Cyprus Mail

Final decision on criminal charges for BoC staff expected Wednesday

Exact charges and against whom are set to be decided today around lunchtime

By Elias Hazou

The Attorney-general’s office will on Wednesday reach a final decision on filing criminal prosecutions against a number of ex-officials at the Bank of Cyprus, the Cyprus Mail has learned.

Attorney-general Costas Clerides, his deputy Ricos Erotocritou and the police team investigating the causes of the 2013 financial meltdown, will be convening around noon. A similar meeting was also held on Tuesday.

Among the details to be finalised during Wednesday’s crunch meeting will be the persons to be indicted and the charges.

The thinking at the moment is to bring prosecutions against five former leading officials at Bank of Cyprus (BoC). The five include former board directors as well as executives, sources said.

The indictments have to do with violation of stock market regulations and market manipulation laws.

The actual filing of the prosecutions is expected the following week, the same sources told the Cyprus Mail.

It was not clear whether the five will be the first in a series of prosecutions against former BoC cadres.

Earlier this month, the Attorney-general said the probable prosecutions revolved around the dissemination of misleading or false information to the public with regard to the bank’s capital adequacy.

Clerides had also said that the offences would include those identified and fined by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, CySEC.

In June, CySEC announced administrative fines totalling €8 million slapped on 23 former officials of Bank of Cyprus – 12 – and now-defunct Laiki Bank – 11 – for misleading investors through public statements.

The market watchdog fined former BoC CEO Andreas Eliades, his successor Yiannis Kypri and former board chairman Theodoros Aristodemou €530,000 each, and Laiki’s Andreas Vgenopoulos and Efthimios Bouloutas €705,000 each.

Meantime two private lawsuits have been brought against banks and individuals concerning market manipulation during the stock market bubble in 2000 as well as the run-up to the ongoing financial meltdown from 2009 to 2012.

The list of entities and individuals facing a private prosecution includes BoC, Hellenic Bank, investment firms Cisco and Sharelink, and former BoC CEOs Eliades and Kypri.

Among other allegations, Kypri reportedly announced on December 10, 2009, that the lender had evaluated Greek bonds as “risky” and intended to divest its holdings.

However, without informing investors, the bank subsequently purchased a large package of Greek bonds.

Cypriot lenders 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.

Problems in 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 the Bank of Cyprus.

Authorities were forced to seize uninsured deposits at its 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.

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Source: Cyprus News Agency