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Police to probe 24 cases related to former co-op brass and staff

The finance ministry has conveyed to police 24 cases to investigate in relation with former co-op bank brass and staff, the House watchdog committee heard on Thursday, with the force expecting to receive a total 212 co-op cases warranting investigation by February.

The co-op was shuttered at the end of August 2018 with Hellenic Bank taking over certain assets. The remainder, mostly non-performing loans, went to a state-controlled purposely created asset management firm Kedipes.

Its demise was followed by an inquiry, which put most of the blame on then finance ministry Harris Georgiades and President Nicos Anastasiades for not dismissing him after EU supervisory authorities had warned of inadequate management.

Former CEO Nicolas Hadjiyiannis and executive Yiannis Stavrinides were also found culpable.

Political parties were not spared, while dozens of other cases of mismanagement and potential fraud emerged.

On Thursday, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides reiterated that the co-op was “fire sold” to Hellenic for €75m when its advisers valued it at €275m.

“Essentially Hellenic bought something lower than its value,” Michaelides said. “This is the definition of a fire sale.”

Michaelides said it was important that Kedipes pursued all those that caused damage.

Former supreme court judge Giorgos Aresti who headed the probe into the collapse, said it was a myth that the co-op had suffered losses because of the foreclosures legal framework. Half its loans concerned businesses, he said.

Aresti said the process in which €6bn worth of non-performing loans were directly assigned to Altamira must also be investigated, noting that two co-op individuals who were involved in the negotiations now worked for the company.

Aresti delivered their 800-page findings in March 2019, saying certain aspects should be investigated to determine whether criminal and civil offences had been committed. The panel also found political culpability before and after 2013.

Finance ministry permanent secretary Giorgos Panteli disagreed that foreclosures had no bearing on the co-op’s eventual closure.

For this reason, he said, the EU had set improvement of the framework as a condition before approving the state aid that made the deal with Hellenic possible.

Kedipes took over €8.3bn worth of assets of which €6.97bn in NPLs, €0.5bn in ‘good’ loans, around €620m in immovable property, and cash and shares in other companies worth €230m.

Hellenic got some €9.7bn in deposits, €66m in other obligations, loans worth €4.6bn, including €420m non-performing, Cyprus government bonds totalling €4.08bn, €1.16bn in cash, and other assets worth €25m.

Kedipes has been paying back the state aid, so far transferring €510m in cash and €140m in real estate.

It is expected that by 2027, Kedipes would pay back €3bn

Panteli said Kedipes has handed over to police 24 cases relating to possible criminal offences involving former executives and ordinary staff.

“The process is ongoing,” he said.

MPs heard Kedipes’ internal audit unit is currently looking into 212 cases of possible civil offences relating to loan agreements. Those files are expected to be handed to police by February.

Senior state attorney Polina Efthyvoulou said police were currently investigating over 30 cases, including the Altamisa deal, on the instruction of the attorney-general.

Efthyvoulou said those include the Altamira deal.

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