THE SAME mistakes that were made in relation to the investigation about the collapse of the economy seem set to be repeated in the case of the closure of the Cyprus Co-operative Bank. Once again, expectations that those responsible for the collapse will be punished have been fueled by public comments by the head of the three-member investigative committee and political parties.
Handing over the report to the attorney-general, the head of the committee, retired judge Giorgos Aresti said: “we find there is scope for further investigations into the possibility of the committing of civil and criminal offences.”
The investigation, in which 75 people were questioned and lasted seven months was divided into two periods – the first from 1985 to 2013, when it was bailed out by the taxpayer’s money and the second from 2013 until it was closed down five years later.
The familiar sentimentality surrounding the co-ops was also displayed by Arestis, who said “we feel like we have carried out a death inquest,” pointing out that the committee’s conclusions “constitute rubber-stamping the disappearance of an achievement of the Cypriot people.” Parties were on the same wavelength speaking of the co-op as “one of the greatest conquests by the people” and demanding the punishment of those responsible for its demise.
Akel called on the government to accept political responsibility for the “biggest financial crime ever perpetrated in Cyprus”, while the Citizens’ Alliance demanded the publication of the report by the committee, because the co-op “was a social conquest and the property of the citizens who had every right to know all the details about who was to blame for its collapse.”
It is this theatre that we have to put up with now – the political parties, which sowed the seeds of the co-op’s destruction, pretending they want the culprits punished.
The co-op collapsed because for the last four decades it was run by corrupt and incompetent party placemen, who allowed customers not to repay their loans, grossly over-valued security for loans and turned a blind eye to scams among other things. It was supervised for decades by the same people who had political party backing and are now facing criminal charges. In short, the conquest of the people was doomed because it was run like a free-for-all, so politicians could claim it was “banking with a human face”.
Attorney-general Costas Clerides assured Aresti that the report would not be shelved, but avoided making any promises, aware of the failure to build strong cases against those suspected of being responsible for the collapse of the banking sector. In the co-op case, in which the political parties played such a prominent role, it will be even more difficult to prosecute individuals, because its demise was a collective achievement.