Cyprus Mail
Business CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Wargaming: heroes or martyrs?

By Hermes Solomon

THE media again made Greece world headline news for weeks until Brussels dropped her into a bureaucratic nightmare of inertia last Friday – bound to happen and the only way forward for world stock markets.

We are all famous for five minutes of our lives – Varoufakis and Tsipras have had their say and for a lot more than just five minutes. But at least they got other governments crying stop thief!

Just as HSBC is at it, you can bet they’re all at it; UBS, Deutsche, Goldman, Morgan, etc. There is supposedly more than three times the total world debt hidden in offshore tax havens.

But now that the Ukraine/Russia cease fire has taken front seat on the EU political agenda, Greek debt has been relegated to endless talks, which will finally melt away into that quagmire of EU bureaucracy that becomes a face-saving exercise.

Maybe Greece wants to leave the Eurozone and Germany wants it to go; tomorrow’s charade the equivalent of a divorcing couple trying to look like the most reasonable party in the inevitable split.

But support for Greece’s demands is growing throughout austerity hit EU member states and Brussels can’t avoid making heroes or martyrs of SYRIZA’s front men – the last thing the troika want.

If you think there’s even a five per cent chance of your country leaving the euro, it’s irrational to keep your savings there. A return to the drachma would see the value of converted savings drop by 60 per cent at least; a rebooted peseta or escudo not being much sturdier in the first instance.

Let’s suppose only Greece is kicked out, wouldn’t investment and tourism in Greece climb five-fold? Greeks want food on the table, not Mercs and BMW’s!

As the euro falls in value against major currencies, fixed assets in Cyprus grow increasingly attractive. Even former IMF chief, Strauss Kahn made a flying stopover on behalf of what were rumoured to be Turkish banks and investment funds seeking to buy up bankrupt stock job lots. And when the foreclosure/insolvency laws are finally passed, there will be job lots a plenty.

Hellenic Bank CEO, Bert Pijls is aware of the challenge ahead and determined to grow market share from third largest Cyprus bank to first (not difficult given the outstanding NPL’s of the other two)…

And Hellenic can do just that with investors like Wargaming Public Co Ltd, which is an international MMO (massively multiplayer online) developer and publisher, headquartered in Nicosia, now operating across 16 offices and development centres worldwide to become one of the leaders in the market.

Wargaming is the biggest tax payer in Cyprus, with a workforce numbering hundreds, and many more in Belarus developing new games.

The construction of a half pyramidal shaped tower block situated opposite their head office on Severis Avenue, Nicosia is nearing completion, as is that of PricewaterhouseCooper’s new Nicosia HQ two doors along and facing Government House.

Something tells me Cyprus is onto something good.

Wargaming is a major shareholder in Hellenic Bank with two Wargamers working at the bank’s head office rumoured to be buying up any viable Cyprus asset (land on beach, etc.) as the company earns millions of euros from their tank games to invest ahead of when their games are replaced.

With its young, dynamic management team and CEO, Victor Kislyi, Wargaming is here for the long term.

Attracted to Cyprus due to low taxation and ‘special treatment’ afforded to ‘the chosen’ by a government interested in boosting Cyprus’ position as a Near East financial centre, other companies flocked here prior to, and in readiness for EU entry in 2004, unaware that eight years later Cyprus would be accused of being the money laundering factory of the ‘entire universe’, requiring a serious slap down from ‘those giants’ that ‘never’ touch ‘dirty money’.

Hence the ingenuity of bankrupting the island by Europe’s Deutsche Bank and Credit Agricole in conjunction with newly introduced EU exchange of information laws and US FATCA worldwide surveillance of the movement of capital.

Despite being sufficiently capitalised at present, a handful of large Russian investment firms operating in Cyprus may face risks relating to EU-imposed sanctions on their parent companies in Russia, said Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) last Wednesday.

Does CySEC presage a worsening of the Ukraine/Russia war?

On the same day, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation said that bookings from the UK were 10-15 per cent up for this summer compared to the same time last year, but did not say what the percentage fall was from Russia, Cyprus tourism’s second biggest customer.

According to the findings of the ICIJ, (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) Cyprus ranks a mere 56th among those countries with the largest dollar amounts in the leaked Swiss files, of which 25 per cent of ‘savers’ have a Cypriot passport or nationality…the others Russian maybe? And so what, when they support the Cyprus economy?

The roar of ‘toothless’ lions has not frightened the mouse. Cyprus will recover and return to its rightful place in the world once rid of its ruinous ruling gerontocracy – its bailout being only one thirtieth that of Greece and only one third that of recent IMF loan made to a Ukraine bankrupted by EU/US versus Russian foreign policy.

L’ennui de la campagne; l’angoisse des villes. Chaque fois que je rentre à Londres (Bruxelles), j’assiste à un crime ; this was not said by Varoufakis last Friday, but written in 1944 by radical left wing intellectual, Cyril Connolly, contemporary and close friend of George Orwell.

By contrast, a Paphite goatherd was asked who he was by a German rambler. He answered, “Who me? Me, me! Who you?”
Where there is a sense of humour, there is always hope. So don’t look askance at the impoverished on your way up lest you meet them on your way down.

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