By Elias Hazou
MPs’ feathers were ruffled on Tuesday after it emerged that Bank of Cyprus (BoC) CEO John Hourican declined an invitation to attend the House ethics committee, which was to discuss his earlier remarks about politicians playing a double game on the foreclosures issue.
The bank boss dodged the bullet, having informed committee chairman Demetris Syllouris that he would not show up in “order to avoid further politicising the issue.”
A one-on-one meeting on Tuesday was arranged with Syllouris instead.
Syllouris told the committee that, following Hourican’s leaked internal email earlier this month, he and the banker subsequently spoke on the phone and then met in person.
Hourican’s email, which stirred up controversy, had read: “To the extent that some politicians are, indeed, pretending to be protecting the more vulnerable in society against the ‘bad banks’ when really they are protecting the larger businesses in Cyprus, this is a scandal.”
Sensing that Hourican was sure to be grilled over his earlier comments, and eager to defuse tensions and wiggle its way out of the ethics committee summons, the bank on Monday released a statement, where the banker clarified that he never intended to cast aspersions on the parties.
“The recent leak of a private conversation I had with senior members of the management of the bank has unfortunately created the false impression that I have accused the political leadership that they intentionally protect large debtors of the bank,” Hourican was quoted as saying.
“…I want to make clear that such an accusation against the political system was in no way my intention and that the specific comments, out of the context of the general discussion, gave an impression which is possibly wrong. It was not my intention to launch such an accusation.”
The same statement was circulated to MPs on Tuesday.
In parliament, Syllouris told his colleagues that he would be meeting again with Hourican in his personal capacity, not as committee chairman.
He was not Hourican’s go-between, he added.
In Monday’s conciliatory statement, Hourican said the bank remained “committed to a partnership with the political leadership and to the overall obligation to contribute actively to the country’s exit from its current economic situation.”
He reiterated that BoC would not be pursuing mass foreclosures on vulnerable members of society.
But MPs were having none of the brush-off. DISY’s Andreas Kyprianou said Hourican still needed to appear before the committee and “prove” that politicians are not covering for big debtors.
DIKO’s Fytos Constantinou said Hourican’s email was an affront to both the parties and the political system. And EDEK MP Roula Mavronicola demanded that parliament stay on Hourican’s case until he retracts.