|Saturday, 17 April 2021|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-12-02
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
 Louis cleared after VAT probeAUDITOR-GENERAL Stella Yiorkadji yesterday formally demolished allegations in Politis newspaper that the Louis Group either benefited by a £324,000 Cabinet-ordered VAT break, or paid it anyway under suspicious circumstances.
The paper reported on October 2 that Louis had been exempted by a 1996 Cabinet order from paying £324,000 in overdue Value Added Tax, incurred between 1992 and 1996.
"According to the investigation, we found there was no writing off of any £320,000 that was owed by any company in the Louis Group," Yiorkadji's report said.
"The additional £324,000 tax imposed on Louis Tourist Agency Ltd. in 1994 was indeed paid along with a fine and interest," her report said, adding: "they paid their tax due between December 17, 1996 and September 10, 1997."
The report does not account for the two different figures -- £320,000 and £324,000 -- in the two separate paragraphs. Yiorkadji was unavailable late yesterday for clarification.
The report does state that "the total amount that any Louis Group Companies benefited by as a result of the well-known Cabinet order, publicised in Sept. 1996, is £48,688.08."
But the report attributes that benefit to £43,207 worth of tax credits combined with a £5,480 reduction in taxes, after reappraisal, on two Louis Companies, Marissa Co and Princessa Vittoria Co.
"I must note that they benefited by the above amount due to the retroactive effect of the order," Yiorkadji said in her report.
On October 6, four days after the Politis story, it suddenly became known that Louis had actually paid the alleged exempted VAT.
Attorney-general Alecos Markides called a hurried news conference on October 6, declaring he had made a surprise visit to the Finance Ministry's VAT department that day on a search warrant, and on checking the department's computer, did, indeed find that Louis had paid the £324,000 in VAT in 1997.
Markides said he had been puzzled by the fact that no Louis official had made any public statement, in any presumed attempt to set the record straight after the story broke on October 2.
He said at the time he had asked Yiorkadji's office to investigate whether the VAT payment had actually been made in 1997, as indicated, amid suspicions the computer records might have been altered to indicate a 1997 payment, when, in fact, either none had been made or a backdated entry had been made later.
 Denktash calls for freeze on EU accession talksBy Jean Christou
TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday called on Cyprus to freeze its membership talks with the European Union.
The call came as Denktash was leaving for New York to participate in the UN-sponsored proximity talks, beginning tomorrow.
Denktash also said that establishing the status of the two sides on the island should top the agenda of the talks, which are designed to lay the groundwork for negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.
Speaking at Istanbul airport, Denktash said: "Without our approval they can't enter the EU as the whole island. They should freeze their application."
He said his side could only agree to membership talks if his breakaway regime is given equal rights.
"We want our rights based on our sovereignty, then we may talk about the EU," Denktash said. "For our consent, they have to give us a chance in New York."
Denktash and President Glafcos Clerides, who left the island on Tuesday, will meet separately with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan at UN headquarters to kick-start the proximity talks which are initially expected to last 10-12 days.
If progress is made the talks will be resumed in the New Year.
The government expects substantive talks to be held. It says it was given assurances of such talks by the international community. But it appears the Turkish Cypriot leader is harbouring hopes that his status will be among the first issues discussed.
"Cyprus will achieve true, real settlement when Mr Clerides abandons his claim to be the legitimate guardian of the whole island," Denktash said yesterday.
"Naturally this doesn't exclude us tackling some substantive issues, but the first thing is to tackle the status of the two sides."
In New York, the sides are expected to discuss core issues, including security, governance and territory. "Our lives, rights must be protected, the guarantorship of Turkey must continue," Denktash said yesterday.
Responding to a question over Greek Cypriot claims to the abandoned town of Varosha, he said: "Varosha is under our sovereignty. They should recognise our sovereignty first."
Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said in London on Tuesday night that the Turkish side is aware of what is expected from it and it has agreed to attend the talks.
He said both Annan and the US have assured the government the talks would be substantive.
"We fully expect, therefore, to negotiate on all core issues as the Secretary-general defined them," Cassoulides said.
In Nicosia diplomatic sources told Reuters news agency the agenda for the talks has irked Denktash who thought he was agreeing to a preparatory process to gain acceptance of his demands regarding status. "He is irritated. He has been pulled farther than we might have hoped," said one.
The New York talks come a week before the European Union summit in Helsinki, when Turkey hopes to be formally recognised as a candidate for membership. Turkey said it would not make any concessions to EU-member Greece in return for backing its membership bid.
