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Bank’s offset of loans against deposits comes under scrutiny by lawmakers

THE House ethics committee will hold a special session on Saturday to discuss the matter of co-op customers who had their deposits set off against loans and other obligations allegedly unbeknown to them.

President Nicos Anastasiades has asked for a probe into the matter while Finance Minister Harris Georgiades asked the Cooperative Asset Management Company – the legacy Co-op – to verify the procedure that was applied and be prepared to act to rectify possible mistakes.

Saturday’s parliamentary meeting will be attended by Central Bank governor Chrystalla Georghadji and Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides.

Finance and commerce ministry officials will also attend as well as state attorneys, former co-op brass, and the CEO of Hellenic Bank that took over certain co-op assets and liabilities.

Financial Ombudsman Pavlos Ioannou said Thursday he was considering referring cases of Co-op customers who had their deposit accounts set-off with loans to the attorney-general as the formerly state-owned bank may have acted unlawfully in thousands of cases.

Ioannou said there were around 2,000 cases where this action was justified as there were clauses in the loan contracts which customers had signed allowing this action by the bank.

However, in another 16,000 cases, the former Co-op acted “without informing and advising customers in time to avoid problems”, hence upsetting the cash flow planning of both households and companies, he said.

The Co-op had combined the balance of deposits accounts with those of non-performing loans, including restructured loans still in process and those in which the borrowers were about to sign a restructuring agreement, Ioannou said.

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