Aristo trial date set for October 30
The Paphos District Court has sent four of the five persons remanded in connection with allegations that Aristo Developers and local officers conspired in zoning violations, property fraud and forgery, direct to criminal court hearings later this month.
The company’s founder chairman and his architect wife, Theodoros and Sotiroula Aristodemou, were formally charged and released on Monday after being held on two successive eight-day remands, with state radio CyBC quoting police sources as saying that sufficient evidence has now been collected to start a trial.
Another company employee from the architectural and planning division, as well as two municipal workers were also held on remand, with the town’s technical clerk Soula Kouspou not charged during Monday’s procedures. Municipal engineer and Savvakis Savva and Aristo planner Christos Solomonides will proceed to trial.
Despite the prosecutions demands that all four remain in custody so as to prevent them from influencing other witnesses, they were released on strict bail conditions that included handing in their travel documents.
Chief prosecutor Andreas Tsekouras also referred to the threats sent by SMS to the mobile phones of four persons, including Paphos Mayor Savvas Vergas who has spearheaded the campaign against the Aristodemou couple and the municipal employees. Threats were also reported by the incumbent town engineer Androula Eftymiou, municipal councillor Phaedonas Phaedonos and a local reporter, Costas Nanos.
On her way to court, Sotiroula Aristodemou shouted “we are scapegoats, this is justice, let them bury us alive.”
The main suspects were arrested on September 18 on suspect deals in the area of Skali on allegations refuted by Aristodemou that the former Bank of Cyprus chairman and his company misappropriated some 5-6,000 sq.m. of land initially designated for roads and green areas. Aristo issued a statement saying this was all part of a fabrication and that the truth will prevail. The Attorney General’s office has reportedly collected all Aristo property files involving stretches adjacent to Paphos municipal boundaries dating back to the year 2000. This includes the King’s Mall, the new multi-million Aristo development in Kato Paphos, where there are allegations that areas designated for green were changed to parking spaces.
Back in July, Paphos Mayor Savvas Vergas had tabled Aristo Developer’s file before the municipal council, proposing the approval of zoning and building permits for a total of 177 plots for which the developer had secured a demarcation permit. The case was first brought to the attention of the police by a Paphos municipality officer. Vergas added last month that the allegations were submitted by “a citizen”. It subsequently emerged that the plans for which the demarcation permits were issued were switched with new plans, which seemed to cede approximately 4,000 sq.m. previously designated as green space, back to Aristo, newspaper reports suggested. Aristodemou had denied any wrongdoing, arguing that municipal employees, unfamiliar with regulations, had got their calculations wrong.
According to Aristodemou, the real gap between the municipality’s and his company’s calculations does not exceed 900 sq.m., and his company could not benefit from it under any circumstances since the Land Registry routinely spots such mistakes and amends developments accordingly prior to issuing title deeds.