PROMINENT businessman Theodoros Aristodemou was one of four persons placed under arrest on Thursday night in a case involving suspected fraudulent zoning in Paphos.
Earlier in the day, a Paphos court had issued warrants for the arrest of Aristodemou, his wife, an engineer formerly contracted by the Paphos municipality, and another person currently employed at the same municipality.
Aristodemou is the boss of Aristo Developers – the island’s largest land developers and the company implicated in the case. His wife Sotiroulla works as an architect for the firm.
Reports said detectives conducted searches of Aristodemou’s home as well as his office.
Depending on the outcome of questioning, police may today bring the suspects before a court and ask that they be remanded into custody.
The arrests follow a police investigation into the demarcation of 177 land plots in Skali, Paphos. Back in July, Paphos mayor Savvas Vergas had tabled Aristo Developer’s file before the municipal council, proposing the approval of zoning and building permits for a total of 177 plots for which the developer had secured a demarcation permit.
The charges facing the four suspects (but not each of them) range from: conspiracy to commit a felony; conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour; conspiracy to defraud; legalising revenues obtained from illicit activities; forgery and circulation of forged documents; abuse of power; wilful misconduct and abuse of trust by a public officer; issuing of forged certificates by a public officer; securing a certificate under false pretences; and extracting moneys under false pretences.
The case was first brought to the police’s attention by a Paphos municipality officer.
It subsequently emerged that the plans for which the demarcation permits were issued were switched with new plans, which seemed to cede approximately 4,000m² previously designated as green space, back to Aristo.
Aristodemou had denied any wrongdoing, arguing that municipality employees, unfamiliar with regulations, had got their calculations wrong.
According to Aristodemou, the real gap between the municipality’s and his company’s calculations does not exceed 900m², and his company could not benefit from it under any circumstances since the Land Registry routinely spots such mistakes and amends developments accordingly prior to issuing title deeds.
At a news conference that he called earlier this month, the entrepreneur hinted the allegations of malfeasance were being orchestrated by competitors, since the issue regarding the demarcation of these particular plots surfaced in 2014, whereas the permits were issued back in 2010.
One of the best known businessmen in Cyprus, Aristodemou is the founder and chairman of Aristo Developers Ltd. He has held many positions in both the private and public sectors, including on the Paphos Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors of telecoms utility CyTA, the board of Cyprus Airways and chairman of the board at Bank of Cyprus.
Shortly after news of the arrest warrants came out, the company released a statement, saying both Aristodemou and his wife were ready to cooperate with police.
Both he and his spouse would hand themselves over to the police within the day, the statement added.
The company said it fully intended to cooperate with authorities in order to “shed light on the case, which is a conspiracy against Mr. Aristodemou, his family and our company.”