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20 July, 2024
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Trimiklini scandal unveiled: 15-year licensing nightmare shakes state agencies

Auditor General points finger at fisheries department as 'source of evil' in scandal

Pavlos Neophytos

The Control Committee of the Parliament heard an outcry from the state services, who took almost 15 years to act on a series of illegal activities by a businessman in Sylikou and Trimiklini (a development on adjacent plots), involving the diversion of water from the Kouris River to unauthorized fish farm facilities, as well as the unlawful operation of a catering business and guest accommodation.

According to what was said before the Commission on Thursday, January 11, the services were mobilized after the complaints of journalist Makarios Drousiotis, the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, and the intervention of the Auditor General of the Republic, who published a report on the matter.

The Auditor General, Odysseas Michaelides, blamed the "source of evil" on the illegal grant, without obtaining a planning permit and building permit, of permission to establish and operate a fish farm to the businessman in 2011 by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, as this license was used as an excuse by the other services to issue more permits.

Diko MP, Chrysis Pantelidis, addressed the directors of the relevant ministries and services, and spoke about the humiliation and undermining of the state by the businessman, who was breaking the law for 15 years without any interference, in clear violation of many laws. AKEL MP, Irene Charalambidou, said that such a display of arbitrariness would have many consequences, and remarked that the state services were either extremely incompetent or corrupt.

Environmentalist MP Stavros Papadouris raised the issue of the involvement of government officials in the illegal business in previous years, citing some of its events. He also criticized the fact that "in our country we have a beautiful pattern: 'I break the law, hoping that I will be licensed later'".

Money laundering investigation
The Auditor General forwarded the suspicions of money laundering to the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS). He said that the allegation, which he did not support, was about a peasant family with ties to Russia, who were laundering Russian money. MOKAS said that they were gathering information and examining the report of the Audit Office. If any issues that require criminal investigation emerge, the information will be sent to the police.

Next week, the Independent Authority Against Corruption will start an investigation into the case of the staff purchase, according to the authority's member, Nikos Zambakidis.

They acted 15 years too late
The Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Andreas Grigoriou, said on behalf of the ministries and relevant government departments that they first became aware of the issue in 2022, when the irrigation committees of the nearby communities reported that they had no water for irrigation due to the drainage of the Trimiklini dam.

He said that the issue resurfaced in the summer of 2023 and that the Ministry gave instructions to restore legality. He also said that on 7 December 2023, following a Cabinet decision, a three-member committee was appointed, which will evaluate the findings in the Auditor General's report within two months and restore legitimacy. The Director General of the General Directorate of Environment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Kostas Hatzipanayiotou, spoke about the re-examination of the Auditor General's recommendations.

The Director General of the Ministry of Interior, Elikkos Ilias, said that the issue was brought to the attention of the Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in June 2023, and that they were waiting for the conclusion of the three-member committee appointed by the Ministry, before taking further steps. He said that they contacted ETEK because, he added, the engineers who participated in the construction of the illegal facilities are also accountable for such violations.

The director of the Department of Urban Planning, Kyriakos Koundouros, said that on November 29, 2023 they appealed to the Attorney General for judicial action. Now the Legal Service, with lawyers of the Republic, has taken over the investigation of criminal liabilities, after two private law firms declined, said the Assistant District Officer of Limassol, Nikolas Tsioullos.

The environmental dimension
Ecologists MP Charalambos Theopemptou spoke about the environmental dimension of the violations, emphasizing that according to foreign experts the basin of the Kouris River should be protected from waste, such as that of this specific company. He said that the environmental impact on the water of the Kouris basin, from the dam where the river ends and which is channeled to households as drinking water, will concern the Environment Committee of the Parliament.

Don't keep the case in a drawer
Journalist, researcher and writer, Makarios Drousiotis, who first exposed the issue with a post on social media, told "K" that the important thing is what happens next. He added that after the case was transferred to the Legal Service, it should not be kept in a drawer until the citizens forget. According to Droussiotis, it seemed that the case of violations was covered up for 15 years.

Commenting on the attitude of the competent services towards the violations, he mentioned as an example his first communication with the Water Development Department, which told him that there was no problem.

He also noted that the citizens showed great interest in this issue, as his post on social media reached more than 100,000 internet users.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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