By George Psyllides
MPs were irked on Tuesday by the refusal of state officials to attend a meeting to discuss FBME Bank, placed under administration by the Central Bank (CBC) following allegations of money laundering in the USA.
The attorney-general, the finance minister and the CBC governor did not attend the meeting. The attorney-general and the minister had written to the committee saying they would not attend so as not to affect ongoing legal procedures.
Deputy chairman of the House Ethics Committee Demetris Syllouris censured the officials, adding that he would raise the issue with the president of the republic and the House president.
Syllouris claimed the officials were trying to hide behind procedures either because they feared to take responsibility or there was an effort to cover up mistakes and omissions.
The CBC took over the Cyprus branch of the Tanzania-based bank last year, placed its operations under resolution and embarked on finding a buyer after the US Department of the Treasury named FBME as “a financial institution of primary money laundering concern”.
To date, FBME shareholders deny the allegations and have resorted to the arbitration court to have the liquidation and resolution orders lifted.
In February, Attorney-general Costas Clerides appealed to the members of the committee to refrain from discussing the matter at this time.
In a letter to the committee, Clerides said it would be against the public interest and would cause problems to the ongoing legal procedures.
“We categorically reject this argument, which we consider unfounded,” AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said, adding that if the outcome of any cases was affected it would be because those responsible had handled the matter the wrong way.
Syllouris said the committee will not discuss the matter in an open session and will invite the same officials again on April 21.