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23 May, 2024
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Drug case in Cyprus raises legal eyebrows again

Supreme Court shortens sentence in Cypriot-Australian foukou case to make things less unfair


The Supreme Court in the Republic of Cyprus has picked up the pieces following a decision by the attorney general last year to commute a reduced and later suspended sentence in a highly publicized Cypriot-Australian drug case marred by legal oddities.

A ruling last month by the highest court in the land was made public this week regarding the foukou case, concerning 628 kilos of ecstasy hidden in traditional Cypriot barbeques sent to Australia.

The case was brought by a 60-year-old warehouse associate in Limassol who got 23 years in prison for his role in exporting some 200 aluminium Cypriot barbeques, known colloquially as foukou grills, that were equipped with false base plates concealing multiple packages of MDMA.

The sentence, the highest ever related to a drug case on the island, was the subject of an immediate appeal after the man’s lawyer argued that his client was treated unfairly after his co-defendant had walked free despite being involved in the same offenses.

'Our intervention is justified, if only to lessen the feeling of injustice caused by the unequal treatment of the two offenders due to the suspension of criminal proceedings against one'

Back in February 2022, Cypriot Attorney General George Savvides commuted the sentence of a 32-year-old local businessman, also from Limassol, who got four years in a plea deal after admitting he exported the foukou grills to Australia via Singapore.

The pardoned criminal, who initially maintained he did not know there was ecstasy hidden inside, struck a deal two years later with prosecutors and testified against a warehouse associate while also implicating the appellant’s father, saying the son was the person who had instructed him to arrange for a large shipment of MDMA worth some €25 million.

State prosecutors then dropped all but one conspiracy charge against the businessman, resulting to a 4-year prison sentence that was effectively cut in half and later suspended.

But the businessman’s role in the criminal activity did not differ in any way from that of the warehouse associate, the Supreme Court found last month.

“A reference to the opposite by the criminal court was erroneous,” the presiding appeals judge said.

Last year the appellant’s lawyer argued that his client had not been treated fairly, saying there was no dispute that both men had been equally active in the plan.

The Supreme Court brushed aside arguments made to the criminal court on behalf of the attorney general, saying that “in this case, it is not disputed that the prosecuting authorities had testimony in their hands that implicated the appellant's co-defendant in the serious crimes of drug possession with the purpose of supplying them to third parties and their export from the Republic of Cyprus, something to which the Criminal court made no reference.”

“Our intervention to reduce the sentences imposed is justified, if only to lessen the feeling of injustice caused by the unequal treatment of the two offenders due to the suspension of criminal proceedings against one,” the Supreme Court found.

The appeal judges reduced the prison sentence from 23 to 18 years for the warehouse associate but clarified that the criminal court’s sentence would not have been “blatantly excessive” had it not been for the prosecution witness walking free.


Cyprus  |  Australia  |  drugs  |  ecstasy  |  foukou  |  MDMA  |  drugs  |  Supreme Court  |  Limassol  |  warehouse  |  police

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