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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-04

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Friday, January 4, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Deputies grill Afxentiou on family share-buying
  • [02] '£4 billion kept in accounts abroad'
  • [03] Banks boost bourse
  • [04] Fast food casualties
  • [05] EAC meters case: cover-up claims denied
  • [06] Union wants a law to end supermarket discounting
  • [07] Accident scam suspects remanded again
  • [08] Inspectors sent to stricken tanker

  • [01] Deputies grill Afxentiou on family share-buying

    By Melina Demetriou

    DEPUTIES on the House Watchdog Committee said yesterday Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou should resign if any members of his family are found to have used his name to buy shares on private placement.

    Afxentiou was grilled by deputies during a joint meeting of the Watchdog and Finance Committee investigating alleged stock market irregularities between 1999 and 2001.

    Deputies criticised the fact that Afxentiou's immediate family members had obtained hundreds of thousands of shares on private placement.

    They also charged that the Central Bank governor was partly responsible for the depressed Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE). Afxentiou admitted that small investors were "victims of deception" but insisted that he could not have stopped shares from plunging.

    AKEL deputy Stavros Evagorou claimed that Afxentiou could have easy access to confidential information concerning companies listed on the stock market.

    "I bought £5,000 worth of shares from Louis Cruise Lines in 1999 without having received information from anyone," Afxentiou countered, stressing that he would not sell those stocks as long as he was governor of the Central Bank.

    Deputies also raised the issue of Afxentiou's son, daughter and their spouses having bought hundreds of thousands of shares on private placement from several companies.

    "I cannot control my children because they are adults. They don't tell me what they are buying and what they are selling," he said.

    Watchdog Committee chairman Christos Pourgourides said that Afxentiou, like any other senior state official, should step down if a member of his family is found to have used his name to buy shares on private placement.

    "It is your duty to ensure your family does not use your name to enjoy such privileges," he stressed.

    DIKO deputy Zacharias Koullias went further, saying that Afxentiou should not have allowed his children or their spouses to buy stocks on private placement and suggested that he resign if any of them had sold his or her shares.

    Deputies also charged that Afxentiou with not doing anything to stop the stock market from sinking.

    "You let companies with overvalued shares join the CSE. And didn't it occur to you in 1999 that 2,000 transactions an hour meant that most investors would soon loose their money?" Koullias asked.

    Afxentiou countered that he did not have the power to veto Securities and Exchange Commission decisions on companies.

    "I warned many times that the stock market would not continue to do well and I even discussed things with Finance Minister Takis Klerides," he said.

    But Koullias insisted that the Central Bank governor had "a huge share of responsibility for what had happened" and wondered why he had not taken drastic measures to avert the crisis such as briefing the President in writing.

    "Investors have been deceived but it is not my fault. You should look for those responsible in the Securities and Exchange Commission and in the CSE Council," Afxentiou replied.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] '£4 billion kept in accounts abroad'

    By a Staff Reporter

    SOME Cypriots hold accounts outside Cyprus illegally, Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou admitted at the House yesterday when it emerged that the amount of Cypriot residents' money kept in banks abroad had increased by 30 per cent in the space of a year.

    At the joint meeting of the House Watchdog and Finance Committees yesterday it emerged that Cypriots kept a total of £4 billion in accounts abroad in 2000, about a billion more than in 1999, the boom year of the stock market.

    "This is amazing. In 1998 the amount stood at £3.1 billion, next year it was about the same and suddenly in 2000 the amount is up by 30 per cent," Watchdog Committee chairman Christos Pourgourides said. He attributed the increase to "the illegal transfer of money made on the stock market".

    Afxentiou conceded that "some keep money abroad illegally", but gave the reassurance that most of those accounts belonged to offshore companies which are registered in Cyprus.

    "There is no way that £1 billion was transferred outside the country without my knowledge," he insisted.

    The two committees asked Afxentiou to submit information to them on the account holders in question.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Banks boost bourse

    By a Staff Reporter

    BANKING and tourism shares took the Cyprus bourse 3.45 per cent higher yesterday as institutions brought the market out of its post-holiday slumber with a vengeance.

