By Evie Andreou
THE guardians of the children orphaned in the 2005 Helios crash who saw their compensation money slashed during the bank deposits haircut in 2013 are unsure what part of that money will be returned by the government.
Earlier in the week, Humanitarian Affairs commissioner Fotis Fotiou announced that the relevant committee reviewing the matter was considering how to pay back part of the compensation money insurance companies paid to the 30 orphans of the air crash near Athens in August 2005 in which all 121 passengers and crew were killed.
Fotiou told the Cyprus Mail that the money will be paid by the government and that it will be in the form of humanitarian aid.
“We will have to examine each case separately. We don’t know yet if the whole amount lost will be given or a percentage. All this will be discussed during the committee’s next meeting in January,” Fotiou said. “We were asked to find a way to restore an injustice”.
The announcement comes after repeated pleas by the orphans’ relatives for the children’s deposits to be exempted from the haircut. Many of the orphans were left to rely on the meagre pensions of their grandparents who had to raise them after the crash.
“It is a positive effort, toward the right direction,” the head of Helios Victims’ Relatives Committee Nicolas Yiasoumis said. He added that right after the haircut, the children’s guardians had asked that they be exempted from the measure but the troika of international lenders had turned their request down, not to set precedence.
“I wish that all money the children lost to be returned to them. All children affected faced serious problems after the haircut. They rely on the incomes or pensions of their aunts and uncles and grandparents who act as their guardians. And many of them face financial problems,” Yiasoumis said.
Neoclis Neocleous, 64, who lost his daughter and son-in law in the crash and is now the guardian of his two granddaughters, aged 14 and 12, said that the government realised the injustice and was trying to set it right.
When the girls received compensation of about €1m each for their parents’ death, he put all the money in Laiki bank for safekeeping.
In February 2013, worried about the dire situation of the economy, Neocleous tried to move the money from Laiki, but he was delayed in anticipation of a court permission to access it as it was in his granddaughters’ name. A month later, the compensation money evaporated in the bail-in.
“They can’t just take the money of two children. This money is their parents’ lives, and the children’s future. It is sacred money. They realised what they did was sacrilege,” Neocleous said.
Vasilis Koutsoftas, 63, who is the guardian of his 13-year-old grandson and who lost his only son, daughter-in-law and five-year-old granddaughter, said that he was called on Monday to the Presidential Palace with his grandson. He and his wife put the total sum of compensation money in their grandson’s name. For safekeeping, they put the money in a fixed term deposit at the Bank of Cyprus. The Koutsoftas family also lost 47.5 per cent of their savings when the bail-in occurred.
“I don’t care about my money, but it’s a shame for the child’s money. But they didn’t tell us anything specific yet. We will have to wait and see what happens,” he said.
He said that his grandson expressed the wish to become an aircraft engineer so that he can figure out how the airplane that killed his family crashed.