- Formula One : Rosberg puts Mercedes on pole in Monaco
- our view : Our View: SGO fight against privatisation beggars belief
- civil service : Towards a ‘less wasteful’ public service
- Cyprus : Tax revenues fall 10 per cent in first quarter
- civil service reform : Furious PASYDY won’t play ball
- Cyprus : UN assures that dinner only a social event
- 2012 : Crossings and trade down significantly in 2012
- animal : Animal welfare group records ‘cruel’ slaughter
- Cyprus : World tourism chief says Cyprus open for business
- Cyprus : Ayia Napa murder trial hears from first prosecution witness
Vgenopoulos stirs up spat over banks
THE FORMER non-executive chairman of Marfin Popular Bank yesterday denied seeking a relaxation of the regulatory framework as he accused ex Central bank governor Athanasios Orphanides of bad-mouthing Cyprus abroad.
Andreas Vgenopoulos also slammed DISY deputy chairman Averof Neophytou, who recently blamed him for the problems now faced by the Popular Bank – a view shared by many in Cyprus.
The bank now needs some €1.5 billion by June 30 to bolster its capital as a result of its exposure to Greece.
Vgenopoulos rejected as inaccurate, reports that in 2009 he had asked for the regulatory framework to be relaxed or else he would have moved the bank’s base to Greece.
“I had asked for the modernisation of a system that has remained the same for decades,” he told a news conference. This would have allowed greater dispersion of risk, he added. “If the regulatory framework had changed we would not have come to this.”
He went through the minutes of a parliamentary committee meeting held at the time, which he said proved his point.
But he expressed regret not moving the bank to Greece. Changing his decision was his “biggest mistake,” he said.
On Monday, Orphanides told lawmakers that there had been strong political intervention aimed at relaxing the regulatory framework.
Orphanides said there was an attempt to undermine his supervisory power, particularly from “a certain Greek businessman” who had been encouraged by President Demetris Christofias himself.
“I was subjected to criticism in a very disdainful manner by a certain businessman, who was in fact invited to the Presidential Palace by the president … and it was all connected with relaxing the supervision,” said Orphanides.
Vgenopoulos said he had invested over €3.0 billion in Cyprus – the biggest investment ever – and as such it was normal for him to meet with the political leadership.
He said he had never asked for anything nor received anything.
Vgenopoulos said he also met DISY chief Nicos Anastassiades, which Neophytou omitted to say when he accused him of seeing Christofias.
He added that Neophytou also went to his office in July 2009 but from then on the DISY official had become his adversary.
Vgenopoulos claimed that Orphanides had played a role in the ratings downgrades as he was bad-mouthing Cyprus abroad. He said former finance minister Charilaos Stavrakis could attest to this.
He rejected suggestions that Orphanides had forced him to quit the board but accused the former governor of putting pressure on him by contacting the bank’s shareholders.
“I have evidence but unfortunately I am bound by confidentiality,” Vgenopoulos said.
Vgenopoulos, who resigned in November 2011 was followed around a month later by CEO Efthymios Bouloutas, who was also present at the two-hour news conference yesterday.
Shortly afterwards, the bank changed its name from Marfin Popular to Cyprus Popular Bank.
“Marfin Popular Bank (MPB) is not at risk of nationalisation,” Vgenopoulos said of the prospect of the state stepping in to support the lender if it fails to raise the necessary capital itself. “MPB was a very strong bank. At risk (of nationalisation) is the Popular Bank,” a formation he attributed to Orphanides.
Neophytou’s response came before the conference even finished.
He said the only time he met Vgenopoulos was when he accompanied Anastassiades to the bank’s HQ. Also present at the meeting, which was requested by Vgenopoulos, was a big shareholder, Neophytou said.
“In this meeting … he tried to convince us that the regulatory framework must change, become more lax, based on Mr. Vgenopoulos’ needs and biddings,” Neophytou said.
He said he made it clear that DISY would not agree to the changes that the government also wanted and was trying to get the parliament’s consent.
Neophytou said the problems faced by the bank are a result of Vgenopoulos’ actions and his party will demand an investigation into his administration.
The DISY vice chairman also criticised state broadcaster CyBC for airing a live interview with Vgenopoulos shortly after the news conference.
“I fully understand the CyBC for affording such privileged treatment to the Christofias government’s self-appointed lawyer who came to throw them a lifeline,” Neophytou said.