Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Why is UN bothering to host a dinner?

Andreas Mavroyiannis (centre): the Virgin Mary of Cyprus politics

AFTER the forced, nine-month break our beloved Cyprob returns to our TV screens and newspapers tomorrow, as the former buddies, Mustafa and Nik, who seem to hate each other’s guts nowadays, meet for dinner for the first time since last July’s ill-fated last supper in Crans-Montana, at which our prez laid bare Turkish intransigence.

In fact it has already returned through the coverage of the build-up to the informal dinner which will be held at the house of the UN Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar. There has been a barrage of public statements from the two sides, outlining their respective red lines.

Although each side has set conditions that make it highly unlikely the Cyprob talks will resume and bring some joy to our dull lives, just one evening of excitement would be welcome. Now, even this is threatened because killjoy Mustafa insisted, for unknown reasons, that there be no TV crews and photographers at the dinner.

Was this because he could not hide his antipathy for his former buddy and felt it would harm his image if people saw it? Or, is he so sure that nothing will be agreed at the dinner and he does not want to have to face the media circus afterwards? We do not know how Nik, who loves performing for the cameras whatever the occasion, responded to this ludicrous demand.

We would rather focus on the positive and the fact that no conditions were set for attending the dinner. Nik did not insist on a main dish of pork and Mustafa did not demand an alcohol-free dinner.

 

THE QUESTION the small rational minority has been asking is why the UN is hosting the dinner. UNSG Antonio Guterres made it clear last July that the UN would not be undertaking any new initiatives but would be “at the disposal of the two parties” if they wanted to try again for a settlement.

There has been no hint over the last nine months to suggest either side wants to try again for a settlement. All Nik wants is for the talks to resume and go on forever; he said nothing about a settlement. Mustafa, on the other hand, despite wanting a time-frame, which Nik will not hear of, also wants to negotiate an agreement on the exploitation of hydrocarbons. And this would create another front for never ending talks.

The dinner may have been thought up by Ms Spehar who had to show her bosses back in New York she was doing some meaningful work, apart from the hard graft of attending cocktail parties and social functions. The Virgin Mary of Cyprus politics and our side’s negotiator, Andreas Mavroyiannis, may also have had something to do with the organising of the dinner. He too needs to justify the big paycheck he receives every month.

Mavroyiannis is still being paid a big fat salary by the taxpayer that also provides him with a state car for being the negotiator at a time of no negotiations. He has been on an extended holiday for the last nine months at the taxpayer’s expense. No doubt, he fully agrees with Nik’s rejection of time-frames to his salary.

 

THERE was some good news for the workers of J&P Overseas who a few weeks ago made public a letter in which they complained about the non-payment of their wages. Money was found and they were paid a month’s wages that means they are now owed two months’ wages.

Two weeks ago, when our establishment wrote about Joannou & Paraskevaides’ woes, it reported that at an acrimonious meeting in Switzerland the P family had reportedly sold a property in the US to fund the failing company but the J family refused to put any more money in. After some additional digging we found out that our information was not correct.

The facts are that each partner owed the company $23 million. While the J family repaid the debt in full and put in another $17 million from the sale of assets, the P family failed to pay its debt. At the Switzerland meeting, jet-setting representative of the P family, Andreas Papathomas, had demanded the J family put more money into the company while his side would use real estate it owned in the US as collateral for a bank loan and transfer the money to the company.

It was an audacious move by Papathomas, demanding more money from the J family, which had already paid in $40m, in order for the P family to settle its debts to J&P. This was assuming the real estate he was going to use as collateral would secure the money he claimed and that he could actually find a bank willing to lend the cash.

Even the cunning Papathomas might have had a little difficulty persuading a banker to lend a couple of dozen million bucks to a company that was having difficulty paying its workers. He probably would have had more chance of securing the loan if he told the bank he wanted to buy a yacht for the summer holidays.

 

FRIENDS of the P family are wondering how the wife of the late George Paraskevaides, Thelma, had entrusted the running of the family’s business affairs to Papathomas, whose own business affairs were not in the best shape when he married her youngest daughter, Christina.

The decision of the matriarch, who has blind faith in Papathomas, has infuriated her other two offspring who have been left out of the decisions regarding the J&P business affairs, and have been watching an outsider running the business empire their late father left them into the ground, while spending the family’s millions on his jet-setting lifestyle.

Papathomas, thanks to Thelma P, is the man in charge of J&P in Saudi Arabia – the J family run the operations of J&P in the Gulf – which was why the workers’ letter about the unpaid wages and poor working conditions was addressed to him. His continuous interference and demands were also believed to be the reason the company’s CEO, Greg Christofides, left the Saudi operations and is now employed in the Gulf by the J family.

As we reported two weeks ago, Papathomas was also the chairman and CEO of Nautilus Holdings Ltd, which filed for bankruptcy in the US reporting $770 million in debts. It is not the type of track record to inspire great confidence in his ability to save J&P that is on the brink of collapse, especially bearing in mind he had helped take it there.

