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Cyprus

Spokesman denies finance minister offered to resign (updated)

Haris Georgiades

Government spokesman Prodromos Prodomou denied on Friday that the finance minister had offered to resign over a damning report concerning the demise of the co-op bank.

Prodromou’s denial came hours after deputy spokeswoman Klelia Vasiliou told private Sigma television that Harris Georgiades had submitted his resignation on Thursday.

“There was never an issue of the finance minister resigning,” Prodromou told a Sigma lunchtime show, suggesting that Vasiliou made a mistake.

Earlier, Vasiliou said Georgiades had offered his resignation to President Nicos Anastasiades who did not accept it.

“It was the second time in the past year that Mr. Harris Georgiades submitted his resignation to the president,” she told private Sigma television.

Prodromou said there was no question of Georgiades resigning.

“Why would he resign? Because we had a result at the co-op that was lauded by the European central Bank and the ratings agencies?” the spokesman said.

The co-op report, spanning over 800 pages and the result of a seven-month probe that questioned 75 witnesses and gathered 2,781 pages of statements, mainly blamed Georgiades for the collapse of the bank and its forced sale to Hellenic last year.

It also recommended further investigation into the actions of former CEO Nicolas Hadjiyiannis and other executives.

The reported resignation preceded a statement issued by Anastasiades on Thursday evening declaring his full confidence in Georgiades.

Anastasiades disagreed with the report’s finding that Georgiades was politically responsible for the co-op’s ultimate fate.

“I might have deemed the minister responsible had the collapse of the co-op been the result of delinquent loans amassed after 2013,” he noted.

Opposition parties continued pounding the government on Friday, demanding the minister’s resignation.

“The masks are off, Mr. Anastasiades, the government, and (ruling) Disy in general have showed their real face,” main opposition Akel leader Andros Kyprianou said.

Kyprianou said it was only recently that Disy chief Averof Neophytou had pontificated that his party was not selective about probes and that it would respect the outcome, no matter what it said.

“But we see a completely different approach now, an effort to rubbish the findings and defend the indefencible,” Kyprianou said.

The Akel leader suggested that the closure of the co-op had been planned, accusing the government of lying to the people.

Neophytou said he accepted the party’s and his own share of the blame regarding the affair challenging other parties: “he that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

The Disy chief also expressed confidence towards Georgiades though admitting that he made mistakes.

“We all make mistakes. He might have made mistakes in certain choices but let us see the big picture of this damned political system,” he said, suggesting it was Disy’s political opponents who ruled the co-op sector up until 2013.

“It is a common secret who had the upper hand and who managed the co-op sector until 2013,” he said of Akel.

Neophytou said he will table an amendment to mandate MPs to declare whether they have non-performing exposures.

“Where is the political responsibility of MPs with NPEs who at the same time legislated to protect themselves,” he said.

Neophytou said Disy had appointed a three-member team to study the findings.

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