By Angelos Anastasiou
Failed Laiki Bank’s former strongman Andreas Vgenopoulos has lashed out at Tuesday’s claims by members of the House Ethics committee that loans of millions to companies his investment company (MIG) managed had been written off by the bank.
In a written statement on Wednesday, the Greek business magnate called the committee’s chairman Demetris Syllouris and member Irini Charalambidou “serial slanderers” and their claim that a €29 million loan by Laiki to Delta – a MIG subsidiary – has been written off a “monstrous lie.”
“I call on them to publicise any evidence backing their allegation or immediately withdraw their claim, apologise and request the resignation and prosecution of those who misled them,” the statement said.
He also alluded to last November’s correspondence he had with the committee, which had asked him to appear before it as it looked into the causes of the country’s economic meltdown. Vgenopoulos had agreed to present his case before the committee and answer any questions the members had, but only after he was allowed five hours to argue his points. The committee had declined his demand as “the House does not accept conditions from its guests.”
“From what I read I realised why [the Ethics committee] had been so eager to prevent me from stating my opinions. Of course, what they and their friends fear will happen to them, because the moment when the public in Cyprus will learn the whole truth is nearing,” Vgenopoulos warned.
The statement went on to provide explanations on one of the points raised by the committee’s interim report, leaked to the media last week. The report referred, among others, to a Greek parliamentary committee that had drafted a report on suspected irregularities relating to loans granted by Laiki, which were later used to buy shares in MIG, and then forwarded it to the Greek Supreme Court for further investigation.
“Up to this point, the mudslinging is complete and the slanderers are satisfied,” Vgenopoulos’ statement said. “But they fail to mention that the Supreme Court prosecutor conducted a two-year long criminal investigation that determined the absence of evidence or suspicions of criminal activity, and of course that the case was closed.”
Among lawmakers, Vgenopoulos is widely considered one of the main players in the collapse of the banking system in Cyprus, following his triumphant takeover of Laiki bank in 2006 until his inglorious fall in 2011, when he was forced to resign his post as the bank’s boss by then Governor of the Central Bank Athanasios Orphanides.
But despite his vehement denials and cries of a conspiracy to silence him in order to cover up the true culprits, some of his major banking moves have been called into question, including the 2010 decision to merge the Cyprus-based lender with Greek bank Marfin Egnatia, which increased the bank’s exposure to Greek sovereign debt.