Stolen remains of former Cyprus leader found

Three months after it was stolen, the corpse of Cyprus's former president has been found reburied in another grave. The country's justice minister says the remains of Tassos Papadopoulos had been held for ransom.

The corpse of Cyprus's former president has been found reburied in another grave, three months after it was stolen.

The country's justice minister said Tuesday that the remains of Tassos Papadopoulos had been held for ransom.

Spokesmen for Papadopoulos's family, however, said it had never received a demand for money.

The body of the Papadopoulos, a right-wing Greek Cypriot hard-liner, was stolen in December during slow-moving reunification talks with Turkish Cypriot leaders, a day before the first anniversary of the statesman's death.

A lack of clear motive and few clues led to speculation the theft was politically motivated, but authorities suggested early on that ransom was a more likely scenario.

The robbers removed a heavy marble plaque from on top of Papadopoulos's grave on the southern outskirts of the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, then dug down to the coffin and removed the body of the former president on Dec. 11.

Body discovered after tip

There was little progress in the investigation until Monday, when police found the body in another cemetery after being alerted by Papadopoulos's family, who had received a telephone tip, police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said.

Family spokesman Chrysis Pantelides said a man speaking broken Greek called with information about the corpse and instructed them to contact police.

DNA testing early Tuesday confirmed it was Papadopoulos's body, Katsounotos said.

The former president's body was found inside another grave and covered with a thin layer of soil, he said, adding it had been placed in the grave recently. He gave no further details.

Justice Minister Loucas Louca said during a news conference that Papadopoulos's family had received a demand for ransom, but that no money had been paid. He didn't indicate when the demand was made.

"The conclusion is that ransom was behind the theft and there was no political motive," Louca told reporters, adding the family had contacted police.

Family disputes ransom story

Two spokesmen for the family told The Associated Press no ransom demand had been received.

"Officials must be very careful when they open their mouths," said Vassilis Palmas, a family friend and former government spokesman during Papadopulos's tenure. "The minister said something that is unfounded."

Papadopoulos was a central figure in Cypriot politics for decades, with a career spanning most of the island's turbulent history since it gained independence from Britain in 1960.

President from 2003 to 2008, he was considered by many right-wing Greek Cypriots to be a champion of resistance against peace accords weighted against them.