AG briefed over monks’ cash and sex scandal

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Attorney General George Savvides was briefed on Thursday by the Chief of Police, Stelios Papatheodorou, over an ongoing investigation into the latest cash scandal involving monks at the monastery of Saint Avvakoum.

The scandal emerged earlier last month, after two monks were allegedly discovered in possession of €800,000 in cash.

The men of the cloth were also found to own property in Greece and Limassol, according to reports.

As reported, anti-money laundering unit (Mokas), is investigating allegations of money laundering, as well as obtaining money with false representations.

Questioned by reporters over progress in the investigations, Chief Papatheodorou sufficed to say that, “we believe things are progressing as expected.”

A police source told the Financial Mirror that the force is working to identify whether felonies have been committed and by whom.

Investigators’ initial findings were presented to the Attorney General for assessment.

During the meeting, Savvides was also informed about a video depicting a monk assaulting a woman with a belt.

Criticism has been directed towards authorities for not making any arrests, while a six-member church committee is looking into the case on behalf of the Holy Synod.

Allegedly, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of euros were piling in from donations from churchgoers who were drawn in with fake “miracles” and promises to people suffering from diseases who turned to the church in their hour of need.

CCTV footage, with sound, depicts the monks fixing crosses to aminate myrrh. The monks had also, allegedly, been ‘fixing’ icons to appear as if they had tears or looked as if the saints were crying.

The monastery, named after the pre-Christian prophet who is idolised by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, was also organising pilgrimages from Greece to visit the remote monastery.

Members of parliament have urged for a comprehensive investigation into church donations to address concerns of potential money laundering.

Fundraising

Additionally, the Interior Ministry has disclosed details regarding fundraising applications submitted by the monastery, notably one amounting to €3 mln, where the monastery failed to provide the required financial statements.

Attorneys Adrianna Klaedes and Nikolaos Koulouris, representing the monks, vehemently dismissed the accusations, asserting, “there has been no financial mismanagement nor scandal affecting the monastery since its establishment in 2020.”

They insisted that the Synod should conduct a hearing and afford the monks an opportunity to present their defence.

They contended that the evidence used against the monks was “fabricated and the product of criminal activity,” involving illicit recordings and manipulation of audiovisual material.

The lawyers also said that the monastery has served as “a spiritual beacon and haven of tranquillity for the Orthodox Christians of Cyprus.”

The monastery falls under the jurisdiction of Tamassos Bishop Isias, who shut down the monastery in March following investigations that began two months ago.

The scandals do not stop here, as they were reportedly captured on CCTV footage engaging in sexual acts with each other, while one of the monks has allegedly been reported for sexual harassment.

Theologian Theodoros Kyriacou, in recent comments to Kathimerini, revealed that a man has filed a case for sexual harassment against one of the monastery’s monks.

“This man is a vulnerable person… this happened more than once,” said Kyriacou.

Asked about allegations of obtaining money from the faithful under false pretences, Kyriacou said suspicions and rumours “had been circulating for a long time”, though he could not recall exactly from when.

Nonetheless, there had been “warning signs” including “repeated calls for donations” made by the monastery.

“This is basically begging.”