An inquiry committee which will look into all the facts surrounding and leading to the predicament Cyprus’ cooperative credit system has found itself in, was sworn in, on Monday, at the Legal Service’s offices, in Nicosia.
After it was sworn in the committee had its first official meeting and decided to start gathering documents or evidence or other written statements deemed necessary or desirable so that it can best complete the work it has to undertake in line with its mandate. For this purpose, letters will be sent out to state officials, management staff at the Cooperative sector and other persons.
Public hearings are set to begin within August.
Qatar International Court Judge Georgios Arestis, who has also previously served as a European Court of Justice Judge and Cyprus Supreme Court Judge has been appointed to chair the committee while economist, former Senior General Manager of Bank of Cyprus and former President of the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission Georgios Charalambous as well as former Managing Director and Board of Directors Executive Member of Alpha Bank Cyprus who has also served as former President of the Association of Cyprus Banks and the Banks Employment Association Georgios Georgiou.
In statements after the committee was sworn in Arestis said that the first order of business will be to gather all the written material at hand which will also help the Committee organise its public hearings.
Attorney General Costas Clerides thanked the president and members of the committee for accepting to undertake this “truly onerous work”, adding that this Cyprus has witnessed a similar investigation quite recently when the country’s financial system had essentially collapsed.
This, according to Clerides makes the committee’s work even more demanding. He expressed the hope that a truly in-depth, full and objective investigation which will not merely lead to the submission of a report but rather of a report which will contain a full analysis, explanation and will reach such conclusions which will in turn lead to a new process. That, he added, of evaluating the material collected and conclusions reached so that steps can be taken to prevent such phenomena from taking place again.
The Attorney General also said that the members of the committee were selected by him on the basis of criteria which have to do with integrity, objectivity, impartiality as well as knowledge of the subject they will be looking into and where the law demands it of legal expertise.
On his part Arestis thanked Clerides for the trust he has shown in them and stressed that the committee’s members are fully aware of the expectations of the Cypriot people who expects “to find out the truth, to find out why a banking institution, the Cooperative sector, which for many generations and decades has supported farmers and employees, small and medium size businesses, collapsed in such an awful way and ceases to exist.”
“We pledge to uphold the oath we have given today. We promise to be worthy of your expectations and of those of the Cypriot people; We are fully aware of the demands of this difficult work we are undertaking today,” he underlined.
He further noted that the committee members intend to work “hard, methodically and persistently”, adding that “we believe we can provide an answer to many, agonising questions before us.”
The committee is supposed to complete its work within three months, with a possibility of an extension for another three months.
The government of Cyprus approved a deal on the Cyprus Co-operative Bank, following the offer submitted by the Hellenic Bank to buy out the bank.
According to the offer, the Hellenic Bank undertakes to pay the whole amount of the clients’ deposits worth 9.7 billion euro and assumes assets of 10.3 billion euro, including loans, bonds and cash as well as non-performing loans of 0.5 billion. Assets of the Cooperative amounting to 8.3 billion euro will be taken over by the state, most of which is non-performing loans.
Cyprus Cooperative Bank (CCB) is the second largest credit institution in Cyprus, as of February 2018, the Bank had assets with a book value around €12 billion, it had deposits around €11 billion and gross loans in the amount around €11 billion. CCB had around 2,700 employees and a network comprising around 170 branches in Cyprus.