Lack of clarity continued to rule the day in the Republic of Cyprus following allegations against the drug squad chief, who was suspended from duties on Wednesday after the prison warden accused him of illegal activities.
Justice Minister Stefi Dracou announced on Wednesday that she was suspending drug squad commander Michalis Katsounotos, after Prison Warden Anna Aristotelous implicated him in a scandal for allegedly seeking to undermine the state’s two top female custodians.
Dracou, who received an official complaint on Monday, had given Katsounotos until Wednesday to respond to allegations of corruption. Reports Wednesday night said the commander replied in an email in which he did not consent to his suspension following consultations with his lawyers.
Katsounotos, who previously served as police spokesperson, is being accused by Aristotelous and another high-rank female corrections officer of using illegal channels within the penal complex to seek dirt on the two women for political purposes, including videos.
Last year public signs emerged that the prison warden had been at odds with the justice ministry, following an odd exchange during a House legal affairs committee hearing
The drug squad chief has been suspended for a month, which is the deadline for completion of an independent investigation into the matter law professor Achilles Emilianides, the son of the late labor minister Zeta Emilianidou.
Attorney General George Savvides has tasked Emilianides with probing into the allegations after Aristotelous presented evidence that allegedly pointed to Katsounotos having back channels with convicted felons in her prison.
Katsounotos has been credited with recent success in drug convictions but law enforcement authorities have also been criticized for how prisoners would often become prosecution witnesses in trials where evidence was weak or shaky.
Local media said the government administration knew about a problem between Aristotelous and Katsounotos, but the Presidential Palace rejected the notion that President Nicos Anastasiades was aware of the specific allegations.
Last year public signs emerged that the prison warden had been at odds with the justice ministry, following an odd exchange during a House legal affairs committee hearing.
Government officials said an independent probe is expected to get to the bottom while also clarifying the suspension of the drug squad commander was decided for administrative purposes and was not in any way intended to punish the police official.
Aristotelous had threatened earlier this week to step down if Dracou refused to suspend Katsounotos, an act that can only be authorized by the justice minister’s office in cases involving high-ranking or politically-appointed police officials.
Despite the independent probe assigned to Emilianides, the justice ministry said the suspension was meant to guard the integrity of the investigation as well as the work of law enforcement.
Emilianides, who last year declined to join an independent probe on a suspected cover up in the death of a soldier, has until July 20 to present his findings.
Aristotelous, who has been publicly advocating for prison reform, was rumored to have been under consideration for a new political appointment.