President of the House of Representatives Demetris Syllouris has questioned the fuss made by the media and some deputies about the lists of politically exposed persons (PEP) with bad debts, insisting there was no plot, as had been suggested, to prevent its publication.
“There is a procedure to be followed and this has still not been followed,” Syllouris said in an interview with the Cyprus Mail. “Your version was that I tried to suppress the publication of the lists and that I plotted with Mr Koulias, president of the House watchdog committee, to achieve this.”
Koulias was accused of conflict of interest, because he was one of the PEPs on the list, a fact he revealed after he was accused of preventing submission of the list to the committee he chaired.
“Why he had a conflict of interest I have not understood,” said Syllouris and asked: “Why is it a conflict of interest for a deputy, a journalist, a newspaper director or teacher to have a non-performing loan (NPL)? We went through a crisis, we had a rotten banking system that did not follow correct lending practices and people ended up with NPLs.”
He saw nothing wrong with people having NPLs, but hastened to add that he had none, because it had been suggested in the press that Syllouris or members of his family had bad debts, hence his stand against the list.
Even the claim that Koulias was guilty of conflict of interest did not stand up to logical scrutiny, said the House president. It had been said, “when we were voting the law the banks wanted for the foreclosures, deputies with NPLs, in order to protect themselves did not vote for it.” But Koulias, as a member of Diko voted in favour together with the deputies of Disy and Edek, therefore none of them were guilty of conflict of interest in this matter.”
The real problem would be if someone had loans that the bank wrote off and not if he had an NPL. “You know when it would be reprehensible to have an NPL,” asked Syllouris. “If you had a million euro loan and the bank did not pressure you to repay, even though you had the available funds to do so.”
If the issue was who had enjoyed favourable conditions from the bank and favourable treatment for their loans, Syllouris said he would understand deputies desire to study the list. “But you cannot find this in the PEPs list prepared by (former governor of the Central Bank) Mrs Georghadji. In the end we would have put aside protection of personal data and perpetrated an injustice – a name and shame campaign, for no good reason,” he added.
He also blamed Georghadji for the rather slapdash way she handled the issue of the list. She had sent Syllouris a copy of it a few days before she was to leave her post as governor and when asked why she sent it, she said that a deputy at some committee had asked her for the list of PEPs with bad debts. She told Syllouris she had sent it to him because she could not remember the deputy or the committee that had asked for it!
The next day there was an article in the press asking why the House President had not released the lists handed to him by the outgoing governor, ignoring the fact that a procedure had to be followed, a procedure acknowledged in two letters the new governor Constantinos Herodotou had subsequently sent Syllouris about the matter.
“I cannot understand how deputies claimed there was something suspicious happening, in so doing revealing that they did not know parliament’s procedures,” said Syllouris, who explained how it should be done. “Deputies first submit the subject for discussion by the committee. They could then write to the Central Bank asking for the lists with bad debts because the committee is investigating NPLs.”
He hoped now that deputies were better informed about the procedure that had to be followed, the subject would be tabled for discussion at the House watchdog committee, the lists would be formally requested from the central bank, they would be studied, deputies would decide whether to make them public and the matter would finally be closed.
Syllouris had skimmed through the lists and said it took him no longer than a minute to realise it was raw data that had never been processed. There was a businessman on one of the lists who had 80 NPLs, which in effect were bank guarantees for sales he made that were listed as NPLs until they were paid off. His name would have been made public and tarnished for no good reason, said Syllouris. The same applied to a deputy on the list for €2,730 credit card debt that had probably been paid off by now. If the lists were made public, these people would have to give explanations.
This was why deputies, if they formally asked for the PEPs lists, should make sure these were updated and once they received them avoided the temptation of leaking them, said the House president.