AT LAST our government got a well-deserved pat on the back from the troika for effectively implementing the conditions of the memorandum and meeting the targets that it set. Our authorities were “on track” and had “made good progress towards meeting their objectives” the troika graciously noted in its first review.
The theft of the deposits at the Bank of Cyprus was finalised, at a bargain rate of 47.5 per cent and the bank was no longer under the resolution authority. But it would still be under the control of the ECB’s local enforcer, the Central Bank Governor, because Laiki, which will remain under resolution authority for a few more years, is now the main shareholder with an 18 per cent stake in the BoC.
There was a stand-off over the bail-in percentage between the government and the troika last weekend, with the former arguing for a lower figure, in the region of 42.5 per cent that would still have ensure the bank’s capital adequacy, but only just. However the troika and Professor Panicos would not budge from the original figure.
While these critical negotiations were taking place last Sunday the Professor, who makes a habit of being absent when big decisions are being discussed, was holidaying in Paphos with his family. He did take part in conference call at one point, on Sunday to show that he was not completely disinterested in these boring negotiations.
But we should not be too harsh on Panicos, because while holidaying he still found time to leak information to his favourite medium – the Stockwatch website – claiming the hair-cut rate had been agreed, thus putting extra pressure on the government.
SPEAKING of Panicos, does he really have to take his musclemen wherever he goes, like some underworld boss with many enemies? Or does it make him feel more important, like our politicians, having a couple of heavies following him everywhere?
The other week he was at fashionable Nicosia restaurant Romantica with his wife and kids and his heavies sat at the bar for the duration of the meal, to ensure his safety. But Romantica is not a Wild West-type saloon, at which brawls and fights take place. It is ludicrous to think the restaurant’s well-heeled clientele would assault someone eating with his wife and kids.
Former finance minister, our good friend Charilaos, who unjustifiably has a lot more people baying for his blood than Panicos, regularly eats there without bodyguard protection and has not once been verbally or physically attacked.
ON A MORE positive note, on Wednesday we had the privilege of hearing the voice of the IMF’s elegant and attractive representative Delia Velculescu, who gave an exclusive interview to the CyBC. We had been watching her for the last year, regally strolling into government buildings with an air of aloofness and disdain for everyone, her refusal to say anything, adding to her star quality.
And on Wednesday we heard her speak. She said nothing remotely interesting, merely repeating the mundane words of the troika’s assessment, but her voice was a joy to behold. Sweet and gentle, with a hint of vulnerability and bit of an accent that showed English was not her first language, it was a gloriously sexy voice, which we hope we will hear a lot more of future visits.
I could sit and listen to the delectable Delia talk about fiscal consolidation in Nigeria and the restructuring of the Bank of Cyprus for hours, without being bored for a second.
OUR EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, whose voice is nothing like Delia’s, inspired a rather snarky comment on the website of Germany’s top circulation paper Bild, after she complained on twitter about the B of C haircut.
Her tweet said: “Not easy to accept that you pay 47 per cent of his (sic) savings for the mistakes of others.” As Bild speculated us, Androulla had lost €485,000 from the bail-in, because in her last capital statement, in July 2012, she had six accounts at the B of C, totalling €1,121,341.
Androulla should not complain too much about the mistakes of others, because she and her husband openly campaigned for the election of the village idiot who made it all possible. Then again, he appointed her Commissioner and the annual salaries she received more than covered the loss of her savings.
IN ITS EFFORT to persuade bank employees to agree to give up part of their monthly provident fund payment for the establishment of a solidarity/strike fund and agree to pay cuts, ETYK issued a melodramatic, self-pitying announcement, which said:
“In the last months we and our families are living nightmarish moments, as the uncertainty, the stress and anxiety about our professional survival constitute a dominant part of our daily life.
“We know that the tragic situation, in which we are in, is made worse by the bitterness from the fact that everything we are experiencing is the result of actions and criminal omissions by others, for which we bear no responsibility. On the contrary, for years, we had been warning about the coming catastrophe and were desperately urging for the necessary actions to prevent it, without being heard.”
This is an imaginative re-invention of history. ETYK never said a word about the pillaging of Laiki millions by Andreas Vegnopoulos, whom union emperor Loizos Hadjicostis had been praising and flattering from the first day he took over the bank and gave every employee a €2000 bonus to buy their loyalty.
Even after Vgen was kicked off the board, by the Central Bank, the loyal Loizos was at a special event to honour the silver-tongued crook. As for Loizos’ poodle on the board of the Bank of Cyprus, he never once warned about the ‘coming catastrophe,’ even though he knew what was going on, probably fearing it would affect his promotion prospects.
