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Our View: Until now, House has been focusing on the wrong list

ONE REVELATION, about the transfer of funds out of Cyprus just before the March 2013 Eurogroup decision, was published in Sunday’s edition of Haravghi newspaper and it involved the law office of President Anastasiades. According to the report, from March 1 to 12, 2013, the foreign company MABOR Co Ltd which was administered by companies belonging to the Anastasiades law office had transferred $22.4 million out of Cyprus.

The paper suggested that the president had information that there would be a haircut of deposits before the Eurogroup meeting and advised his customers to get their money out of the country. Based on the information at the disposal of paper, this was not a rash conclusion to draw. But subsequent information, released later on Sunday by the Anastasiades law office and from which the president resigned and gave up his shares when he assumed his state duties, weakened the paper’s claims.

The law office announcement said that in the first 15 days of March 2013, MABOR had brought into Cyprus from abroad $25.5m and transferred out $23.5m. To show that this was standard practice, the announcement said that between April 2012 and March 2013 the company brought into Cyprus a total of $94.2m and took out $92m. Transferring money in and out of the country is what law offices do for their foreign clients, so it is difficult to imply that anything irregular had taken place.

These are the types of problems that would arise if the House ethics committee decides today to make public the list with 11,000 individuals and companies that took money out of Cyprus before the haircut decision. There would be no distinction between routine money transfers, conducted as part of business operations and those made to avoid a possible haircut. Everyone would be presumed guilty and the onus would be on the company or individual to prove they had done nothing wrong, which is incompatible with rule of law.

It is also incompatible with the government objective, supported by all political parties, to carry on promoting Cyprus as an international financial centre. What international centre does not guarantee foreign businesses basic banking confidentiality? These companies did nothing illegal by transferring money out before the Eurogroup meeting (nor do claims of insider information stand, considering the possibility of the haircut of deposits was public knowledge) and should not be treated in this way.

The list that the committee should publish is the one containing the companies and individuals that transferred money out of the country during the two-week lockdown of the banking system as they had flagrantly violated the restrictions imposed by the Central Bank. Peculiarly, until last week the chairman of the House committee had shown no interest in this list, but has now said it would also be examined. Whether common sense will prevail today remains to be seen.



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