Guns fiasco turns political

THE GUN possession fiasco took a political turn yesterday after the names of several politicians with firearms permits were leaked to the media.

Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the controversy, Chief of Police Andreas Angelides, returned from abroad and assured that he was “strong enough to reply to all the questions”.

The leak infuriated DISY Chief Nicos Anastassiades – also named as a special constable carrying a firearm – who said that it was a flagrant action by “some, unfortunately silly and populist state instruments to pillory specific DISY members.”

Pressed to give names, Anastassiades said he did not want to comment further.

In a letter to President Glafcos Clerides, Anastassiades urged him to publish the list of all those who carry arms, pledging to return his weapon and its permit.

The controversy emerged a week ago after customs and European Anti-Fraud (OLAF) officers discovered a gun in the office of businessman, Christophoros Tornaritis, whose tobacco company is being investigated in connection with cigarette smuggling allegations.

Anastassiades said he was saddened by the matter adding: “There is an unprecedented ridicule of politicians and respectful citizens who were given a gun permit legally or through normal procedures.”

“For once more, state instruments, with their behaviour hurt the government and the dignity of personalities they should have respected,” Anastassiades said.

House President Demetris Christophias yesterday revealed he had a gun, adding however that it was issued by the current government after it had been decided to cut down politicians’ personal guards.

Christophias said the biggest problem was the giving of guns to cabaret owners and other suspicious individuals.

Attorney-general Alecos Markides repeated yesterday that the only way to restore order was to immediately revoke all special constable appointments, which would automatically mean loss of the gun permit and force all those wishing to have one to go through the cabinet or the justice ministry.

Under the current practice, the respective chief of police can, without informing the justice minister, appoint anyone a special constable allowing them to secure a firearms permit.

All eyes are now the meeting between Clerides and Angelides where the president is expected to demand an explanation as to why the chief had granted special constable status together with a gun permit to Tornaritis.

But according to media reports last night, Clerides was not intending to ask for the chief’s resignation.

In Tornaritis’ case Angelides would have some explaining to do especially since his son Savvas is on the businessman’s payroll.

It is also expected that Angelides would explain why his other son, Michalis, was also appointed a special constable with a permit to carry a gun, considering that he too was a close associate of Tornaritis.

Included on the list of special constables with gun permits are: AKEL Spokesman Nicos Katsourides, DISY deputies Christos Pourgourides, Sotiris Sampson, and Rikkos Eortocritou, former DISY chairman Yiannakis Matsis, former DISY deputy Ttimis Efthimiou, the Archbishop’s nephew Aris Hadjipanayiotou, media mogul Costis Hadjicostis, Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos, AKEL deputy and former deputy chief of police Costas Papacostas, DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis, former interior minister Dinos Michaelides and former interior minister and current Central Bank Governor Christodoulos Christodoulou.

The list also includes two employees of the Astra radio station, which is affiliated with AKEL, though the station’s director and AKEL deputy Takis Hadjidemetriou, who is thought to be one of them, did not confirm or deny the reports.

Health Minister Frixos Savvides said he was offered a gun but refused, while KISOS Chairman Yiannakis Omirou said he did not need one.

Former president and Chief Negotiator to the EU George Vasilliou warned that laws should be strictly observed with no exceptions.

Vasilliou said he did not have a permit and had never asked for one, adding that he never thought a politician in Cyprus would need a gun.