By Angelos Anastasiou
THE FORMER boss of now-defunct Laiki Bank Andreas Vgenopoulos rekindled his row with the head of the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) Demetra Kalogirou on Monday, accusing her of “serious criminal offences”.
In a scathing statement, Vgenopoulos referred to last week’s decision by the CySEC to impose a €100,000 fine on Hellenic Bank for a 2012 deal to buy a plot of land from the archbishopric – then the bank’s main shareholder – for €15.5 million.
In its ruling, the commission deemed Hellenic guilty of violating its obligation to treat its shareholders equally as the decision to spend an amount equal to one-quarter of its minimum capital requirement shortfall at the time – €66 million – on property was made to serve the archbishopric’s interests.
The CySEC also found that Hellenic had no immediate need for the land, which contradicted its announcement at the time of the transaction.
“How is it possible that only the company, but no bank officials, were fined for these offences?” wondered Vgenopoulos. “Could they have been Holy Ghost-inspired, with no human intervention?”
He also argued that €100,000 was a paltry fine compared with those imposed on “tens of banking officials” mere months earlier, because “in the CySEC’s view some bulletins were incorrectly drafted.”
He was referring to a barrage of fines totalling €7 million imposed last April by the watchdog on the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank, and several bank officials, for misleading disclosure of the two banks’ holdings in Greek bonds, including a €705,000 fine imposed on Vgenopoulos himself.
“Why did the chatty head of the CySEC Mrs D. Kalogirou not make her views public on this scandal and call for those involved at Hellenic Bank, the archbishopric and the Central Bank of Cyprus to be brought before justice?” Vgenopoulos asked, implying she had been selectively harsh on Laiki Bank in public statements.
The House ethics committee – itself variously pointing fingers at Vgenopoulos as one of the main culprits of the banking meltdown in Cyprus – were also in his crosshairs.
“Why have the ethics committee and all those politicians that paint themselves as scandal-fighters disappeared and gone silent?” he charged.
“And lastly, why does the archbishop not call for a full investigation into the matter by the attorney aeneral, so that, if any criminal offences are identified, he can remove the culprits from his environment and leave no shadows in the activities of the Cyprus archbishopric?”
But the main object of his wrath was Kalogirou.
“If there is a will for Cyprus to be a state of justice, I think that the attorney general must intervene immediately in order to investigate the case and finally prosecute Mrs D. Kalogirou, whose repeated criminal offences relating to negligence have stripped the CySEC’s decisions of any legal value,” Vgenopoulos said.
The former banker has long accused Kalogirou of incompetence, and even called for the attorney general to launch a probe against her last month.
This was after she had sent him a letter asking him to provide her with evidence backing his claim that Michalis Sarris – his replacement as Laiki boss from January to August 2012 after the bank was nationalised – had intentionally lied in public about the lender’s recapitalisation prospects.
The Greek financier wrote off her inquiry as an attempt to “cover her lack of action” and referred her to the attorney general for the requested evidence.
“In any case you were obligated to monitor the market and ensure its smooth operation, while the events I have reported to you repeatedly, verbally during the second half of 2012, and in writing on October 3, 2013 occurred under your watch, it is therefore inconceivable that today, some two years later, you are asking me to furnish specific information,” he wrote back before making both letters public.