Three suspects in an alleged plot to assassinate a Limassol businessman walked free on Monday after prosecutors failed to find any evidence, with media pundits criticizing how police missed red flags by relying on a verbal complaint without vetting.
Last week police arrested three men, two Greek Cypriots who worked as contractors for the Limassol school board and another Cypriot citizen with Palestinian origins, with prosecutors accusing all of them of plotting to kill Dinos Ellinas, the owner of a Limassol shipping company and the current school superintendent in the southern town.
Police had not issued any official reports about the arrests, saying the case was being handled in secrecy to protect the integrity of the investigation.
But Ellinas took to the media to clarify he had not filed any complaint and that he was shocked when police told him two men he had known as contractors were plotting to kill him.
“I can’t think of any reasons behind such a criminal act, I’m deeply troubled, knowing the two brothers and having visited them on school grounds where maintenance projects were going on,” Ellinas said.
But critics said investigators failed to vet the information properly and also questioned evidence that led to a judge ordering the remand of the suspects during a hearing behind closed doors
It later emerged that the complaint came from a former employee of the two contractors, who had refused to give a written statement to police but alleged his ex bosses had confided in him that they were planning to dress up in Santa Clause outfits and sing Christmas carols at Ellina’s front door before shooting him in cold bold with guns supplied by the Palestinian man.
All three suspects have flatly denied the allegations while police said law enforcement officers had moved quickly on the arrests citing the seriousness of the case.
But critics said investigators and prosecutors failed to vet the information properly and also questioned evidence that led to a judge ordering the remand of the suspects during a hearing behind closed doors.
Police had been told that the brothers paid the other suspect €13500 for two guns on top of additional money for his help in the alleged plot. A fake handgun was reportedly found during the course of the investigation according to police.
But both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrators told police there were no financial disputes except a payment pending to the tune of €15,000 for contracting work that was expected to be paid routinely after some adjustments had just been made on school premises.
It turned out that police had additional evidence contradicting the allegations, such as an alibi by the Palestinian man who said he was overseas at the time he was alleged to have supplied the guns.
The suspect, who claimed he did not know the brothers, also did not have a criminal record.
There were also reports that the informant had met the two brothers about half a year ago and they hired him before letting him go some time in the summer. The informant claimed that the amount owed to the contractors by Ellinas was €25,000, some ten grand higher than the adjusted amount, according to reports.
The school board said a total of €360,000 had been paid to the company in question for work in various projects carried out by the company, with critics accusing police of failing to assess possible motives behind the complaint.
“I thought it was an April fool’s joke,” Ellinas said after the initial news, telling local media the board had been dealing with many companies and similar amounts with no issues.
“I understand police get their own information, which appears to be very serious even though they cannot pass it along to me. But there must be something there if people got arrested and went to court, the officers are doing their job,” Ellinas had told a media outlet last week.
Police said they suspended prosecution against three suspects, essentially dropping all charges including attempted murder and felony conspiracy, while reports said the decision was taken in the Legal Department after it became clear that no evidence could warrant further remand for the suspects.