FARMERS unions are in upheaval, after former AKEL MP and leader of farmers union EKA Panikos Hambas publicly accused banks of purposefully withholding tens of millions in subsidy payments.
Hambas told CyBC radio and AKEL newspaper Haravgi on Monday that he had received a high number of complaints from farmers who were unable to withdraw subsidy money from their bank accounts.
According to Hambas, the banks withheld the money from farmers who failed to pay their loans, despite the fact that no such deal was made.
“They have farmers in a stranglehold. The banks, and especially the Cooperative Bank, are bleeding the farmers dry by denying them access to their money. Our farmers are losing business because they cannot invest in their farms and their land,” Hambas said, adding that what was more tragic was that the farmers were left with no money during the holidays.
The farmers are supposed to receive an extra €28 million in subsidy payments in the next days.
A Cooperative Bank high ranking official immediately refuted the allegations. “Our bank never withheld payments or limited access to an account balance. Such an action is illegal and I can assure you that no such directive was issued by the bank’s headquarters,” he said, speculating that the problem may lie in individual loan agreements some of the farmers signed.
“Maybe they signed an agreement for loans to be paid-off when they got their subsidy money. We really don’t know because this isn’t a bank policy. We do not limit access to accounts,” the official reiterated.
The Cooperative bank official said that an internal investigation is underway. “We are assesing Mr Hambas’ accusations and we will investigate the matter thorougly to make sure that no such incident occured. Branch managers who are found having authorised such actions will be dealt with accordingly,” the official said.