The government on Wednesday reiterated its support for transferring Co-op properties seized by the state following the demise of the former Cyprus Co-operative Bank to local authorities and public services.
“On February 20, a decision was taken whereby a large amount of the seized real-estate would be granted for use either by communities or by services that are beneficial for the public,” said government spokesperson Prodromos Prodromou, speaking after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Following the collapse of the Co-op Bank last year and its subsequent sale to the Hellenic Bank, a total of 2,815 properties of a cumulative value of €600 million, fell into government hands and specifically to the state-owned Cyprus Asset Management Company (Kedipes).
Cabinet members have reiterated their support for the decision, which has been demanded by a wide range of groups whose co-operative savings fund was the previous owner and manager of the properties.
That the government follows-up on this promise is one of the demands of a large-scale demonstration scheduled for Wednesday evening, where affected groups including farmers, educators, pensioners and community organisations will call for the seized property to be returned to them.
“Although the deadline is set at four months from now, the procedure has already begun – applications have been accepted, the existing list [of properties] and the legal procedures needed are being studied, and decisions will be announced as soon as possible,” Prodromou said.
In meetings with government officials, organisations were told that the procedure would involve the return of the seized properties to the union of municipalities and communities, which are extensions of the state, before they are rented out at low prices to the agricultural sector and other organisations.
Demonstrators will also demand the punishment of those responsible for the Co-op collapse, as exposed by a report issued earlier in the month, and protest over the developing scandal regarding the mismanagement that led to the closure.
The report on the demise of the Co-op held Finance Minister Harris Georgiades mainly responsible for the bank’s collapse under the weight of some €7bn in bad debts and its sale to Hellenic Bank.
The president and his government have disputed the findings of the committee, with Anastasiades reiterating his support for Georgiades.
The three-member panel had recommended further investigation into possible criminal offences committed by senior members including former CEO Nicolas Hadjiyiannis.
In the latest twist, Giorgos Aresti, the chairman of the committee that investigated the Co-op collapse has resigned from two government bodies in protest over the way the government has dismissed the report’s findings.