Cyprus Mail

Kedipes ‘stalling’ probe into loans held by PEPs (update)

THE state-owned asset management company (Kedipes) appears to be stonewalling a probe into the possibility of the co-op bank affording favourable treatment to politically exposed persons (PEPs) as regards loan restructuring, it emerged on Friday.

Despite being given the all-clear by the attorney-general to hand over to the state auditor the information concerning loans belonging to PEPs that were taken over by Hellenic Bank in 2018, Kedipes appears to be stalling, citing legal issues.

“To fully ensure the lawfulness of its actions and to be able to respond to the auditor-general’s request to hand over historical data regarding PEP credit facilities that were transferred to Hellenic Bank, (Kedipes) has asked the auditor-general to seek fresh clarifications from the state Legal Service since the initial legal opinion does not make any reference on specific articles” of the relevant law “and how they had been interpreted,” Kedipes said in a statement on Friday.

The company denied stonewalling the investigation, reiterating its willingness to fully co-operate with the auditor-general on all matters and readiness to hand over the requested information as soon as the lawfulness of its actions was ensured.

Kedipes “has proven its commitment for transparency towards all the state’s supervisory authorities in practice, and there is no intention to cover up any issue,” the statement said.

Kedipes, created following the demise of the co-op bank to manage its non-performing loans, said it has already handed over similar information on PEPs that continue to be its customers.

The statement followed a report in daily Phileleftheros that Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides had sent the attorney-general a second letter late in July, complaining about Kedipes’ refusal to hand over information relating to PEPs’ non-performing loans, which had been restructured before being transferred to Hellenic.

Two months ago, Costas Clerides had issued a legal opinion green-lighting the release of the information on all loans linked to PEPs, including the ones that went to Hellenic.

Michaelides asked for the information to determine whether certain PEPs had received favourable treatment when restructuring their loans at the co-op.

The findings of a probe into the demise of the bank said some €10m in PEP loans had been written off by the co-op bank.

The co-op was forced to sell its operations to Hellenic Bank in June 2018 after its failure to reduce the non-performing loan stock fast enough wiped out its equity.

Kedipes was established to manage the non-performing loans, real estate, and other assets amounting to €8.2bn, that were not part of the transfer to Hellenic Bank.

Among them were non-performing loans of about €7bn.

The findings of a probe into the co-op’s demise mainly blamed finance minister Harris Georgiades for its collapse and subsequent forced sale to Hellenic Bank.

President Nicos 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.

He was alluding to the year when the lender was nationalised, inheriting billions in bad debts.

Georgiades announced later that he intended to step down by the end of the year, arguing however that his decision was not linked with the co-op issue.

The probe also recommended further investigation into whether the co-op’s former CEO and other executives had committed any other offences. That investigation is currently underway.

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