x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Cypriot media mogul killed

Cypriot news presenter and three co-defendants plead not guilty to mafia-style murder.

Elena Skordelli is accused with her brother Tassos Krasopoulis of ordering a murder.
Elena Skordelli is accused with her brother Tassos Krasopoulis of ordering a murder.

Nicosia // Elena Skordelli, an intensely ambitious television news presenter in Cyprus, always wanted to be in the spotlight.

Now the glamorous mother of two is receiving more public exposure than she ever dreamed of: she is on trial with her brother, accused of ordering the murder of her former boss.

He was Andis Hadjicostis, a charismatic young Greek Cypriot media mogul, born into local high society He ran the island's most commercially successful television station.

From the dock of a packed courtroom in Nicosia, Ms Skordelli, 42, and her three co-defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges yesterday.

They face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.

The case has received saturation news coverage because it has all the ingredients of a soap opera featured by the television station Ms Skoredelli once worked for: celebrity, revenge, big money, sibling loyalty and underworld hitmen.

Was Ms Skordelli, people ask, a cold-blooded killer as the prosecution claims? Or is she being punished for trying to smash the glass ceiling of a profession that regards female presenters as decorative baubles?

Hadjicostis, a 42-year-old father of two, was shot twice on January 11 as he arrived home near the US Embassy.

The black-helmeted gunman sped off on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.

The victim's fashion designer wife, Efie, rushed out. Neighbours heard her scream: "Andi, my Andi, my love, my life…"

Prosecutors argued in earlier court hearings that Ms Skordelli wanted revenge for her public humiliation after she was sacked from her job at Sigma television by Hadjicostis last year.

Money was the other motive, the prosecution said. Without informing Hadjicostis, Ms Skordelli and her brother had bought a 20 per cent share in Sigma's parent company, Dias, which was why she was fired.

Immediately after the murder, the accused pair allegedly tried to buy more shares. Ms Skordelli's goal, the prosecution says, was to have a controlling stake on Sigma's board of governors in the hope of saving her career.

She began her career as a manicurist. Propelled by hard work and ambition, she established herself as a day-time TV presenter and chat-show host before graduating to her prime-time news slot.

Ms Skordelli and her brother, Tassos Krasopoulis, 37, were arrested less than two weeks after the killing. The two were hauled in after police arrested the driver of the getaway motorcycle, Theophanis Hadjigeorgiou, who was spotted on CCTV footage from embassy security cameras.

He agreed to name his accomplices in return for immunity from prosecution. The first name he gave to police was Ms Skordelli.

The accused shooter, Gregoris Xenophontas, had fled to Moldova but was recently extradited to Cyprus to stand trial. He had a young family and debts.

According to Hadjigeorgiou's police statement, he met the TV presenter and her brother on two occasions where they ordered the hit on Hadjicostis for a US$60,000 (Dh220,000) fee, an earlier court hearing was told.

Prosecutors say Ms Skordelli ended her second meeting with the hitmen with a command:

"I want this man dead."