Defendants in Limassol’s case involving an alleged scam with food stamps and housing vouchers for homeless persons walked free this week, after prosecutors said they were unable to bring witnesses forward to testify in court.
According to local media, the head of an unregistered NGO for the homeless along with a hotel owner and the chief concierge on staff, were off the hook on Monday after prosecutors told a judge they could not manage to have witnesses come forward in a case of alleged fraud against the state.
The defendants, aged between late 40’s and late 60’s, had been accused of defrauding the state by swindling at least €35,000 from state authorities and the intended recipients who were homeless.
It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors were referring to social welfare beneficiaries or administrators from the labour ministry who were unable to testify
Details as reported in the media suggested that the suspects offered temporary shelter to homeless persons and then forced them to register for state housing aid and report the suspect’s hotel as their current address.
But state administrators began to suspect in most cases the homeless beneficiaries were not staying at the hotel even though they were allegedly being forced to show up at specific times to prove otherwise.
In one case, a homeless man who spent five days at the hotel was later found to have been staying in a container for three months while the state was paying his room and board for four months. Another person was said to have been staying at a detox clinic.
In another case, a woman and her two children were supposedly staying at the hotel with the state paying €165 daily for three months. It was later discovered, according to what was heard in court, that the two kids had been living with their father in Lebanon since July.
The presiding judge on Monday dismissed the case and all charges against the three defendants, after prosecutors told the court that they were unable to present witnesses for the prosecution. It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors were referring to social welfare beneficiaries or administrators from the labour ministry.