A glamorous TV host, her brother and two others were sentenced to life in prison on Thursday after being found guilty of the mafia-style murder of a Cypriot media boss in a case that shocked the nation.
Media tycoon Andis Hadjicostis, 42, was gunned down outside his home near the heavily guarded US embassy on Jan. 11, 2010. The millionaire was shot twice from close range and died instantly.
Elena Skordelli, a 42-year-old mother of two, her brother, Tassos Krasopoulis, 37, Andreas Gregoriou, a 33-year-old meat supplier, and plumber Grigoris Xenophontos, 29, were all found guilty of the contract killing.
Under Cyprus law, premeditated murder carries an automatic life sentence.
A large crowd gathered outside the Nicosia courthouse for the climax of the trail, with scuffles breaking out between police and relatives and friends of the accused.
The criminal court based its decision on the testimony given by key prosecution witness Fanos Hadjigeorgiou — the self-confessed getaway motorbike driver.
“The testimony of key prosecution witness Fanos Hadjigeorgiou is not only true, but emanates from his desire to tell the whole truth to investigators,” the 380-page court verdict said.
Hadjigeorgiou admitted to his part in the crime then turned state’s witness to give evidence against the other four. The defense argued his testimony was not credible.
During the three-year trial the court heard the TV journalist and her brother ordered the hit on Hadjicostis for a fee of 50,000 euros (US$60,000).
In return, those who successfully carried out the task would also be given jobs at the TV station.
A detailed list of the amount of shares purchased by the siblings in the media group Sigma Radio TV was also revealed during the lengthy trial.
The criminal court heard that they purchased about a 20 percent stake in the media company owned by the victim’s family for more than 3 million euros.
What evolved was a story of revenge as Skordelli had lost her job at Sigma and she held Hadjicostis responsible.
Prosecutors said the chat-show presenter hatched the plot to kill her former boss — the scion of an influential family — in a conspiracy to take control of his media empire.
The high-profile case has both scandalized and fascinated Cypriots in equal measure.
Media bosses wield great influence on the island, where there is also a high regard for journalists in general and where attacks on public figures are rare.
Hadjicostis was chief executive of the Dias media group, which owns the Sigma TV, Radio Proto, daily newspaper Simerini and other publications.