Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

This was a farce, not an inquiry

Former Central Bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou

By Loucas Charalambous

The rule has been proven once more. Everything ends up as a farce in this idiotic state and Giorgos Pikis’ ‘investigating committee’ could not be an exception. In this respect I owe an apology.

On the television I frequently saw former Central Bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou at the committee hearings but I did not know the reason for his presence, until a few days ago.

I thought he attended the hearings out of curiosity. I had not noticed that he had been appointed by the Anastasiades administration as ‘economic expert’ to advise and help the committee.

This is perhaps them most insane act in the political history of the country. Afxentiou, as we have written many times, is the main culprit in the (former Yugolslav leader Slobodan) Milosevic scandal – the case that won Cyprus the title of money laundering country, the main argument used by our European partners against our banking system, which they eventually almost decimated as a punishment.

As Central Bank governor at the time, Afxentiou was the responsible state official. However, instead of protecting the banking system and the country, he starred in that sad story and contributed to the country being portrayed as an associate and collaborator of the Yugoslav president in the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and the deaths of civilians.

A Laiki Bank official recently revealed to me that he was present when the bags full of millions in cash arrived in Cyprus on special flights. The cash was then deposited in the accounts of companies managed by (former president) Tassos Papadopoulos and then used to pay for weapons bought by the Milosevic regime in violation of the relevant decisions of the United Nations Security Council.

On the instructions of Papadopoulos’ law office, huge amounts were also given to Milosevic’s close associates who travelled to Cyprus for this.

The same official assured me that the operations at Larnaca airport were conducted under the protection of the Central Bank – on Afxentiou’s instructions – and the presence of lawyers from Papadopoulos’ law office.

Laiki’s involvement in this scandal was the reason for the withdrawal in 2006 of the lender’s main shareholder, HSBC. Its chairman at the time, Kikis Lazarides, then brought in Andreas Vgenopoulos who was given the HSBC share, and who then led the bank to bankruptcy.

Consequently, the main culprits for Laiki’s collapse were the people whose actions forced HSBC out – Afxentiou, Lazarides and Papadopoulos.

The terms of reference of the investigating committee, specifically article three, tasked it with looking into the “events and conditions under which HSBC withdrew from Laiki and the distribution of its share.”

Kikis Lazarides appeared before the committee on August 11. His accomplice, Afxentiou, was present during his ‘questioning.’

Not as a witness but as an ‘expert’ to help Pikis. This goes beyond all bounds of absurdity. Instead of him being under investigation and called to give answers about the bags of millions, Afxentiou was effectively a member of the committee and an ‘expert’ no less.

Naturally, the only question Pikis did not ask Lazarides, nor Afxentiou of course, was about the filthy Milosevic story – that is, the real cause for HSBC’s departure.

Besides, it’s not a coincidence that the star in the collapse of Laiki, Vgenopoulos, was not even asked to testify before his committee. That is because he would have revealed why HSBC left. This is the seriousness of the committee and its chairman and its investigation. Of course, Pikis is not to blame for this shameful farce. It is those who appointed him and his ridiculous committee and Afxentiou as his ‘expert’ who are to blame.


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