By George Psyllides
THE chairman of the House Ethics Committee yesterday defended his decision to publish a list of companies that transferred money abroad during a bank lockdown in March 2013 following a decision to seize deposits.
But several companies on the list have denied any wrongdoing. One warned with legal measures, another called MPs populists.
“This list was to shut the mouths of those who were saying we are hiding names,” MP Demetris Syllouris said.
Even after the publication, Syllouris was criticised for publishing a list without any shred of evidence of any wrongdoing.
“Even today, newspapers are saying that we gave names without proof. Lets get serious already,” Syllouris said, adding that at first glance, there did not seem to be anything wrong with the transfers.
The list, which also included inflows, concerns transactions carried out by the Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Laiki between March 20 and 22 and March 19 and 31, respectively.
The overseas transfers during that time were subject to the approval of the Central Bank.
All local banks remained shut between March 15 and March 28 after the Eurogroup decided to seize part of deposits in all banks in Cyprus to recapitalise Laiki and BoC.
This was rejected by parliament and on March 25, the Eurogroup decided to resolve Laiki and seize uninsured deposits in BoC to recapitalise the island’s biggest lender.
Syllouris, leader of the small European Party (Evroko) who is running for election in the European Parliament, rushed to publish the list despite an agreement last week to give the Central Bank until June to process the names and check for irregularities.
The largest outflows recorded where from fuel companies and JCC payments, the card-processing company 75 per cent owned by BoC and the rest by Hellenic Bank, National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.
“As chairman of the committee, and independent of what it decides, I decide what to make public or not,” Syllouris said.
The list appears to contain inaccuracies and mistakes, prompting several companies so far to issue denials.
One came just hours after its publication on Tuesday. The businessman implicated denied transferring cash abroad — in fact the amounts concerned one deposit and two payments made locally.
Wellgoods Cypressa Ltd’s response was not very flattering for Syllouris and his colleagues.
In a letter to Syllouris, the company, which transferred some €140,000 abroad on March 28, 2013, said it did not have to explain the obvious: that the obligation was real and it risked becoming overdue “due to the situation that mainly you, the politicians, created.”
“You did not consider advisable to analyse the list and separate the legitimate payments from the potentially illegal, or at least ask for more explanation, before frivolously making it public,” the company said. “It is obvious that your behaviour is governed by the customary, lowly, populist, criteria we have been accustomed to by almost all of you.”
Pharmaceuticals giant Medochemie also sought to set the record straight concerning three transactions that appear as outflows on the list.
The first, €200,000, was payment of defence tax to the inland revenue department, the company said; the second was inbound payment of €145,000; and the third, €230,000, was a currency conversion from dollars to euros.
“It is crystal clear that these are two gross mistakes, which would allow one to assume that along with the Ethics Committee, there are others responsible for the inaccuracy of the published information,” Medochemie said.
Kronos Press Distribution Agency said the transaction that concerned the company was a cheque issued from one of its current account to another, locally.
The company urged the committee to make the necessary correction, adding that it reserved its legal rights.
Louis Cruise Lines said the transfers it made abroad were used to pay fuel, overseas salaries, port fees, supplies, and other expenses and had been approved by the Central Bank.
The company said 95 per cent of its operations are abroad and the “money transfers in question were fully documented, justified and subject to all necessary approvals from the Central Bank.”