Cyprus Mail

Inquiries ongoing in econ criminal probe

Attorney-general Costas Clerides

A CRIMINAL probe into the financial meltdown of 2013 will be done when it’s done, Attorney-general Costas Clerides told inquisitive lawmakers on Monday.

Clerides, who was attending a joint session of the House finance and interior affairs committees discussing the government’s foreclosures bill, was at one point asked by MPs to brief them on the progress in investigations.

Taking a somewhat defensive stance, on the back of earlier criticism that his office was dragging its feet, the AG said only that inquiries are ongoing.

“The quality of the investigations shall not be compromised for the sake of speed or to satisfy certain pressures,” he told legislators, adding that the probe would be completed “within the time required”.

And in an apparent dig at MPs, Clerides remarked: “No one understood and no one spoke when the economy was actually being destroyed.”

Previously, amid censure that the investigations were taking too long, Clerides had responded saying that it is the police, not his office, that are in charge.

The remit of the AG’s office is restricted to boosting the numbers of the investigation team so as to speed up the criminal inquiry, he had said.

The probe spans the years 2006 to 2013. Its scope covers the expansion into Greece, banks’ corporate governance, Cypriot banks’ purchase of junk Greek bonds, and how now-defunct Laiki Bank came to amass some €9bn in emergency liquidity, a liability since passed onto the Bank of Cyprus.

Cypriot authorities were forced to seize uninsured deposits at the two main banks in March 2013 to qualify for €10bn in aid from international lenders, the first time bank savers were burned in the euro zone crisis.

Problems on Cyprus snowballed into the winding-down of Laiki Bank under a mountain of debt and a large chunk of deposits exceeding €100,000 being converted to equity to prop up Bank of Cyprus.

Cypriot banks lost about €4.5bn when European Union leaders agreed in late 2011 to a Greek debt write-down, designed to make that country’s debt burden more sustainable.

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