Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship

By Hermes Solomon

LAST TUESDAY, the House ethics committee chairman, Demetris Syllouris named companies which transferred money abroad during a bank lockdown last March.

Syllouris’ List concerned client transactions carried out by the Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Laiki between March 20 and 22 and March 19 and 31, 2013, respectively. The transactions during that time had to be approved by the Central Bank, which was then under the control of Panicos Demetriades.

After the Eurogroup decided to seize part of deposits to recapitalise Laiki and BoC, banks remained closed between March 15 and March 28.
But does the Syllouris’ List tell the whole story? Have ‘certain’ names been omitted intentionally?

Can we trust Syllouris and the House ethics committee to have performed their investigations impartially given that another list has also been published recently on a website called offsite.com.cy – this list names alphabetically those who transferred money between the first and fifteenth of March – two weeks prior to the lockdown, and this list invites much closer examination.

This list shows that ‘certain’ companies and individuals inexplicably emptied all of their many accounts (plus clients’ accounts) during the two weeks prior to lockdown, suggesting they’d been tipped-off about the forthcoming haircut of deposits.

Can we then be surprised that there wasn’t a revolution after the announcement of ‘the haircut?

It’s a pity that the Syllouris List, which finally and so painstakingly became public fodder last Tuesday, did not include those who moved dosh a couple of weeks prior to lockdown.

The offsite.com.cy, list displays the names of one hundred and twenty eight companies, holding companies, investment trusts or individuals, which withdrew between them over half a billion euros and a further 1,000 smaller trusts/holding companies/businesses and individuals, which withdrew in total a further four hundred million euros.

Behind most trusts, investment and holding companies, etc. are hidden the names of ‘certain’ individuals; a more explosive and dirty truth!
Discovering those names would produce a true list of ‘miscreants’, among which will be names we can shame.

Does a list of these names already exist? You can bet it does and that’s why it took eighteen months for the House Ethics Committee to submit its report!

Fair enough, it was not illegal to remove your capital prior to the lockdown, but one can at least accuse those pre-informed pre-lockdown ‘movers’ of acting like insider traders, whose activities are illegal when performed on world stock markets, meriting huge fines or even imprisonment, but not it seems at our bankrupt banks, which at the time were permitting many blatantly questionable transactions prior to lockdown in full cognisance of the harm caused to uninformed depositors’ deposits and the Cyprus economy as a whole.

I am not suggesting that all 1,128 transactions require investigation, many were genuine and above board.

But others were not, especially those which come under the category of money launderers, dubious offshore companies, tax evaders, etc. which hide their illegal activities within multi-fake named companies, behind which are well-known and formerly ‘respected’ citizens.

All foreign transfers should have been thoroughly vetted by the Central Bank as soon as it was known that both Laiki and the BoC were insolvent, e.g. at least a year ahead of lockdown.

High unemployment today is due to this blatant milking of our major banks, which were financially insolvent two years before the lockdown, but whose board of directors lied constantly in an effort to save their own dosh and that of ‘chosen’ depositors at the expense of you and me.

During the final two years of the Christofias reign of ignorance, more than 60 billion euros was deposited in Laiki and BoC at high interest by Credit Agricole and Deutsche Bank.

The sudden and unexpected flight of these billions announced the end of our two major banks and not just the beginning of the end. It was this flight that caused the surreptitious run on our banks by those in the know.

Suddenly self-evident insolvency displaced security and Laiki sought support of seven billion euros in Emergency Liquidity Assistance, and the Christofias government negotiated a further two and a half billion euro loan from Russia.

But bank board directors and the Central Bank governors (Orphanides and Demetriades) persisted in playing down the true state of our banks until ‘certain’ hundreds of individuals had milked the banks dry.

It seems incomprehensible to me that the House ethics committee required all of eighteen months to come up with a list of names that could have been made available the day after banks re-opened.

Their investigations should have concentrated on finding the names of individuals behind those ‘fake’ investment trusts, holding companies, etc. identifying those who truly caused the destruction of the economy.

These ‘rats’ fleeing a sinking ship should be named and shamed or else return what can only be described as theft of money from those who were criminally misinformed and suffered huge losses from the enforced bail-in.

Banks dragging out the calling in of non-performing loans has kept the populace submissive so far. But the troika are now insisting that action be taken, and when it is, many will find themselves homeless and on the streets.

Perhaps only then will the populace arise and demand justice for all.

If the Attorney General cannot build a case against questionable ‘money movers’, he should bring in forensic experts from overseas to trace the money and in whose accounts it has landed.

If Iceland could successfully prosecute bankers, central bank officials and even a former prime minister, why cannot the banana republic do so?

This dysfunctional failed state is controlled and ruled by those who ensure that their criminal misdeeds and those of their associates are swept under the carpet.

Nobody will be even brought to court, never mind punished. And the culprits will be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains.

Is this the sort of state we want? If not, then think twice before casting your vote at the forthcoming EP elections.

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