Nicosia businessman Alexis “Alexoui” Mavromichalis was remanded in custody on Tuesday in connection with an attempted murder in 2017, following a long and tough court hearing.
Mavromichalis, aged 42, was arrested on Monday evening around 6pm after police said they obtained new information from at least two witnesses implicating Alexoui in a case of attempted murder back in 2017.
Later in the evening, another man in custody, 41-year-old Miroslav “Rudolf” Balazovjech, also known in local media as Dydi Rudolf, was detained in the same case.
Both men were taken to the Nicosia courthouse Tuesday late morning under heavy police security for the remand hearing initially set for 11am, but it was delayed due to problems finding an interpreter for Rudolf. The hearing began at 12:20pm and a recess was ordered at 2:30pm.
Attempted murder case
The two suspects are facing multiple charges in connection with an attempted murder against Panicos “Glykas” Panayiotou, who was shot outside his residence on 20 November 2017 as he was getting out of his car in Nicosia’s Ayioi Omoloyites borough.
Panayiotou was shot multiple times by a single shooter but survived with injuries on the right shoulder, left cheekbone, and right side of the neck.
Tough remand hearing
Police prosecutor Ioannis Yiorkadjis told the judge that the shooting victim had identified the shooter as Dydi Rudolf, saying the man who shot him was short and scruffy. Another witness, according to police investigators, told police he was approached by someone who asked him to kill another person, while a third person was also implicated in the case.
Pelekanos said he was sad to see State and Police were operating under the 'reasonable suspicion' banner in seeking to have the suspects booked into jail
But Alexoui’s lawyer, Andros Pelekanos, argued that Glykas himself had pointed to a different suspect after the shooting, adding that the investigators were shown a different photograph and police had been focusing on a suspect of Albanian origins.
“Why did the victim not come to you and say this man shot me? He comes a year later to tell you that man shot him. And you are not concerned about his ulterior motives?” Pelekanos said.
The defence attorney also pointed out that no mention of the person identified in 2017 could be found in the latest statement to police.
“The victim says the individual who shot him was Albanian and he showed him to you, is that so?” Pelekanos asked.
“Yes, it is in one of the statements,” Yiorkadjis said, while also addressing the reasons why it was not mentioned in the latest statement.
Defence cries foul
The defence insisted that the statements were filled with inconsistencies, accusing police of wanting to interrogate the suspects while Glykas would walk free but the suspects detained.
The defence attorney also questioned the two-year delay in police obtaining the statements, wondering out loud which might have been based on truth or lies, with the prosecutor saying there were legitimate reasons for the delay.
“The second witness, if we are to believe he is telling the truth, would he not have committed a criminal offence by not telling the truth earlier?” Pelekjanos asked.
“We will look into it,” Yiorkadjis said.
“Why don’t you arrest him now?” the defence attorney replied.
“I just gave my answer,” the prosecutor responded.
The defence further questioned how jailing Alexoui would benefit the attempted murder investigation, with the prosecutor saying the suspects could influence witnesses ahead of a police lineup where a local resident in the victim’s neighbourhood would be called to point out the shooter.
Pelekanos then asked to see the latest depositions as well as the photograph shown to the victim, along with the neighbour’s statement and police notes.
The court then heard arguments over influence of witnesses, with the defence lawyers saying the process was suspicious as Glykas would be roaming free and the suspects isolated in jail cells.
Rudolf’s attorney also reiterated that his client was already in prison and could not interfere with the investigation, while Alexoui’s lawyer said there were about a hundred officers around for security instead of investigating the new information obtained the previous day.
Prosecutors insisted on an eight day remand while the defence attorneys objected, saying people in the criminal world can have ulterior motives in leveling accusations. Pelekanos also said he was sad to see how the State and Police were operating under the “reasonable suspicion” banner in seeking to have the suspects booked into jail.
Judge: police work "could possibly be affected"
The judge did not issue her decision right away, saying she needed some time to make decision on the remand request. She ordered a one-hour recess and later approved the remand for both suspects for the maximum of eight days.
As the hearing was drawing to a close, the judge said she understood some efforts by police in the course of the investigation could not be influenced by the suspects.
But she added she was concerned that some efforts “could possibly be affected” if the suspects were not remanded in custody.
Alexoui and police
Police have been putting pressure on Alexoui in recent years, with multiple arrests and court warrants ordering him to dismantle his security cameras at his residence, citing city ordinance violations.
Alexoui, who had multiple attempts on his life, has been at odds with the police, taking to social media to criticize law enforcement and complain that in recent years he was forced to take down his private security cameras, underwent frequent random searches, and officials refused to rein in corrupt cops.
Besides taking jabs at the police on social media, Alexoui also had a run-in with Chief Inspector Nicos Sofokleous, after the official called him for a sit-down prior to Alexoui’s release from detention. An argument broke out during the meeting between the detainee and the official, and Alexoui was not released as expected.
The Nicosia businessman filed a complaint over threats he said he had received during the meeting, with Alexoui’s lawyer calling for a review of the chief inspector’s file to determine whether similar complaints in the past had been made against the senior police official.
Last year, Rudolf served a sentence in a Turkish Cypriot prison after he was found guilty in March of illegal entry in the north. The 39-year-old Slovakian was arrested two months earlier, after being implicated in the south in the attempted murder of 57-year-old Nicosia businessman Nikos Rodhotheou, the younger brother of Andreas Rodhotheou who was gunned down in a secluded safe house in Limassol last year.
A second suspect in Rodotheou case, 40-year-old Greek Cypriot Josef “Sifis” Josef, was also arrested in the north in early January 2019, where he was later sentenced to five years for illegal entry and weapons possession. Sifis is believed to have been the third suspect mentioned during Tuesday's remand. Police prosecutors declined to name the suspect but shared the name with the judge.
On the evening of the attempted murder against Glykas, law enforcement had been staking out all night, as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was in town as well as Real Madrid for a champions league match with Nicosia’s Apoel.
Story updated with judge’s decision on remand request