Men [of God] at work on Cyprus

02 Apr 2001


NICOSIA - A Cypriot bishop pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to swindle a British businessman out of $3.7 million in a get-rich-quick scheme. The bearded, soft-spoken Bp. Chrysanthos appeared in flowing black robes to answer the charges in a stuffy courtroom in Nicosia crammed with journalists, well-wishers and other people awaiting trial.

Such a trial of a member of the influential Greek Orthodox clergy is unprecedented in modern Cyprus and the bishop, identified on the charge sheet by his layman's name Chrysanthou Chrysostomou, could go to jail for up to 3 years. He is accused of conspiring to defraud businessman Gerald Chambers in a suspect investment scheme. One of 12 prosecution witnesses is an officer of Britain's Metropolitan Police fraud squad.

Chrysanthos quit his post as bishop of Limassol 14 months ago under pressure from the church but still retains the title of bishop. Addressing the court without taking off his priest's hat, he answered simply "no" when asked if he admitted the charges. "I am innocent and the truth will shine," he told journalists.

The court ordered him to stand trial on June 5. Prosecutors did not ask for bail. An indictment prepared by the church's ruling body when the accusations emerged accused Chrysanthos of abusing his position and associating himself with suspect people for personal profit. It also accused him of damaging relations with the Russian Orthodox Church by misappropriating money initially donated for the construction of a chapel.

Reuters, 2/16.2000


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