cyprus could have implications for those considering buying property in the north. Before purchasing a property you are advised to appraise yourself fully of the situation and to seek legal advice."

    Summers said, "The government have decided to take a more pro-active, rather than reactive approach (to the subject of buying property in the north of Cyprus) in the light of it becoming a more regular occurrence, and the subsequent attention it has received in the media."

    Commenting on the change, he added added, "legally we can't tell people 'don't do it', but we are trying to make them fully aware of the potential hazards."

    Another recent change made in the travel advisory relates to potential problems in buying into time-share opportunities. This was introduced because of the increase in the practice of time-share selling in Cyprus.

    "Time-share operatives tout for business in Cyprus, especially in the Paphos area," the advisory says. "Before signing a contract, you should read the small print very carefully. Under Cyprus law, you are entitled to a 15-day cooling off period, during which, if you change your mind, you should receive a full refund.

    Summers explained the change had been introduced before the summer and came about because of the increase in time-share operations, especially in the Paphos area. However, he added that the advice given was similar to that offered for visiting other countries, for instance Spain, rather than focusing on a problem relating to operatives in Cyprus.

    The full range of information and advice the government gives on visiting Cyprus can be found at the Foreign Office website followed by clicking the link to country advice.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Digital TV in Cyprus by 2010

    By Soteris Charalambous

    THE CABINET has decided to endorse procedures to introduce digital television services on the island by 2010, in line with requirements of the EU's acquis communautaire.

    Despite pressure from representatives from analogue television programming to prevent digital television being broadcast 'free-to-air', the government has set in motion a tenders process to decide who will be awarded the licences.

    The Cabinet's decision stated that before the tenders process begins, criteria and conditions must first be set for obtaining a licence followed by preparation of documents for competition before the invitation to tender is sent out.

    Speaking after the Cabinet decision Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said that in compliance with the acquis communautaire, Cyprus will have to operate such a system by the year 2010, as all member states, old and new.

    He added that a sum of 300,000 had been approved in order to acquire the services of specialists to guide the government in the criteria setting and tendering project. The competition for licences will come under the supervision of a regulator, while licensing the network and frequencies will be in the remit of the Communication Ministry. As with current analogue broadcasters, programme content will remain under the broadcasting authority.

    According to industry sources, the digital system will provide for a higher quality and more up-to-date transmission of information than with the present analogue system. Audiences will enjoy a bigger selection of programmes and will help solve the problems of audiences with hearing defects as digital systems have the capability to provide gesture- translation and subtitles for all programmes.

    Dependent on the type of equipment, digital television also opens up the possibility to enter into interactive services such as home shopping, home banking, e-mail and internet access.

    Several options exist for people to obtain digital television. In its simplest form, viewers can buy an integrated digital television set which will allow them to view free-to-air services. The alternative is to purchase a set-top-box (digital television adapter) that can be used with current analogue televisions. In an attempt to simplify and identify the new technology, television manufacturers and retailers are working together to ensure that all new digital televisions carry the 'DVB' logo and that sales staff in shops are trained to understand and explain the differences of digital televisions over analogue sets.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Greens chain themselves to fence in antenna protest

    ENVIRONMENTALISTS surprised Sovereign British Bases Authorities (SBA) yesterday with a snap demonstration at the controversial Akrotiri Salt Lake antenna site.

    At around 9am, 15 members of the Green Party, headed by their deputy George Perdikis, closed off the central gate of the Akrotiri airbase and chained themselves to it, cutting off all traffic.

    Bases police and soldiers were dispatched to the scene, as traffic congestion in the area heightened with people wanting to get to and from the base.

    But within the hour, the demonstration came to a peaceful end, after Bases personnel and fire department officials plied open the protesters' chains.

    Perdikis said yesterday morning's demonstration was meant to remind the public about the antenna issue, which environmentalists are fighting every step of the way. The deputy added that demonstrations of this kind would be carried in the UK and in Brussels in order to give the issue international exposure, and called on environmentalists in the UK to join them in their campaign against the antenna.

    Deputy bases police chief Nicos Pandehis said the demonstration had been peaceful and that no serious incidents had taken place. In light of this, the bases authorities did not react forcefully, he said.

    Residents fear their health will be damaged by emissions from the antenna, while environmentalists are also concerned at the destruction of the area's protected flora and fauna. The site is included in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and supports a significant number of rare species, including 13 endemic and rare plant species and 32 bird species specially protected under the European Birds Directive. A number of species of waterbird also winter on or migrate through the site, including around 6,000 flamingos.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [11] Father tells of shock over Napa drugs sentence

    By Charlie Hamilton

    THE FATHER of a Briton jailed by a Cyprus court for possession of cannabis yesterday spoke of his shock at his son's arrest.

    Michael Quarrinton, 30, of Corby, Northamptonshire, was jailed for 70 days for possession of the drug while on fortnight's holiday in Ayia Napa.

    Another man, Adam Colgate, 36, of Lindisfarne Road, Corby, was sentenced to 35 days in prison for possession of a smaller quantity of cannabis and Ecstasy pills.

    Yesterday Quarrinton's father, also called Michael, told of his feelings when told of the charge.

    He said: "I was shocked, concerned, worried. I had a vision of the film Midnight Express.

    "Now at least we know he is alright and we hear that the prison isn't too bad.

    "I have a mixture of emotions. As a parent I'm very worried for him, but at the same time if you choose to visit a foreign country and accept their hospitality, then you have to respect their laws too.

    "I think the sentence is too harsh considering Britain is relaxing its laws on cannabis."

    Quarrinton, 54, who is wheelchair-bound since an accident 20 years ago which damaged his spine, said that the family did not condone the use of drugs.

    Neither he nor his wife Janet, 51, of Whitworth Avenue, Corby, planned to visit their son and had not yet spoken to him since the arrest, although they had written to him.

    Quarrinton described how his son, a self-employed welder, was a keen footballer who had even played against the local police team.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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