Former Co-op board member Lambros Pieri told the committee investigating the causes of the state-owned bank’s demise that an annual payment to a finance ministry worker was in accordance with a December 2015 ministerial decree, the Cyprus News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Pieri said that the decree provided that Dionysis Dionysiou, the finance ministry’s official who acted as liaison between the bank’s largest shareholder and the board overseeing the government’s investment in the bank, would receive on top of his salary another €25,000 a year.
The former board member was giving a supplementary testimony to the committee appointed two months ago by Attorney-General Costas Clerides. In his first testimony, on August 28, he said that supervisors punished the Cyprus Co-operative Bank, into which taxpayers injected almost €1.7bn in 2014 and 2015, for being a state-owned bank.
On August 27, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides told the committee that he believed that Dionysiou had informed Finance Minister Harris Georgiades about how the Co-op decided to enter a controversial agreement with Spain’s Altamira over the handling of the failed lender’s €7bn in non-performing loans and Georgiades ultimately failed to intervene.
According to Michaelides, Dionysiou had received also in addition to his salary and the €25,000 payment from the Co-op, which he described as “baksheesh,” another €6,000 in 2014, €5,754 the following year and €11,000 in allowances from the ministry over an unspecified period.
Pieri, who was appointed to the bank’s board in 2010 and stepped down in June in protest over the takeover of the Co-op’s operations by Hellenic Bank, after he first tendered his resignation in March, is a member of Akel’s central committee. He said his party voted in parliament against the composition of the bank’s board in 2013.
The board, he said, had no political agenda and that none of its members’ actions was influenced by political ideology.
When asked by the committee whether Dionysiou had approached him to ask him to influence Akel lawmakers in the parliament ahead of the vote, Pieri said that the finance ministry official, who was at the bank every day, had never asked him to do so.
Pieri, who also served as chairman of the Co-op’s non-performing loans committee, said that it wasn’t only that body that was informed about the negotiation with Altamira as it was up to the board to decide. He also submitted a number of documents and minutes.