Cyprus police arrest 3 suspects in murder of island’s most powerful publisher

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cyprus police arrest 3 over publisher’s murder

ATHENS — Three men arrested in the suspected contract killing of a Cyprus media publisher were ordered held in custody Friday pending formal charges next week, officials said.

Dias Group publisher Andy Hadjicostis, 41, was gunned down Monday night outside his home in the capital of Nicosia.

Prosecutors have yet to determine a motive, but evidence so far has made officials optimistic that “this case will be solved,” Justice Minister Loucas Louca said. He ruled out politics as a motivation.

The suspects will likely be charged next week with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. A court ordered Friday they be kept in police custody while prosecutors build the case against them. Their defense lawyer, Michalis Pikis, said all three denied any involvement.

The gunman who killed Hadjicostis fled the scene on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice, police said.

Prosecutors said the evidence collected includes fingerprints on a motorcycle helmet visor found near the crime scene, tire treads matching a motorcycle at one suspect’s home and CCTV camera footage.

An informant also testified of hearing the suspects boast about “a job that would earn them a lot of money,” and then about planning and carrying out the murder, Nicosia crimes unit chief Thomas Efthymiou said.

Authorities dismissed initial speculation that the killing was linked to ongoing talks about the Mediterranean island’s reunification. Cyprus is divided between a Greek-controlled south and Turkish dominated north.

Hadjicostis’ media group has adopted a guarded approach in covering the talks, which have sharpened divisions between Greek Cypriot liberals and right-wingers favoring a harder line. Dias, founded by Hadjicostis’ father, is Cyprus’ largest publisher and includes the conservative daily Simerini, the private Sigma television station, a popular radio station and several magazines.

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