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Anorthosis chief resigns amid embezzlement probe

1 December 2008 20:05

LARNACA, Cyprus (AFP) - The president of high flying Cypriot side Anorthosis resigned on Monday days after being arrested by police probing embezzlement allegations raised by fellow board members.

Andreas Panteli, 48, said his resignation took "immediate effect" while he promised to return any amount of money that was found owing to Anorthosis Famagusta following an independent audit.

He also pledged in a statement to "immediately return" any cheques belonging to the club that were issued in his name or may come into his possession.

The Anorthosis board said it "accepted" the resignation and would not take the matter any further.

"For reasons of general public interest we unanimously decided to withdraw the complaint against the former president without this being considered in any way an intervention into the investigation," said a statement from the board.

Panteli was arrested last Friday, two days after Anorthosis drew 2-2 with Werder Bremen in the Champions League, by police looking into financial mismanagement involving one million euros.

He was remanded in custody by a Nicosia court for three days after a request for bail was denied and he is expected to be back in court on Tuesday.

Police are investigating a case of forgery, distribution of forged documents, theft, obtaining money under false pretences and trying to cover it up.

The high-profile football figure was accused by fellow executive members of obtaining 418,498 euros under false pretences and attempting to take another 500,000 euros in assets that belong to the club.

The offences are said to have taken place between August and November this year in the capital Nicosia and the southern coastal town of Larnaca where the club is located.

Champions league takings are also thought to be part of the missing money.

The probe came after Anorthosis drew with Werder Bremen 2-2 in the Champions League after letting slip a two-goal lead on November 26.

Last week, Panteli said he was "shocked and surprised" by the whispering campaign against him and that he had "nothing to hide".

He took over the 12-times Cyprus champions five years ago and is credited with saving them from bankruptcy.

It is hoped the saga will not have a negative effect on the team's progress in Europe's premier club tournament.

Team manager Temuri Ketsbaia has insisted that he will stand by his close friend whatever the outcome.

The revelations have rocked public opinion and Anorthosis fans have criticised the move against Panteli, with abusive graffiti daubed on the walls outside the club's stadium.

Anorthosis are now calling for unity in a bid to overcome one of the worse chapters in their 97-year history.

The Cypriot minnows are lying third in Group B of the Champions League and a win away to Panathinaikos in Athens next week would secure an unlikely berth in the last 16.

So far in the competition they have only lost once in five starts. They are also top of the Cyprus league after beating Atromitos 3-0 at home on Sunday.

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