Greek government spokesman Demetris Reppas said yesterday Turkey is undermining its own efforts to join the European Union by making uncompromising statements regarding Greece and refusing to act according to European standards.
"We want a European orientation for Turkey, but Turkey itself will have to work in this direction," Reppas said. "And this, until now at least, is not happening."
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said on Monday no concessions would be made to Greece in the Aegean Sea or regarding Cyprus in return for backing its membership bid during the EU summit in Finland.
"Turkey is not being called on to make concessions. It is being called on to respect decisions by international organisations, ... it is being called on to act like a modern European country," Reppas said. "The fact that Turkey refuses to show such behaviour is to its detriment."
Greece, which has repeatedly blocked Turkey's efforts to be named an EU candidate country, has suggested it could withdraw its objections in Helsinki provided Ankara makes a goodwill gesture.
 Thieves stealing treasures from construction siteBy Phanis Droushiotis
A VAST treasure trove of Mycenaean antiquities is being removed illegally from near the new Limassol-Paphos highway construction site, and sold on to dealers who then unload them in Europe for huge amounts, Paphos Museum archaeologist Stathis Raptou has charged.
"The underground area between Palepaphos, Kouklia, Timi and Paphos hides a vast treasure of Mycenaean antiquities, and these must be protected by the state," said Raptou, a Greek national who was recently appointed to oversee highway excavations in the area.
Raptou accused locals, mainly from the area of Timi and Kouklia villages, of using excavators and other machinery to mine the area for ancient treasures.
He said he had reported the plundering of these treasures to the Paphos Antiquities Department, but not to the local police.
Asked why not, he said it was not his responsibility to report the thefts to the police, but rather the responsibility of those who had actually witnessed the illegal digging.
But the police say the area cannot be properly guarded round the clock, and they are leaving it up to any responsible citizens who witness the theft of antiquities to call them immediately.
"The police can do nothing unless someone is caught on the spot," police spokesman Spyros Koniotis told reporters.
Raptou said that so far there have been six incidents involving significant numbers of ancient amphorae and utensils dating from 800-700 BC being unearthed by mechanical diggers.
"These treasures belong to the Cypriot people, and not to anybody else," he said, adding that "more honesty and respect for local culture from local people themselves," is needed to put a stop to the theft of national treasures.
 Cyprus Airways unions call off strikeBy Jean Christou
A PLANNED strike by three Cyprus Airways unions was called off yesterday after promises from the airline's new chairman to sort out the issue of pay.
The three unions, Cynika, which represents cabin crew, Assyseka (the engineers) and Sidikek-
Peo last week called on their 1,500 members to strike on December 11 unless the company gave in to their pay demands.
They are demanding a 2.5 per cent increase plus another two per cent in benefits for the renewal of collective agreements.
The unions yesterday met new chairman Haris Loizides and announced afterwards that the planned 24-hour strike had been postponed.
Loizides told the unions he would approach the dialogue in a different way and that all issues would be discussed behind closed doors. He promised to table a new proposal to the unions in the first week of January when a renewed dialogue is set to begin.
"We have promised to begin intensive negotiations on specific proposals which the company intends to submit to the unions," Loizides said after the meeting. "It is my intention to keep contact with the unions away from the media."
Cynika chairman Costas Demetriou said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.
"Soon we will get a comprehensive proposal on the essence of the problem," he said. "We will enter a dialogue, as we agreed, in the first week of January."
Antonis Neophytou, a representative of the Sidikek-Peo union, said they appreciate the assurances given by the new chairman that from now on industrial relations at the airline will be on a new footing.
Loizides, who was appointed the new chairman of Cyprus Airways on Tuesday by the Council of Ministers, was already a member of the airline's Board of Directors.
He replaces Takis Kyriakides, who resigned on Monday to take up the post of chairman of Lordos Holdings.
Loizides has said his first task as chairman will be to sort out the airline's troubled management-
staff relations and to secure long-term industrial peace.
 Man killed in road accidentA 38-year-old man was killed on Tuesday night when his car slammed into a traffic sign in Ormidhia in the Famagusta district.
Aristotelis Christodoulou died on the new Dhekelia-Famagusta road after his vehicle skidded off the wet tarmac and hit the sign.
Christodoulou had been driving to Nicosia from Ayia Napa, accompanied by Fanos Antoniou, 40, from Larnaca, who was slightly injured.
Christodoulou was the 107th person to die on the roads this year.
