NEWS

Sorry, wrong number: Cyprus cop mistakenly calls 'hitman'

TAGS: Cyprus, Crime

Cyprus police were investigating Monday how an officer mistakenly telephoned a Serbian who was suspected of being the ringleader in a mafia-linked assassination plot.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the officer intended to call his counterpart at Interpol's office in Serbia in March this year, but erroneously called the suspect instead.

An initial investigation found it was a genuine mistake and not corruption-related. A second probe will determine if the officer will face any disciplinary measures.

Cyprus police say the error happened after they were informed by Belgrade about a planned assassination attempt, but insisted the tip-off didn't specifically name anyone as the intended target.

Critics claim the gaffe warned the plot ringleaders, who reworked their plans and postponed the assassination to June, when a 51-year-old Cypriot businessman was killed in the resort of Ayia Napa.

The debacle came to light after daily Phileleftheros published leaked police documents. The paper on Monday reported that Serbian Interpol had information a Cypriot prison guard may have been involved in the case.

No one has been convicted yet of the killing of Fanos Kalopsidiotis who had also been the target of an earlier assassination bid four years ago.

Kalopsidiotis was shot multiple times by two gunmen as he was dining in a busy restaurant with a policeman, the officer's wife and their two children. The police couple was also killed in the exchange of gunfire, but the children were unhurt. One of the gunmen was also killed, while his cohort escaped and is still being sought.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said he has asked Attorney General Petros Clerides to appoint an independent criminal investigator to look into whether corrupt police officers were in any way involved in the killing, as well as how police handled the information provided by Serbian authorities.

“The road to eliminating corruption from the police force won't be easy and it's expected to get more difficult as efforts intensify,” Nicolaou said in a statement.

Nicolaou backed Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomous assertion that corruption continues to be a problem after firmly taking root in the force decades ago when previous governments hired and promoted unqualified people.

[AP]

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