Cyprus Mail
Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: The week of the witch hunt

Marios and Rotika when they were still the darlings of the society pages. Now they must adjust to being not ‘A’ but ‘B’ celebrities

By Patroclos

HEARING our friend, justice minister Ionas Nicolaou, saying that Cyprus needed to do something about the under-representation of women in public and political life, our establishment entered a bout of self-criticism. It concluded that the minister was right.

Women were under-represented in our establishment as well, so we decided that we would engage in some positive discrimination, as part of our establishment’s modernisation drive. Apart from offering caramel latte and ginger mocha we will be giving more prominence to women in public life, and if we manage to attract female customers to our male-dominated shop we will report their views.

As Ionas said, “it is inconceivable that in 2013, Cyprus society fails to utilise the knowledge, talents and experience of highly educated women.” How appropriate that on the same day he said this, AKEL deputy Irini Charalambidou, showed off her knowledge of banking and undoubted talents in making a big fuss out of nothing.

AKEL, to its credit, has been fully utilising the knowledge and talents of the eighties TV queen, who, on Tuesday at the legislature, initiated another mindless witch-hunt in collaboration with her friend and fellow traveller Professor Panicos.

The way, a routine procedure at the Bank of Cyprus in the UK was turned into a major scandal meant that no minister could ever complain that stupidity was under-represented in political and public life.

 

AT TUESDAY’S meeting of the House Institutions Committee, Irini asked the Governor whether 100 accounts held by Cypriot politicians and state officials at the BoC (London) had been closed as ‘high risk’, with regard to money laundering.

Professor Panicos, who had been in London a week earlier, told the committee that the Bank of England had forced the BoC to investigate the accounts of Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) and more than 100 such accounts were closed as ‘high risk’, implying that money laundering was taking place.

He avoided mentioning that this was a routine check that takes place in all EU countries as a precautionary measure and that many accounts had been inactive for years, because it suited him to make an issue out of Irini’s planted question and play up the ‘high risk’ label given.

Allegations of money laundering by politicians would deflect attention away from the Central Bank Audit Committee’s investigation which found that Panicos had misled the CBC board, concealed information from it, ignored its decisions, violated procedures and awarded contracts without tenders.

The professor, whose media manipulation skills are very impressive, calculatingly failed to mention that nothing irregular had be found and that there was no issue of money laundering. MOKAS, the anti-fraud unit, did this for him, the following day, saying it had not received any such information from the British authorities.

The BoC also issued a statement on Thursday, saying that none of the accounts were closed because of money laundering suspicions; some were closed because they were inactive and had very small amounts of money.

 

ONE OF the PEPs with a ‘high risk’ account was the new leader of DIKO Ethnarch Junior who felt obliged to issue a statement saying he had an account in London, since his student days, with a balance of £78 and was asked to close it.

Unable to accept the embarrassment, Irini did not give up her imaginary crusade. Appearing on the Yiannis Kareklas TV witch-hunt show on Thursday night, she said that there was one person (she forgot the 150 she spoke about on Tuesday) with an account in the UK that was under investigation by MOKAS.

But she still demanded that all account-holders were named stating that they may have been moving millions three or four years ago. These mock-crusades by deputies are getting a bit out of hand. It is not illegal for people to have accounts in banks abroad, although hearing deputies you’d think it is a big crime, and they have no right to check how much money was moved through them two or three years ago.

If Irini wanted to make a fool of herself by helping Panicos’ media manipulation, it is her problem, but starting a witch-hunt in order to cover up her embarrassment seems a bit irresponsible, even if this shows that women politicians can be as bad as their male colleagues.

 

THE WITCH-HUNT appeared successful. The head of the KPMG auditing firm Nicos Syrimis called the Kareklas holy inquisition to explain that he was a PEP (his late father was finance minister in the Vassiliou government) and admit that he had a ‘high risk’ account at the BoC in London.

He used the account for his kids who were studying in the UK and for his expenses as he travelled regularly, he apologetically explained. He had complained to the BoC, he said, for wanting to close this account. It was surreal hearing a businessman, who had done nothing wrong, giving an explanation on TV about how he used his London bank account to Kareklas, Charalambidou and Syllouris. They magnanimously declared him not guilty.

 

POLYS Polyviou, the one-man investigative committee for the Mari blast, was not so magnanimous in his radio rant against the village idiot on Thursday morning, declaring him ‘guilty’ for the death of the 13 people.

“Mr Christofias is guilty and I say it clearly; enough lies and evasions,” he told the Lazarus patriotic radio show. “Mr Christofias should have been tried and I believe at the end of the day he will face justice.”

Pol Pol had said nothing in public after issuing his Mari verdict two years ago, but appears to have lost his patience after seeing a Tof TV interview, during which the infallible communist accused him of compiling a biased report and of giving assurances that it would be innocuous.

