Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Boundless admiration for Vgen’s chutzpah

Yiannakis Omirou

LAIKI Bank administrator Andri Antoniadou has applied to the courts in an attempt to turn the screw on Andreas Vgenopoulos, the sharp-tongued, wheeler-dealer who took control of the bank in 2006, plundered it to support his business interests in Greece and left it bust.

Interim court orders for the global freezing of assets, up to €3.79bn were issued against Vgenopoulos and his Laiki lieutenant Efthimios Bouloutas and for assets totalling €1.5bn against board member Kyriacos Magiras. Court orders for the disclosure of all assets of the trio have also been issued.

While everyone would love Vgenopoulos and his henchmen to pay for destroying a once-healthy bank, it is doubtful the court action will go very far. Teams of sharp-suited lawyers will take over the affair, filing objections over technicalities, blocking decisions and ensuring the court procedure moves slower than a glacier.

The interim orders will then have to be upheld by the courts of countries in which the three amigos might have assets, creating business for even more greedy lawyers. And by the time the lawyers finish filing their objections all assets of the trio will have been transferred to bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or Panama in the names of their grandmothers, brothers and third cousins.

I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I just cannot see the administrator getting a single euro out of Vgenopoulos and his yes-men, at least not in this decade.

 

ANOTHER eight of Vgenopoulos’ yes-men face civil action from the Laiki administrator, who is demanding general and special damages from them for allowing/helping the above-mentioned three and thus causing billions of losses to the bank, but they have not had their assets frozen.

The eight included board members and senior executives who turned a blind eye when Vgen was arranging multi-million loans, in the names of friends, that he subsequently used for share-support schemes for the Marfin Investment Group (MIG) which he was chairman of.

One lawyer, speaking on radio yesterday, claimed that a loan of €500 million had been supposedly given to the Vatopedi monastery in Greece which is run by Cypriot monks. Cypriot monks are sharp businessmen and would consider it bad business practice to lumber their monastery with half a billion euro loan.

In another case, a €100 million loan was granted to a monastery in northern Greece, occupied by less than 10 nuns. Did this money ever go to monasteries or did it end up in a fund that bought shares in MIG?

 

NOT ONE of these eight, four of whom were Cypriots, all with a very good understanding of banking, dared stand up to Vgen and question his actions. Not one of them had the balls to resign and publicly report the gross mismanagement of the bank by Vgen.

Not even when he was taking billions in ELA from the European Central Bank and transferring it to his collapsing banking operation in Greece, did any of these cowards speak out. As long as they were collecting their fat salaries every month they were happy to keep quiet and allow the plundering to go on.

They were not the only Laiki officials displaying this high-grade spinelessness. Apparently the decision for the legal action had been put in motion by the previous board, but after it was replaced, no Laiki employee was willing to sign the affidavit necessary for the application for the interim orders and civil action against Vgen.

Even after the winding up of the bank, nobody from Laiki was willing to sign the affidavit, which was eventually signed by a lawyer from one of the law firms handling the case. Perhaps they had orders from their union boss, Loizos Hadjicostis who was one of Vgen’s biggest cheerleaders.

Hadjicostis’ representative on the Laiki board never said anything about the plundering that was going on either because the union had been treated very well by Vgen.

 

IT IS VERY difficult not to express boundless admiration for Vgen’s chutzpah. After the news about the court orders was announced on Friday, Laiki’s destroyer issued an announcement saying this was a “move to cover up the real culprits” and “as a defence against the legitimate claims of MIG”.

MIG has taken the CyprusRepublic to an international court claiming €828 million compensation plus damages for the losses from its investment in Laiki. When Laiki was nationalised MIG’s shareholding fell from just under 10 per cent to just over one per cent, hence the loss. Vgen expressed confidence on Friday that MIG would win its case, a possibility that cannot be ruled out.

It is obviously irrelevant that Laiki was nationalised because Vgen had bankrupted it. But the idea that the bankrupt Cyprus state might have to pay Vgen’s MIG €900m it does not have, after Vgen bankrupted Laiki and put the survival of the Bank of Cyprus in the balance by leaving it with a €9bn debt, does not bear thinking about.

 

THE BANK of Woes, meanwhile has finally appointed a CEO, but it is difficult to tell what his duties and responsibilities will be considering the bank is being restructured and, according to the law, all powers rest with the administrator appointed by the Central Bank, until the restructuring is completed.

The foreign-looking CEO Christos Sorotos has surprised the laid-back bank staff with his demands. Our mole informs us that he has been barking commands like an army general who expects to be unquestioningly obeyed. He has told bank employees that he expects them to work until 8pm and has insisted that reports he requested are delivered to him on Saturday and Sunday.

