THE Arbitral Tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce may have ruled to allow the conditional access of FBME Bank’s owners to the lender’s premises, but it denied their request for the immediate cessation of all actions toward its liquidation, the Central Bank of Cyprus said in a statement on Friday.
It was responding to a statement by FBME on Tuesday, which claimed that the ICC had ordered that the embattled bank’s two shareholders be granted unfettered access to the premises, from which they had been excluded on March 31.
FBME was placed in administration in July 2014 by the CBC, after the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a division of the US Treasury, designated the Tanzania-based bank as “of primary money-laundering concern” with links to Hezbollah.
Last December, the CBC revoked its banking licence, and ordered its liquidation.
FBME’s owners resorted to the ICC for arbitration in the second half of 2014, demanding compensation from the Republic of Cyprus under the terms of a 2003 international agreement between Cyprus and Lebanon that protects investor rights in each other’s country.
“On April 25, Messrs Farid and Fadi Saab filed for an injunction with the Paris Arbitral Tribunal, in order to order that the CBC: (a) immediately ceases all action for the liquidation of the Cyprus branch until a final ruling has been issued by the Cypriot courts, and (b) allows the shareholders full access to the offices, archives, and personnel of FBME’s branch,” the central bank’s statement said.
“In its May 27 and July 26 rulings, the Arbitral Tribunal fully denied the request for an order to cease all action by the CBC with regard to the branch’s liquidation.”
With regard to the issue of access to the offices, archives and personnel of the branch, the tribunal “ruled only that Messrs Farid and Fadi Saab be allowed access to the branch’s office in the presence of their lawyer, and on condition of practical arrangements made between the lawyers of both sides”.
“To date, no agreement on such practical arrangements has been reached,” the oversight authority said.
“It is noted that the court came to the aforementioned decision after judging that the presence of these individuals at the offices of the FBME branch could impact the smooth operation of the branch, which is under the administration of the Special Administrator appointed by the CBC.”
Therefore, the central bank added, the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling “in no way overrules the Special Administrator’s decision to end the employment of Messrs Farid and Fadi Saab, nor does it allow them any rights of management or interference in the operation of the branch”.
The Cyprus Mail asked an FBME spokesman for a copy of the ruling in question, but was told that the ICC does not release them.
A source from the Special Administrator’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the matter at hand is not really whether the owners are allowed physical entry to the building or not, but rather whether the right to such access would be unfettered and permanent.
“I’m sure the administrator is open to agreeing to let them into the premises if they want to retrieve something,” the Mail was told.
“But what he won’t allow is them being there all the time, terrorising the employees.”