Tof was a liar, said Pol Pol who has a very formal way of speaking, even when he is heaping abuse on someone. And the most offensive lie he uttered in the interview, according to the livid lawyer, was that “I supposedly kissed him on both cheeks and told him not to worry.” These “are fantasies” he said. Not sexual fantasies I hope.

 

THE LAWYER also took a big swipe at AKEl’s vicious campaign against him, in which Mrs Tof (you can’t accuse the commies of not utilising highly educated women) played a leading role.

“He threw all the young Bolsheviks at me, Christofides and Stefanou in order to destroy me. They are Bolsheviks because they do not believe in the truth. They believe in the party. They have no scruples. They are young Bolsheviks because they will do anything for the supremacy of the party…”

It was sad that the former president had sunk to such a miserable level, “the only good thing being that he dragged AKEL down with him, for which the people should be grateful to him,” concluded Pol Pol.

After this sterling performance, we have decided to offer the distinguished lawyer, one year’s free membership to the Anti-AKEL Fan Club, because we need high-profile members.

 

FOR WEEKS rumours have been circulating that political parties had received big amounts of money from the crooked banker Andreas Vgenopoulos, via the Focus Maritime Corporation, owned by his associate and ship-owner Michalise Zolotas.

Politis had a story not so long ago mentioning account numbers but not giving the party names. On Friday, DISY came partly clean, saying it had received €500,000 for the 2008 presidential election from a group of ship-owners based in London and Greece.

The money was not given as advanced payment for 10 years of consultancy services, as in the case of the former Governor Ttooulis, but to cover the cost of air tickets for students flying home to vote. DISY denied rumours the money had come from Vgen even though back in 2008 everyone in Kyproulla was giving the full arslickan treatment to the dodgy banker.

 

RUMOURS suggested that the commies of AKEL had also received half a million for the Tof’s election campaign from the same source. This would explain why the corrupt commies never said a bad word against Vgen even after it became clear that he had bankrupted Laiki.

Good old Pol Pol spilt the beans on a Friday TV show when he said that AKEL took money from Vgen. This led the commie chief Andros to call the show to deny the charge and inform Pol Pol that they would meet in court. “If he could (Pol) he would throw us into the ovens like Hitler had done to Jews,” said Andros, playing the victim card.

By the evening Vgen also joined the debate, releasing a statement which said: “I have never given a grant or made a contribution or donation to AKEL or any other political party in Cyprus or Greece, and never has any government done me any favours.”

One is inclined to take this as confirmation that Vgen had given the moollah to AKEL and DISY because the guy always lies.

 

WE WERE proved completely wrong in suggesting last week that Marios Lafazayian, by signing up thousands of new party members, would have easily won the clash of the titans at DIKO. He was defeated, by a narrow margin by Ethnarch Junior, as many of the new members did not bother to vote.

What won it for Junior was the Paphos vote, which gave him a very big lead. It is weird that the peasants of our most backward district would vote for a wealthy Nicosia butter-boy, but there is a metaphysical explanation for this.

Paphites are still influenced by the spirit of Makarios in their voting and were bound to give a big victory to the son of a Makarios loyalist like Tassos.

 

IN THE SPACE of a couple of years poor old Marios has gone from House president and party leader to being just another DIKO deputy. Will he now give back the state BMW he was granted as House president or will he be the only deputy who goes to work in a chauffeur-driven limo?

The real tragedy is that Mr and Mrs Garoyian will now be relegated from ‘A’ to ‘B’ celebrities. Their social outings will no longer be covered by the paparazzi. A quick look at the ShowBiz.cy web-site proves the point.

Whereas in the past there was a minimum of four stories with pictures about Marios and Rotika every week, in the last week Show Biz posted only one report with a stock picture – ‘a first reaction by Rotika after her husband’s defeat’. In her reaction Rotika said: “My husband and I will continue to serve the social whole and carry on giving selflessly to all those that need us.”

 

IT IS NOT only Marios and Rotika who have been advertising their selflessness. Bank of Piraeus has driven us mad with its ubiquitous adverts boasting about its “humanity and selflessness” or about its “giving, help and selflessness.” Give us a break please. A selfless and giving bank should have its banking licence revoked, because it will end up bankrupt, not to mention that this is about as plausible a claim as a clever Akelite or a sophisticated Paphite.

 

SPEAKING of banks, the BoC has undergone a management re-organisation. The executive in charge of big businesses, Phivos Stassopoulos, who was in charge of giving the big loans to the big developers during the golden era, has resigned.

Interestingly, the man in charge of dealing with NPLs, recoveries and loan restructuring will be the Scotsman Euan Hamilton, who was brought in as a consultant by CEO John Hourican. There is a reason for this.

Hourican has calculated that customers with problem loans will have difficulty communicating with Hamilton, who has a heavy Scottish accent, thus cutting the negotiating time for restructurings to a minimum. Also customers who do not understand what he tells them are more inclined to agree with him.

 

 



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