A NUMBER of “corrupt” public officials at the Land Registry Department have been dipping their hands into the honey jar, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said yesterday, adding that the ministry will not hesitate to pursue criminal investigations wherever necessary.
According to Hasikos, seven land registry officials are under criminal or disciplinary investigation in relation to allegations of corruption, bribery, embroilment, violation of personal data laws and depriving the state of revenue.
“It appears there is corruption, without wishing to taint all land registry employees. On the other hand, there are these exceptions where civil servants appear to have been frequently putting their hands in the honey jar,” he said.
“The ministry is in a position to identify these exceptions and we will not sit idle,” he added.
Hasikos told the Cyprus Mail two land registry officials have already been suspended and their files sent to the police to launch a criminal investigation into allegations of corruption and bribery.
The two are allegedly involved in helping Greek Cypriots – for a fee – sell their properties in the occupied areas by applying to the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in the north.
“It appears a ring is operating… particularly in the Larnaca district, where this illegality appears to be blossoming,” said the minister.
He did not rule out others being involved.
In a separate case reported by Phileleftheros yesterday, Hasikos confirmed that a disciplinary investigation is underway against four employees accused of filing 25,000 applications for information on property owned by 16,300 citizens across Cyprus.
It appears the employees were filing fake applications for a data search at the land registry in order to retrieve information for hidden individuals in exchange for a fee.
Hasikos said he did not rule out also sending this case to the police to launch a criminal investigation.
The case involves potential violations of personal data laws, as well as actions which have deprived the state of revenue, since invoices were not issued and paid for the fake applications for data searches at the department.
According to Phileleftheros, Auditor-general Chrystalla Georghadji uncovered the scam which allegedly took place between 2008 and 2012.
Through a surprise visit to the land registry department by a member of her office, Georghadji found a number of officials had printed out thousands of data searches for immovable property without being authorised to do so. It was not clear whose hands the information ended up in.
In her report, Georghadji also had a dig at the land registry department for carrying out an “inadequate” investigation into the allegations.
A seventh employee is also being investigated in relation to a separate case of alleged bribery regarding the sale of land, said Hasikos.