Cyprus Leader Invites Family Firm Pobe
Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades has urged judges investigating the country's banking disaster to examine transactions handled by his family law firm as "a priority" in a bid to defuse public anger over last-minute transfers by well-connected Cypriots, Russians and Ukrainians who thereby avoided a "haircut" on their uninsured deposits.
The move followed questions over whether a company managed by the president's son-in-law made use of inside information to transfer more than 20 million euros out of Laiki Bank days before its collapse.
Mr Anastasiades was speaking at Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony for three supreme court judges handed the task of probing "civil, criminal and political" offences by people involved in the island's bloated financial services sector. He has strongly denied wrongdoing.
The judges are due to deliver a report to the attorney general within three months, opening the way for possible prosecutions of prominent Cypriot bankers, lawyers and accountants.
"The committee should make it a priority to examine whatever is imputed to me and my family members and should also examine the activities of my law firm," Mr Anastasiades said.
The president's family has come under scrutiny following the publication in Haravghi, the Cyprus Communist party newspaper, of a list of more than 100 companies and three individual account holders who pulled more than 500 million euros from Laiki in the two weeks before Cyprus agreed on March 15 to a "haircut" of bank deposits as part of a proposed bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund.
A company controlled by the Loutsios family, which owns two car dealerships in Cyprus, emptied two accounts containing 21 million euros on March 12 and 13, according to the list. Antis and Katia Loutsios had earlier cleaned out two personal accounts on March 3 and 4 holding another 6 million euros. Mr Anastasiades' daughter Elsa, a partner in the family law firm, is married to Yannos Loutsios, the couple's son.
The Loutsios family has denied wrongdoing, but could not be reached for comment. A statement by the company said it had transferred 10.5 million euros to Bank of Cyprus and another 10.5 million euros to Barclays Bank in London to buy real estate. "We are at the disposal of the investigating committee and any other responsible Cypriot authority in order to validate the true facts [concerning these transfers]."
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Companies controlled by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's wealthiest businessman, which are clients of Mr Anastasiades' law firm, withdrew $30 million from Laiki in the first two weeks of March, according to the list.
A spokesperson for System Capital Management, the holding company for Mr Akhmetov's diversified business empire, said: "The potential for financial crisis was widely reported in the international media in advance of EU intervention. Therefore SCM management took prudent action to limit our banking exposure in Cyprus in the weeks and days in advance of the Cyprus debt restructuring."
A third individual account holder, according to the list, was Andrei Akimov, the president of Gazprombank, the Russian energy giant's banking arm, which was mentioned as a possible buyer for Laiki bank shortly after Mr Anastasiades won the Cyprus presidential election on February 24. Mr Akimov transferred 2 million euros from his Laiki account on March 6 and closed it down.