 Shares slip but the volumes backBy Hamza Hendawi
SHARE prices yesterday slipped further off Monday's all-time high, but with only two brokerages suspended -- as opposed to Tuesday's eight -- trading volume regained a measure of respectability at £32.31 million.
Also for the second successive session, bank shares finished the day in negative territory when their sub-index shed 1.04 per cent to close at 881.05 on a volume of £11.87 million. On Tuesday, the banks' sub-index was down 1.66 per cent.
The Bank of Cyprus closed 18.50 cents slimmer at £12.09, while the Popular Bank was down 10 cents at £16.34. The much smaller Universal Bank surrendered some of the gains it made on Tuesday, finishing 30.50 cents down at £9.39.
The all-share index, meanwhile, was down 4.23 points, or 0.50 per cent, to close at 843.68. Monday's record close was 849.30.
Of the market's seven sectors, insurance made the largest gains with Universal Life and Minerva gaining 50 cents and 98.50 cents respectively. The loss of 22 cents by Liberty Life did not stop the sector's sub-index from rising by 7.76 per cent to close at 490.69.
Sharelink Financial Services finished in negative territory for the second consecutive day, closing down 97.50 cents at £26.77. It shed £1.02 on Tuesday. The share, however, retains the top slot in price terms, with second place going to Euroinvestment at £19.30.
Sharelink is among the most successful brokerages and investment houses in Cyprus, but the share's meteoric rise in value since its listing nearly a year ago makes it an object of puzzlement rather than admiration by independent traders and analysts.
"I think it is the most overvalued share on the market," said one senior broker who did not want to be named.
Sharelink, however, is not alone in being a grossly overvalued share on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, where the all-share index has appreciated by more than 800 per cent since January 1.
"But I must say that Sharelink remains in a class of its own," the senior broker said.
His point is best illustrated by comparing Sharelink's current market capitalisation -- £307 million at the end of last week -- to those of market giants earlier in the year. The Popular Bank, the country's second largest financial institution with a virtually permanent second place in the exchange's rankings, had a market capitalisation of £290 in January this year and £445 million in March.
The example of Sharelink, whose business success is beyond doubt, highlights the distortion in a market which is constantly defying logic, metamorphosing over a little more than a year from unattractive, to active, then to red hot and finally to the status of financial curiosity.
The distortions, according to traders, stem from the market's three closures since late July, frequent suspensions of brokerages as a punitive measure for delaying the processing of transactions, and the temporary delisting of, or voluntary withdrawal by, companies running behind in issuing deeds or in updating share registers. The slow pace of processing applications by companies seeking a listing has also contributed to the distortion by creating artificially high demand for existing shares, thus pushing up prices.
The exchange is also involved in a protracted war of attrition with brokerages, with each side blaming the other for the market's backroom chaos.
Athienitis & Severis, a leading brokerage scheduled for a listing later this month, has taken the battle with the Stock Exchange to a new height by taking out advertisements in yesterday's newspapers to publish a letter it sent to the market authorities to protest against its suspension on Monday.
The investment powerhouse explained in the letter that what was perceived by the exchange as a series of possible frauds was nothing more than clerical errors for which it could not be held responsible.
Athienitis & Severis was reinstated on Tuesday.
 Briton to be sentenced for disco attack on chefBy Martin Hellicar
A BRITISH property surveyor will be sentenced on Monday for an attack in an Ayia Napa disco which left a local chef in a wheelchair.
Thirty-year-old Gavin Gallimore, from Essex, has pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to 28-year-old Loukas Ioannou, from Peristerona outside Nicosia, in the early hours of August 3.
The Criminal Court, convening in Larnaca, heard yesterday that there was no chance Ioannou would ever recover enough from the injuries suffered in the Ayia Napa attack to return to his work.
State prosecutor George Papaioannou told the court how Gallimore had attacked Ioannou after the chef had accidentally bumped into him in a crowded nightclub. Gallimore shoved Ioannou with both hands, sending him crashing into the disco bar head first, the court heard.
Ioannou has been an in-patient at the Palodia treatment centre ever since, his doctor, Savvas Milios, told the court yesterday. Dr Milios testified that his patient might never manage to walk again and would certainly never recover fully.
Gallimore's lawyer, Andreas Mathikolonis, told the court the attack had been the result of a "momentary outburst" on the part of his client. Gallimore was otherwise a trustworthy and non-
violent person, Mathikolonis said in arguing for a light sentence.
In September, Gallimore pleaded not guilty to charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. He changed his plea to guilty on Monday after the prosecution reduced the charges to grievous bodily harm.