A FORMER commando, Hadjicostis felt obliged to give his statement a super-heroic tone. “Despite all this, showing the greatness of the proud banking people, we managed to stand tall, drown our bitterness and disappointment and, united, to face the tragic conditions and difficulties. United we also managed to stop the immoral and out of bounds attacks by all those who felt they could exploit the difficulties in which found ourselves in, in order to plunder, without resistance everything we created over the decades, with the ultimate aim of destroying our union, so that in the future, undisturbed, they would impose their anti-worker aims.”
In recognition of the greatness of the proud bank employees and their heroic defence of their salaries, their benefits and provident fund, we should create a public monument – a tribute to the unknown banker. Details about donations will be published next week.
ANOTHER autocratic, bank chief suffering from amnesia appeared before the geriatric investigative committee for the economy last Wednesday. Kikis Lazarides, executive chairman of Laiki at the time it was sold to Vgenopoulos, was as forgetful as the B of C’s Andreas Eliades had been nine days earlier when answering the panel’s questions.
The forgetful Kikis – the man who had built Laiki’s international reputation as a money-laundering bank – could not remember that he had written a letter urging the urgent sale of HSBC’s 21.6 per cent shareholding in Laiki, 31/1/2006.
Neither could he remember that he had pushed for the sale, despite serious questions pending about the buyers – Vgen-controlled companies Marfin and Tosca, which were supposedly unrelated. Another thing he could not remember was his document (3/2/2006) to the Laiki board urging it to back the sale of the HSBC shares in a closed period. And he did not remember meeting Vgen and Governor Ttooulis three days later.
IT WAS not only amnesia Kikis had in common with Eliades. He also lacked the balls to take any responsibility for bringing in the man who sank Laiki. In fact Kikis had the nerve to claim that he had warned of dangers Vgen was putting the bank in – he opposed the purchase of two Greek banks – and this was why he resigned as chairman in July 2006.
But who had arranged the sale of HSBC’s stock to Vgen? Kikis, who admitted he did not bother to investigate the two companies, Marfin and Tosca, which would take a 21.6 per cent share in Laiki. He arranged the sale of a controlling share in the second largest bank of the country without carrying any checks on the buyers, as if he was selling a crate of cucumbers to them.
Of course he was not to blame. As he said, it was the Central Bank’s responsibility to investigate the buyers. So why was he pressing for the sale to go ahead before the CB had completed its investigation? I bet he does not remember the reason.
AS A SERVICE to our impecunious Kyproulla, the Coffeeshop, from time to time, will make money-saving proposals. A significant amount of cash, for instance could be generated by selling the luxury New York apartment used by our permanent representative at the UN.
The apartment, in Manhattan’s exclusive Park Avenue for the super-rich, is estimated to be worth between 18 and 20 million bucks. A similar apartment that was refurbished was sold recently for $20 million. Meanwhile the monthly service charge for the apartment, paid for by the Cypriot taxpayer, is $9,000. We could sell the apartment and use the nine grand for renting another apartment for our perm rep.
Alternatively we could rent the Park Avenue flat and with the money pay the rent for a residence at a less exclusive address and have a significant amount left over for the government to hire a few more public servants.
THE CO-OPS we heard this week would be under the ownership of the state that would be putting up the €1.5bn needed for their recapitalisation. This lunatic decision was presented as a rational move that would ensure a bright future for the clapped-out co-ops. But would it?
The co-ops are bankrupt because they were being run by the incompetents appointed by the political parties. Now that the state will have total control, they will be run by the incompetents appointed by the political parties participating in the government. This will exclude AKEL incompetents, but the losers of the other parties are perfectly capable destroying the co-ops. After all, the man in charge for the last 30 years, Erotokritos Chlorakiotis was a Dikoite.
DEVELOPERS who have recruited the help of politicians in their efforts to prevent the sale of their assets used as collateral for bank loans they are not repaying, have found another supporter – DIKO chief and man principle, Marios Garoyian.
Like the rest of the politicians Garoyian is against the split of the B of C and the inevitable sale of developers’ assets, but he offered his support in coded language.
“The basic philosophy must be clear, that is, the viability of the Bank of Cyprus must first be secured, but there must be also all the guarantees that there would be no repossessions or sales of property of any citizens of the Cyprus Republic.”
Garoyian could not bring himself to mention the word ‘developers’ so he offered his protection to all citizens of the Cyprus Republic, not realising that he was advocating blatant discrimination against all other EU citizens.
BIG BAD AL, back in town last week, caused widespread disappointment when he announced that he would not be taking the post of Aussie ambassador in London or Washington, as our media had been reporting. The news caused the parties to resume their calls for Al’s immediate replacement because he was pro-Turkish. How long will it be before they call for the replacement of Andreas Mavroyiannis as our side’s negotiator? After meeting Mavroyiannis last week, Al was full of praise for him, which must make him totally unsuitable for the job.