State doctor jailed for backhanders

Nicosia Hospital
Nicosia Hospital

A state ear, nose, and throat doctor was jailed for two years on Friday after he was found guilty of receiving backhanders to refer patients to a specific audiology company.

ENT doctor at Nicosia general hospital Vasken Shahbenderian was found guilty on 112 counts including bribery and money laundering for receiving €16,330 in backhanders between December 28, 2010, and September 9, 2013, to refer people to Efthimiades audiology centre where they had hearing aids fitted.

Two more state ENT doctors were charged for the same case.

The suspects were allegedly taking advantage of the state’s policy of subsidising various programmes for people suffering from hearing problems.

Reading out the sentence, the judge said “nothing stopped the doctor from turning down Zenon Efthmiades’ proposal.

“If public servants refused such proposals from the private sector then this would have led to the clamping down on the phenomenon of corruption and would have instilled an opinion that public servants do not surrender nor are they tempted by financial incentives while carrying out their duty.”

While Shahbenderian worked in Limassol, he referred up to two patients to the Efthimiades audiology centre and in return, received a cheque by post.

After the doctor was transferred to Nicosia, he reached an agreement with Efthimiades’ centre where for every customer he would refer that was a returning client, Shahbenderian would receive €85. A new customer would be worth a €90 reward.

Any hearing aids fitted to an hourly paid government employee would get the doctor €100

Their agreement concerned a total of 189 patients and the doctor received 25 cheques in total which he deposited totaling €16,330.

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