Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos is dismissing a response issued by the Interior Ministry regarding the latest Turkish Cypriot property saga, while reiterating allegations he made about favouritism and criminal activity in his town.
On Thursday, the ministry issued a statement explaining that a Turkish Cypriot property in Paphos was being leased lawfully to local artist Andreas Charalambides, who is a non-refugee from Paphos and is subletting the property for a much higher profit.
Charalambides is renting a Turkish Cypriot property near the town’s exclusive area near the harbor and turning a profit of over €5000 according to Phedonos, who also repeated his allegations following criticism he had received from socialist party Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos.
The mayor said previously that the politician was using his clout to help his relative, Charalambides.
'The case of Mr. Charalambides has nothing to do with any complex legal issue. It is purely an issue of political favours and illegal activity'
Following a statement issued by the Interior Ministry, Sizopoulos said that the statement exonerated him and went on to accuse Phedonos on live television of serving ulterior motives.
The statement explained that Charalambides was viewed as a “lawful tenant” and no provisions were included in his contract that prohibited any subletting.
But Phedonos responded Friday, dismissing the notion that Charalambides was lawfully renting the place. Instead, the mayor says Charalambides’ contract renewal is the result of favouritism and criminal activity.
“The case of Mr. Charalambides has nothing to do with any complex legal issue. It is purely an issue of political favours and illegal activity,” Phedonos said.
Earlier this week, the mayor posted a comment on social media about this case after learning that a contract had been renewed almost one year after he had filed a complaint with police. But instead of an investigation, Phedonos said the lease was renewed last month.
Phedonos, who insists the lease is illegal due to a 1992 law, accused Sizopoulos of offering his political clout for the deal to remain in force and even get an extension, despite the mayor providing evidence to authorities that the contract was in violation of law.
“Those [Greek Cypriots] who occupy Turkish Cypriot properties [in the south] cannot be established as lawful tenants anyway,” said Phedonos in his statement.
The government sets strict guidelines that grant use of Turkish Cypriot land or property in the south only to Greek Cypriots who lost property in the north, following the aftermath of the 1974 war and subsequent division of the island.
The Paphos mayor has been a vocal critic of abuse of the property scheme when last year he went public with names of people who were profiting unlawfully from the programme.
Last week, Interior Ministry official Marios Economides, who is the deputy director of the Turkish Cypriot properties unit, said the government was taking action and already 600 cases had been resolved.
But Phedonos spoke out again about a case of a farmer who wasn’t a beneficiary for a property but still was receiving farm subsidies, saying that such cases show that problems still persist.
“And he doesn’t even declare this on his tax forms,” said the mayor, adding that this individual was also stealing water from an adjacent building because he is not entitled to apply for water.
Phedonos has been credited for his whistleblowing in other cases that helped uncover scandals and lead people to justice.
His mother’s car was a target of a bomb attack last year, with a suspect arrested just last week, following the arrest of a known drug lord who is cooperating with authorities. The arrest took place after a police officer was shot, with the mayor saying it should have happened much sooner and accusing the police of not acting on earlier information.