News/Cyprus: Cyprus immigration chief jailed in graft probe

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Subject: News/Cyprus: Cyprus immigration chief jailed in graft probe
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Thu Oct 21 1999 - 13:09:11 EDT


Cyprus immigration chief jailed in graft probe

NICOSIA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The director of the Cyprus immigration service
was remanded in custody on Saturday in a corruption scandal involving cash
for visas on the eastern Mediterranean holiday island.

Authorities pounced on Friday, arresting the immigration chief, the brother
of a prominent political party leader and three senior police officers on
suspicion of widespread fraud and corruption.

The issue has cast a harsh spotlight on the immigration department, already
notorious for its sometimes harsh treatment of foreigners caught on the
wrong side of the law in Cyprus.

Allegations range from a small number of police officers taking protection
money to turn a blind eye to widespread forgery in residency and work
permits, to civil servants taking backhanders to approve visas.

``When the government says it will take inquiries to the hilt it means it,
irrespective of who is involved,'' government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou
said on Friday.

Christodoulos Nicolaides, long-time head of immigration whose wideranging
powers sent many illegal immigrants to prison over the years, was remanded
for eight days by a court on suspicion of taking bribes to grant visas to
cabaret girls.

Many of the women, known locally as ``artistes,'' are performers in
nightclubs but it is widely believed that many of them also work as
prostitutes, either forced or voluntarily. A police investigator told a
local magistrate in the capital Nicosia that authorities were also
investigating more than 20 cases of residency permits being issued in an
irregular manner.

On Friday, police arrested Charalambos Anastassiades, whose brother Nicos
heads Cyprus's biggest political party, and three senior police officers on
suspicion of involvement in a related case of issuing forged visas to
foreigners.

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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