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24 June, 2024
 
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Drug squad chief vindicated but not squeaky clean

Prison warden demands transfer after probe justifies chief's illicit methods in the name of public interest

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An independent probe found no evidence of corruption against Cyprus’ drug squad chief, with the prison warden who accused him of illegal activities to undermine her demanding a transfer to another position.

Drug squad chief Michalis Katsounotos has been vindicated in report findings by an independent investigator following allegations from prison warden Anna Aristotelous who accused him of enlisting a convicted informant to seek videos that could be politically harmful to the country’s top corrections officer and her assistant.

An independent report by law professor Achilles Emilianides, who submitted his findings in September, was back in the news on Wednesday when the state attorney general's office said they found no criminal offenses of corruption against Katsounotos.

The chief, who previously served as police spokesperson, had been accused by Aristotelous and another high-rank female corrections officer of using illegal channels within the penal complex, including collusion with a convicted felon behind bars, to seek dirt on the two women for political purposes, including videos.

'With an effort to prevent commission of serious offenses and absence of evidence of an act of corruption… we conclude that public interest is not served by pursuing a criminal case against him'

But the report found that Katsounotos, who was also serving as intelligence coordinator within the police at the time, had learned about alleged misconduct on the part of Aristotelous and her assistant that could compromise their authority.

According to the felon, criminal elements had gained possession of a compromising video showing intimidate moments within the prison as well as use of drugs on the premises, prompting Katsounotos to inquire further.

But the report found that the drug squad chief may have violated rules in connection with abuse of authority, with Legal Department administrators echoing Emilianides’ suggestion that Katsounotos could be investigated for disciplinary but not criminal offenses.

“With his efforts to prevent the commission of serious offenses and the absence of evidence of an act of corruption… we have come to the conclusion that public interest is not served by pursuing a criminal case against him,” Legal said.

Aristotelous and her assistant said they would walk out following the news that Katsounotos would not face a criminal prosecution, with the prison warden saying she was “disappointed that illegal acts by a senior officer were deemed justified for the public interest and would not be criminally prosecuted.”

“The system did not offer even the most basic protection in a crystal clear case of abuse of power and conspiracy, which are acts of corruption,” Aristotelous said.

Feuding camps within the system, chief auditor weighs in

Last year public signs emerged that Aristotelous had been at odds with the justice ministry, after the prison warden had been told to sit out a crucial part of a House committee meeting where ankle bracelet legislation was to be discussed.

Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides, who is also ad odds with the government administration and the leadership at the Legal Department, took to Twitter saying his office could hire the two women.

“The Audit Office is looking for capable and conscientious administrative officers. Since the two heads at the Prison insist on a transfer, we believe they could contribute to our work if they themselves wish to be seconded to our service,” Michaelides wrote.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  prison  |  Aristotelous  |  Katsounotos  |  police  |  politics  |  state  |  corruption  |  collusion

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