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17 July, 2019
 
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Legal department terminates Augusta helicopter probe

Independent investigators find no evidence of wrongdoing based on their mandate

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The Legal Services department is closing the case of the controversial purchase of Augusta helicopters, saying investigators did not find evidence of wrongdoing.

The criminal probe, which was assigned to two independent investigators, had been ordered following a scandal in the procurement of five Augusta Westland helicopters back in 2008, three for the National Guard and two for the Police.

“No actions or oversight were found on the part of any person involved that would have constituted to a criminal offence, as defined by the probe’s mandate,” the legal statement said.

The investigation was launched over two years ago following kickback allegations in the purchase of the Italian helicopters.

Hasapopoulos went on to describe a number of irregularities, alleging the government overpayed no less than €14 million

The unveiling of the scandal had its origins when Green Party MP Giorgos Perdikis raised concerns over the amount that would have cost to train pilots, describing the money as “excessive.”

A former senior state auditor, Andreas Hasapopoulos, had warned that the prices alone of the Augusta helicopters were inflated by €6 million, suggesting wrongdoing and kickbacks were involved in the overall deal.

But when he warned his boss, the former Auditor General Chrystalla Georghadji, he said she chose to appear herself before the tenders section committee on defence, essentially taking over the briefing of MP’s.

Hasapopoulos alleged that Georghadji, who is today the Governor of the Central Bank, withheld details from the committee and did not disclose pertinent information that could have affected the approval of the purchase.

He went on to describe a number of irregularities in the process, alleging that in the end the government ended up overpaying no less than €14 million. Reports of spare parts being unavailable or very expensive also made headlines recently, raising questions as to the use of the helicopters.

More recently, Hasapopoulos took to social media in July to describe what he called squandering of public funds in the name of defence.

The retired auditor wrote on Facebook that the ministry was moving ahead with a €17 million purchase of a specific weapons system, saying the amount would include €5 million in kickbacks.

He also said the tender was designed for only one bidder to fit the bill, a similar accusation he leveled against officials in the Augusta helicopter scandal.

In both cases, according to Hasapopoulos, officials cited the urgency to improve on the defence of the Republic, with the former auditor saying this could be done for a lot less money.

The Augusta probe is expected to be closed and filed in the archives following the statement by the Legal department.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  scandal  |  Augusta  |  helicopter  |  Hasapopoulos  |  Georghadji  |  defence  |  kickback  |  MP  |  probe  |  legal  |  auditor

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