Mathikolonis stressed to the three-judge bench that there had been no intent in Gallimore's attack. He told the court that his client, who stood silent in the dock throughout proceedings, was very sorry about the incident.
Mathikolonis told the court how Gallimore's father had abandoned his family when his client was only one year old. The lawyer said his client's mother had worked "all hours" in an effort to raise "exceptional children". Gallimore's mother and sister attended yesterday's hearing.
The court decided to pass sentence on Gallimore on Monday. He will remain in custody at Nicosia central prison until then.
 Omonia footballer charged after stadium fracasA 23-year-old footballer was yesterday charged with obstructing a policeman in the performance of his duty after a football game at Paralimni in the Famagusta district on Sunday.
Petros Konnafis from Nicosia, a player for the capitals Omonia club, was charged and released by Famagusta police.
He was arrested on Tuesday along with four youths from Limassol, in connection with the soccer riot at Paralimni stadium after the game between the local team and Omonia.
The four youths were yesterday released by police without being charged.
The trouble began when Omonia fans invaded the pitch in protest at the way the referee had handled the game.
Five police officers and two Paralimni fans were hurt, and there was extensive damage to the stadium facilities.
 Lab technicians stage work-to-ruleBy George Psyllides
HOSPITAL laboratory technicians yesterday began an indefinite work-to-rule, demanding better working conditions.
The technicians say they will not do any overtime until the government fulfils the provisions of a two-year-old agreement to reorganise hospital labs.
The agreement provides for modernisation of the labs, and the introduction of scientific structuring.
Technicians say the state labs still have the primitive organisation and structure introduced by the health department of the colonial government in the 1930s.
Such an anachronistic structure, they say, does not allow for proper staffing and functioning of this vital service, despite the country being on the doorstep of Europe.
But the Finance Ministry is calling the technicians' work-to-rule premature and inexcusable, and says the reasons given for the action are misleading.
It asserts that the real reason for the action is to serve union interests, specifically those of current lab personnel.
The work to rule will be comprehensive, covering all labs in all hospitals. Only urgent cases concerning the blood bank will be exempted, and emergency staff have been assigned to handle those cases. All other cases will be referred to private labs.
The civil servants union, Pasydy, has warned it will escalate the action if there is no "positive development" in the dispute.
 Tests expected to show why TB girl, 5, diedBy Martin Hellicar
TISSUE sample tests are expected to shed light on why a five-year-old tuberculosis patient died in Makarion hospital on Sunday.
Maria Demosthenous' death has been put down to complications arising from her tuberculosis infection. Her distraught parents accused government doctors were negligent in treating their child.
Maria, from Ayia Marina in the Paphos area, was taken to the Makarion in Nicosia by her father, George, on November 23. He was convinced that his daughter, admitted to hospital four days previously, was not receiving adequate care in Paphos. Maria had been in and out of the hospital with tuberculosis over the past month or so.
Doctors at the Makarion said little Maria needed surgery abroad. But she died -- apparently because of a ruptured blood vessel -- while arrangements were still being made to fly her to London.
On Monday, her father claimed he would have had no problem securing swift transit abroad had he been "a deputy rather than a lowly builder".
Yesterday, Demosthenous tempered his statements, saying "we cannot apportion blame without knowing the (test) results".
The director of the Paphos hospital children's ward, Dr Christos Efthymiou, declined to comment yesterday, other than to say that the results of the tissue sample tests would show what the cause of Maria's death was.
Paphos medical sources suggested to the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the seriousness of the child's condition might have been diagnosed earlier.
There has been a minor outbreak of tuberculosis in Ayia Marina and neighbouring Nea Vimata recently. Fifteen people are currently receiving treatment at home for tuberculosis symptoms. None of them is described as in danger.
 Pasydy frank in protesting at the post going publicTHE civil servant's union Pasydy is refusing to accept a cabinet decision to convert the postal service into a public company, with the state as the sole shareholder.
In an announcement yesterday, the powerful union said it was looking into taking what it called "practical and direct measures" to oppose this government move. It did not say what these measures might be.
Turning the postal services into a public company was but a precursor to privatisation, Pasydy claimed. The union spoke of post office employees facing possible loss of "fundamental rights and interests".
"The government actions lead to a loss of public servant status," Pasydy added.
In announcing its decision on Tuesday, the Council of Ministers said local postal services were not efficient enough to meet increased competition from the private sector.
Pasydy proposed that money be invested in upgrading and modernising the existing postal service.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999