Cyprus Mail

Laiki loans given out without enough collateral says report

Andreas Vgenopoulos

Significant discrepancies existed between loans paid out by now-defunct Laiki Bank in Greece and collateral backing them, according to a 2012 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), with losses estimated at least to €2.5 billion, Greek news portal To Kouti Tis Pandoras (Pandora’s Box) reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, which features most of Greece’s financial and business magnates, Laiki granted loans worth tens of millions – and, in some cases, hundreds of millions – but the value of assets guaranteeing the loans was, in most cases, well below the money paid out.

The news portal’s editor, Kostas Vaxevanis, has written several scathing editorials against Greek financier – and Laiki strongman from 2006 to 2011 – Andreas Vgenopoulos, claiming he is the man responsible for the lender’s demise, and that the fact he has not yet faced trial for his alleged crimes is the result of collusion among the country’s elite.

Piraeus Bank chairman Michalis Sallas, as well as the Greek lender, newspaper Proto Thema, Greek TV channel Antenna owner Minos Kyriacou, businessman Kostas Piladakis, ship-owners Vangelis Marinakis, Michalis Zolotas, Angeliki Frangou, as well as Vgenopoulos’ own Marfin Investment Group (MIG), are all listed in the report.

The largest loans on the list were made to Zolotas, owner of the infamous Focus Maritime Corporation, which borrowed a total €595 million against €135 million in collateral (at 2012 values), and MIG, which borrowed €358 million, under-collateralised by €152 million in 2012.

For two loans, totalling over €25 million, no asset collateral was shown, though one was backed by company guarantees.

Further, Vaxevanis reported, many of these loans appear to have been backed by shares in MIG or MIG-related companies, and some were even used to finance investments in MIG or MIG-related companies.

The story had first appeared in Vaxevanis’ print publication, Hot Doc, on March 3, and Vgenopoulos dismissed it in a statement.

“Vaxevanis published a classified PwC report on various loans and their collateral, dated May 23, 2012,” Vgenopoulos said.

“Loans found to be under-collateralised five and six years after they were paid out, in the midst of a financial crisis, is perfectly natural – this is, in fact, how non-performing loans have been created across the banking system.”

But Vaxevanis, the Greek financier said, presented it anyway, knowing full well that he was committing a “big journalistic scam, so that he can deceive his readers”.

“He also knows – and fails to mention – that the Bank of Greece and a financial expert found all the loans adequately collateralised at the time they were made,” Vgenopoulos said.

Vaxevanis countered these claims in his online editorial.

“It is understood that when shares lose value, the bank failed to secure – according to due process – additional collateral,” Vaxevanis wrote.

“Andreas Vgenopoulos tried to present the loans as fully collateralised at the time they were given. On the one hand, however, they were not, and on the other, the bank did not ask for additional collateral.”

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