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House ethics to hear of new list of transfers

Chairman of the Ethics Committee Demetris Syllouris

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE HOUSE Ethics Committee will hear on Tuesday for the first time about funds that were transferred abroad during the two-week lockdown of the banking system in March last year, committee chairman Demetris Syllouris said yesterday.

Speaking to public broadcaster CyBC, Syllouris said the new Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) Governor, Chrystalla Georghadji, has agreed to provide the committee with a list of names of people who took money out of Cyprus between March 15 and March 27, 2013, when a supposed ban was imposed on all banking transactions while the Eurogroup decided on the form of a Cyprus bail-in.

The list of names will be given to the parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

Syllouris suggested the previous governor, Panicos Demetriades, acted improperly — and stopped short of calling him a liar — when telling the committee that there had been no data on deposit outflows during the controversial lockdown period.

The committee chairman, who is also running as an MEP candidate in the European parliament elections next month on a DISY ticket, said he wants to establish whether these outflows were legal, whether proper procedures were followed, and whether favours were given to release funds from the Cypriot banking system, when all other depositors had had their accounts frozen and many subsequently raided.

“The former governor was telling us (the list) doesn’t exist, that there is no such data… he told us there were no outflows,” said Syllouris, adding that the former governor’s statements were recorded in the minutes of the parliamentary committee meeting. The important point, he said, was that the former governor denied there were no outflows during the two Eurogroup decisions, effectively refusing to hand over the list of names to parliament.

“I believe no party will come out and say this was proper behaviour on the part of Mr Demetriades.”

The chairman highlighted that following Georghadji’s confirmation that such a list does in fact exist, the matter requires further examination. He did not clarify whether MPs would attempt to publish the names on the list once in their hands.

Should they wish to publish the list in its entirety, they may once again be accused of muddling those with legitimate reasons for transfers abroad (overseas possible hospital fees, university fees, etc.), with others who were clearly saving their money from the looming haircut on deposits the Eurogroup had first suggested on March 15.

Syllouris had previously offered to publish around 11,000 names of people and companies that transferred funds abroad in the run-up to the controversial deposit seizure last year, received low-interest loans and/or had loans written off by banks.

The ethics committee decided last week to include the names of everyone who moved money out of Cypriot banks between June 2012 and March 15, 2013 in its report into the causes of Cyprus’ economic meltdown.

However, following the reaction of banks, businesses and professionals, the island’s biggest parties, DISY and AKEL, came out against the publication of the list, arguing it would discriminate against those who committed no wrong, and hurt the island’s economy.

Other commentators argue publishing the list en masse will also bury the names of those who might have had prior access to sensitive information on the bail-in and acted upon it.

Syllouris appeared to back away from his initial pledge to reveal all, calling on the parties to come up with alternative proposals for dealing with the information collected by the committee.

The EVROKO leader said he discussed the matter with the central bank governor on Thursday in an effort to ensure full light is shed on problematic transactions.

“There are some who need to be exposed, in my opinion. Those who are not implicated on criminal grounds but ethical ones should be exposed,” he said.

Asked how the public would be able to differentiate who acted unethically, Syllouris replied that someone who never took money out of the country before would have to explain why, out of the blue, they took out €20m, for example.

Acknowledging that it was not the committee’s job to conduct criminal investigations, he said certain safety measures need to be taken.

He proposed opening the accounts abroad of politically exposed persons; seeking a ‘Lagarde list’ for Cyprus (a reference to the list given to Greece by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde of Greek nationals with sizeable overseas accounts); and a special investigation into the names that won’t be made public.

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