Cyprus court hands life sentences to ex-TV host, brother, 2 others in media baron's murder

NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus’ criminal court on Thursday sentenced a former television presenter, her brother and two other men to life in prison after finding them guilty of premeditated murder in the execution-style killing of the country’s most prominent media baron.

The three judge bench ruled that Elena Skordelli and her brother, Anastasios Krasopoullis, sought to kill 41-year-old Andy Hadjicostis because he stood in the way of her returning to the media spotlight at Sigma TV that she longed for after being fired from the popular station that the victim managed.

The siblings had also spent millions of euros in a bid to gain a controlling stake in Sigma in hopes of securing Skordelli’s future at the station, something Hadjicostis had vehemently opposed.

The court said Skordelli had harboured such bitterness and ill will toward Hadjicostis that she saw his elimination as the answer to her problems, despite numerous failed appeals to Hadjicostis’ father Costas — who controlled the Dias Group to which Sigma belongs — to mediate.

“The motive of (Skordelli and Krasopoullis) was vengeance and to get rid of Andy Hadjicostis so that they could fulfil their plans according to the new order of things that they wanted and had set in motion at any cost,” the court said in its 380-page decision.

Skordelli had even consulted a fortune teller in hopes of swaying both father and son Hadjicostis.

The court said the other two defendants, Andreas Gregoriou and Gregoris Xenofontos, had planned and executed the Jan. 11, 2010 killing. Hadjicostis was gunned down with a sawed-off shotgun outside his Nicosia home, ambushed as he was stepping out of his car and speaking with his aunt on his mobile phone.

The prosecution’s case rested primarily on the testimony of another defendant, Fanos Hadjigeorgiou, who turned state’s evidence and was placed under the police’s witness protection program without being charged.

The court found Hadjigeorgiou’s testimony entirely credible. Hadjigeorgiou had driven the getaway motorcycle the night of the killing, fingering Skordelli and her brother as ordering the hit on Hadjicostis, Gregoriou on planning the killing and Xenofontos as being the triggerman.

The murder had shocked the small island nation unaccustomed to killings of the wealthy and powerful. So shaken were some that suspicions abounded in the immediate aftermath of the killing that it was somehow linked to the ethnically-divided island’s complicated politics.