By Christos Meliopoulos – Nicosia
A potential scandal has been brewing in Cyprus following information secured by AKEL’s deputy Irini Charalambidou that 130 Bank of Cyprus UK accounts were frozen by the British authorities as they were deemed of ‘high risk’, possibly due to money laundering concerns.
The central bank governor Panicos Demetriades first revealed the development as he was testifying at a parliamentary committee, confirming that “100 Bank of Cyprus UK accounts were shut”, adding that their holders were PEPs – Politically Exposed Persons. This reference, followed by no more details, sparked a frenzy of speculation and questions.
Things got even more mixed up as it was later reported that the accounts were not suspended, frozen or shut, but that their holders have simply received a notice, details of which have yet to be known.
In Cyprus Mrs Charalambidou has raised questions about the reasons behind the UK authorities’ concern and along with other politicians she has asked for the details of the case and the names of the holders to be made public.
IBNA contacted Bank of Cyprus UK, which is an independent bank, entirely subject to the British financial regulations. A spokesperson gave a response by email: “As you would expect, we simply do not comment on any relationships we have with our customers.”
There also seems to be some confusion over which is the UK authority that would have issued an order to suspend the accounts. Following the restructuring of the Financial Services Authority there are now two different bodies in charge of financial institutions, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Then there is also the Treasury, a spokesperson of which explained that depending on the nature of the case any of the three authorities could have been in charge.
Irini Charalambidou has asked for a series of things to be investigated. First of all the time that the accounts were opened and that everything took place, linking it to the possibility of money having been sent from Cyprus to London due to inside information about the deposits’ haircut or the capital movement restrictions. Then there is also the case of whether the money in the London accounts had been properly taxed, either in Cyprus or in the UK.
Until all the details come forth, the speculation, especially since the case involves political figures and former public officials as it has been confirmed, will carry on featuring high in the political agenda.