Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Why the man in the know was banned from econ probe

Andreas Vgenopoulos

By Loucas Charalambous

ALL THESE ridiculous goings-on surrounding the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into the collapse of the economy should surprise nobody. In this country, with these politicians and these deputies it would have been irrational to expect anything else.

For to us to have a full picture, it is imperative never to forget that our politicians are the real culprits for all our ills and certainly for the economic meltdown. They created, with their ruthless populism, the all-devouring public sector and its €2.7 billion annual payroll; they were responsible for the public debt which reached €15 billion at the end of 2013 and will rise to €25 billion when the loan to the troika is added to it.

And, to a large extent, they were also responsible for collapse of the banks as their links to the bankers who destroyed the banks and the co-ops have been proved in the most emphatic way.

Andreas Vgenopoulos, considered by many as the man who bankrupted Laiki Bank, spoke publicly again a few days ago, making shocking revelations about the links between our political establishment and the banking sector. He said things that in more serious states than ours would have led to resignations, if not suicides.

As is well-known, Vgenopoulos, despite being considered chiefly responsible for the bankruptcy of Laiki, was never asked to appear before Demetris Syllouris’ House Ethics Committee that was conducting the investigation. And when the Greek banker actually asked to testify before the committee deputies turned his request down.

This inexplicable behaviour by the committee illustrates how serious the investigation was and raises questions about motives. It is no coincidence that deputies did not want Vegnopoulos to testify. They did not want their own dubious dealings to be heard. And all the deputies were agreed on this – rightists, leftists, socialists etc.

This is because they all have something to hide. And if Syllouris has the guts, he should publicly state which former, top banker had persistently urged him not to allow Vgenopoulos to come and testify at the ethics committee. Perhaps he should also tell us why he and the rest of the committee members obliged? Would he dare?
The scandalous decision of the committee to bar Vgenopoulos from testifying in an investigation of such huge importance, especially as he was a protagonist in the economic collapse, could be related to other mysterious absences from the meetings.

Vgenopoulos, in an older appearance on Sigma TV, had urged Syllouris’ committee to deal with the departure of HSBC – the main shareholder of Laiki until 2006 – which was the start of the bank’s slide down the slippery slope. Why did the committee not look into this matter? HSBC’s withdrawal from Laiki was caused by the bank’s involvement in the Milosevic scandal, the case that earned Cyprus’ notoriety as a money-laundering centre.

The main people behind this scandal were the late Tassos Papadopoulos, the former executive chairman of Laiki Kikis Lazarides and the former governor of the Central Bank Afxentis Afxentiou. Afxentiou, who should have been under investigation himself in relation to the events that led to our economic collapse, was instead appointed by President Anastasiades as a consultant to Georgios Pikis, the retired judge who conducted that other investigation into Cyprus’ economic collapse.

These were the people, apart from themselves, that Syllouris and his colleagues wanted to protect. That is why I am convinced that what the ethics committee carried out was not an investigation. It was another farce with the sole purpose of covering up the responsibilities of the politicians for the disaster. Their thinking was pretty transparent – we will put the blame on a few bankers and we will be in the clear.

So, those with the biggest responsibility for our bankruptcy – our politicians – undertook to find those who were responsible. As I have written in the past, if this were ancient Athens our deputies would have been put to death forthe economic destruction they wreaked with their demagoguery and populism.

But unfortunately this is Cyprus, a joke state with a joke legislature.

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