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Exchanges of forest land at the expense of the State

Two cases of exchange of state forest land for private land were the focus of an Auditor General report due to the fact that the exchanges heavily leaned in favour of the private land owners.

Also revealed was a coordinated effort between public servants to accommodate the interests of their manager, who applied for the exchange of land in Geri.

As in other cases, none of the involved public servants were penalised, because they retired.

The Auditor General, Odysseas Michaelides, is taking these cases to the Attorney General in order to determine whether the retired public servants can be penalised, and whether the unfavourable exchanges of land can be reversed.

The two cases of exchange of state forest land for private land were conducted in 2007, involving the Randi forest in Limassol, and in 2012, involving the Lourka forest in Geri. According to the Auditor General, “not only was the public interest not served, but the second exchange led to a significant decrease in the reserves of state forest land, while both exchanges made managing the forests more difficult.”

It is worth noting that in both cases, the Land Registry estimated the lands under exchange as equal in value, even though they vary greatly in their characteristics, says Michaelides in his report.

The Auditor General also expressed his surprise on the haste with which the exchange proposals were conducted, compared to other similar cases which take a large amount of time to be examined.

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