Sorotos, whom bank employees call ‘Tsirottos’ has already had two meetings with union boss Hadjicostis about staff redundancies. Hadjicostis announced there would be a third meeting, which is a positive sign as it suggests that the ugly union boss has failed to impose his diktats on the new CEO, because he is not a nice, pro-worker guy like Vgen was.

 

THE UNION issued a statement on Friday, claiming it hoped that a voluntary, early retirement scheme would be agreed as soon as possible. The announcement did not mention that Hadjicostis was demanding that retiring employees, apart from a couple of years’ salaries, were also paid their provident fund in full.

The provident funds of bank employees have undergone a haircut, but Hadjicostis wants the B of C to cover the losses so his members would be paid in full. Tsirottos’ reaction to this demand was as blunt as an army general’s. “There is no money.”

However, the union has the full support of the Paphite House President Yiannakis Omirou, who has been recruited by Hadjicostis to campaign on his behalf. Omirou has been decreeing that the bank employees’ must receive their provident fund in full. Will the Paphos windbag cover the shortfall out his own pocket, or is he proposing a bigger haircut to deposits?

And who cares if an overpaid bank employee receives a provident fund of 400 grand instead of 600 grand on retirement? About 90 per cent of the contribution to the fund was made by the bank anyway.

 

THE PROVIDENT fund of Bankrupt Airways is also causing major stress to the newly-appointed board. The insolvent airline owes a big amount of money to the staff provident fund that it will have to find from somewhere in order to pay it to the 500-plus employees that will be made redundant.

The amount, in excess of €10m, would be in addition to the €20m the company needs to pay departing staff in golden handshakes. Its cash needs do not end there. According to the new chairman Antonis Antoniou, who replaced Stavros Stavrou (is same name and surname a requirement for the CY chairman?) the company also has to cover the amount of the provident fund that was subjected to a haircut.

Antoniou explained there is an agreement that any losses incurred by investments made by the Cyprus Airways provident fund (on which the unions are well-represented), must be covered by the company. I say bring back the death penalty so the members of the CY board who signed this agreement could all be executed. Then close the airline down.

 

THE MOVEMENT of Public Employees (different from PASYDY) has decided to take up arms against the unjust and cruel change in their working hours from September 1, when they will have to work either between 8am and 3.30pm or 9am and 4.30pm.

In an announcement the public parasites point out that “the humidity combined with the high temperatures that prevail for six months of the year” made the performance of duties outdoors, after 9am, very difficult.

Public employees who work in a different district from the one they live in, “would return home a lot later than 16.30 with mental/physical consequences to their and their families’ health.” The announcement added: “The tension and stress of employees would increase instead of decrease with the thought of when they would be able to get to their home.”

The suffering inflicted on poor parasites by the savage, new working hours will not end there, according to the movement. “Expenses will increase for public employees as they will have to buy a lunch-time snack on a daily basis, while mothers will have to make other arrangements for their children.”

Despite the extra expense, “there would be no additional financial benefits from the new working hours,” complained the movement. A web-petition has been set up by the parasites’ movement (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/public-service-cy/signatures). They should also report the government to Amnesty International, because the new working hours could be classed as torture.

 

IN THE END, the social dinner organised by Big Bad Al was a complete disappointment, passing without any incident. Nobody threatened to walk out, nobody complained about the dinner conversation or about the food. In fact the main course – sea bass – was the only aspect of the dinner that could have sparked some media hysteria but nobody mentioned it. Did it not occur to anyone that the bass could have been Turkish, fished in Turkish waters and sold to the UN chef as Cypriot bass? Not even the minister of agriculture who is leading the government campaign against Turkish fish said anything, which was a bit of a disappointment, considering that the bass might not have been Cypriot, even if it was bought in a supermarket in the south.

 

IT HAS NOT been all negative news this week and I am not referring to Cyprus being third in the medals table of the Small States of Europe table. Being third, behind Luxembourg and Iceland in the small dick games is not something to be proud about.

The one piece of positive news is that the Paphos district is being bought up by the Chinese. China Glory Investment Company bought the Venus Rock Gold Resort in Ha Potami for a cool €290m and is apparently also interested in buying the Neapolis development from the Leptos Group.

Of course the money from these sales go to private companies, but the government could generate substantial amounts of cash, in these difficult times if it sold the town and a few of the surrounding villages to the Chinese as well. Paphos could become the Hong Kong of the Mediterranean and we would be free of Paphite politicians once and for all.

Related posts

Our View: Does the House president really need 16 advisors?

CM: Our View

Entrenched views will never be put aside by either side

CM Reader's View

We cannot have it all our way

CM Reader's View

Our View: Teaching unions have no right to dictate who goes to university

CM: Our View

The running of companies should be left to the private citizen

CM Reader's View

Merkel realises the benefits of a Brexit deal

CM Reader's View