The only person in the world who still believes he is doing a good job for J&P is the only person who counts – his elderly mother-in-law who was left in sole charge of the P family assets.

 

SUPREME ruler of Kyproulla, Odysseas, despite his best efforts failed to block the renewal of the deal with Helector for the use of the Koshi waste treatment plant. If he had succeeded, the cost to the taxpayer, whose interests he is so concerned about protecting, would have been €50m.

That would have been the total fine imposed by the EU for the failure to close down the Kotsiatis landfill that should have been closed down in 2009. The EU had given us until the end of the year, and last December there was an agreement to take all Nicosia’s rubbish which went to Kotsiatis to the Koshi plant which was only serving the Larnaca and Famagusta districts and had excess capacity.

Odysseas opposed the deal reached in December and used his influence over the Central Committee of Changes and Claims (KEAA) to block it. Prez Nik, not wanting the costly embarrassment of a €50m fine, called everyone to his office on Wednesday, where it transpired that the reason Odysseas objected to the Koshi deal was that he did not get his way – he wanted a new waste treatment plant to be built for Nicosia’s needs.

Asked at the meeting, by Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides, by what logic he demanded the creation a new treatment plant, at an additional cost of tens of millions of euro when Koshi had the capacity to serve Nicosia, Odysseas fell silent and went into a sulk, because he is not accustomed to having his wisdom challenged.

 

HIS SILENCE did not last long. The next day, our supreme ruler was at a meeting in the House, which was discussing the disaster at the Cyprus Cooperative Bank (CCB) and issued instructions to the attorney-general to set up an investigative committee to look into whether the billions pumped into the bank by the state were properly managed.

Odysseas also wanted an investigation into the circumstances that led investment company Demetra to withdraw €25m from the CCB. Surely, Odysseas, who is such stickler for the law, must know that it is not illegal for any individual or company to withdraw its money from a bank. What would be the purpose of the investigation?

Could the holier than thou Odysseas have violated bank confidentiality rules by revealing Demetra’s cash withdrawal, which was none of his or anyone else’s business?

 

SPEAKING of the CCB, you have to give credit to the government for turning a fiasco of its own making into another success story. When the €2.5 billion ‘investment’ by the state was announced, government spokesman, Prodromos Prodromou actually boasted the state bailed out the CCB because it could afford to do so.

This was a dig at the Tof administration, but the reality is that Nik’s government has not acted in a much more responsible way. It knew that the CCB was deep in trouble since the end of last year but did nothing about it because it would destroy the success story narrative of Nik’s presidential election campaign. It chose to wait until after the elections to deal with the problem.

During this time, the bank sank deeper into trouble, with total withdrawals reaching €2bn and the cost of saving it inevitably rising. But what does it matter? As PP said, the government wasted €2.5 billion of the taxpayer’s money propping up the bankrupt CCB because it could.

Perhaps the extra half a billion cost caused by the delay should be added to Teflon Nik’s election campaign spending.

 

YOU CAN always rely on good old Phil to come up with an angry yarn about unpatriotic Greek Cypriots doing trade with or buying products from the occupier. Over the years, it has had reports about Turkish fish being sold as Turkish Cypriot fish in the south, tonnes of cheap Turkish potatoes/tomatoes/cucumbers flooding the market as well as bricks and tiles being imported from the north by construction companies.

On Wednesday it uncovered another scam – “The fuel of illegality”. While individuals “filling up their petrol tanks in the north was continuously increasing, now truck companies, cab and transport firms that have a lot of cars, send their fleets of vehicles to the occupied area to fill up with petrol,” it indignantly reported on its front page, providing not a shred of evidence for the great scandal it uncovered.

There was not a single picture of the fleets of trucks and taxis going north fill up with cheaper petrol or any of the treacherous companies named. In fact, according to the customs department, a total of 340 litres of fuel were seized in March for being smuggled illegally. The quantity was just about enough to fill the tanks of less than 10 mid-sized cars.

Phil pointed out that filling up your car with pseudo petrol was not illegal, but as one of its opinion writers explained, the paper was entitled to criticise people who had “become reconciled with the occupation”. The staff of Phil are far too patriotic to ever become reconciled with the occupation.

 

ON THE SAME day Phil also reported that materials from the pseudo-state were used for improvement work at a gymnasium in Agros. It was the third public school at which contractors had used building material from the north.

Hopefully, our new Elam supporting education minister Costas Hambiaouris will not have read the report, because he is very sensitive about the matter and could order their demolition. A few weeks ago, it was reported that he ordered the removal of marble tiles used at a public school, when he heard they were produced in the north.

You just cannot give children a good Greek education in public school with pseudo-tiles. They may become reconciled with the occupation and when they grow up they might drive to the north to fill up their cars with cheap petrol.

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