    "There are positive expectations on solving the Cyprus problem. Many believe this will be a better year than last," said United Stockbrokers analyst Demos Stavrides.

    The all-share benchmark ended with a gain of 4.45 points to 133.37, with turnover climbing to £3.87 million. Volume rose with 14.6 million shares changing hands.

    The Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are to start intensive talks on resolving the conflict in mid-January. Pressure for a settlement is strong as the island negotiates the final hurdles for European Union membership, expected from 2004 onwards.

    "Most people don't believe they will see the all-share index slumping to 104 points again," said Stavrides, referring to a two-year low the market hit last October.

    Traders said institutional investors were the most active in yesterday's session.

    Banking shares, which form the bulk of the market's capitalisation, closed 2.33 per cent higher. Bank of Cyprus rose 2.13 per cent, or four cents to £1.92, while Laiki climbed four to £1.57.

    The FTSE/CySE index rose 3.03 per cent to 530.87 points, while fast-moving tourism shares rose 9.96 per cent from gains of tour operator Libra.

    Advancing stocks beat declining ones 113 to 20, with eight issues unchanged on 141 traded. There were 4,347 deals. (R)

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Fast food casualties

    By a Staff Reporter

    HUNDREDS of New Year revellers ended up in hospital after a holiday binge of food and drink, newspapers reported yesterday.

    In Nicosia more than 530 people visited the hospital casualty department suffering from stomach complaints caused by overeating, now a national pastime exacerbated over any holiday period, including Easter.

    Doctors say it is caused by people attempting to make up for pre-holiday fasting and abstinence from meat in a short period of time.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] EAC meters case: cover-up claims denied

    By George Psyllides

    THE government yesterday pledged there would be no cover-up in the case of a pensioner suspected of receiving thousands of pounds to adjust electricity meters to record less consumption, after it emerged that many prominent people and companies allegedly employed his services.

    The issue has taken on such proportions that President Glafcos Clerides yesterday gave instructions for it to be fully investigated as soon as possible.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou denied there was an effort to put a lid on the case in order to protect prominent figures allegedly involved in defrauding the Electricity Authority (EAC).

    "Claims and rumours of a cover-up are completely unfounded and ridiculous," Papapetrou said. "The government gives the assurance that the investigation will be full and justice will be done."

    Commerce and Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis, who yesterday briefed Clerides on the developments, said his ministry and the government would not accept a cover-up.

    Rolandis admitted there were indeed some prominent figures involved in the case, but he would not divulge any further details.

    Yesterday there were reports that companies allegedly involved have contacted the EAC asking to settle their debts without further action from the authority.

    Rolandis said that just because the EAC would try to get its money did not mean other measures would not be taken.

    EAC Chairman George Georgiades said he had received only one letter from a company.

    "It is a fact that I have received a letter from one company saying they could be involved in the case because they had co-operated with the suspect and that now they want to pay for electricity which was perhaps not paid for," he said.

    Georgiades said he has been given legal advice not to reveal any names because that would affect the work of the authorities. He said he did not know if any prominent figures were involved, adding that as far as he knew no former minister had been implicated.

    But outspoken AKEL deputy Kikis Yiangou insisted yesterday that a former minister was in fact involved and that he would give the name to the House Watchdog Committee.

    He said this was clearly a case of "white collar crime", charging that the alleged offenders were "people of a higher class who had the power to keep their crimes under wraps".

    "All these businessmen have access to the upper levels of authority," Yiangou said. "How do you explain the fact that the suspect, a former EAC employee is being investigated for conspiracy to commit felony and is currently in custody? Why don't police arrest the other conspirators? Or was he conspiring with himself?"

    The Chairman of the House Watchdog Committee, DISY deputy Christos Pourgourides, said the list of those involved in the case should be made public.

    "The same principles applied for all citizens should be enforced," he said, adding that the names should be published and from then on it was the job of the Attorney-general to decide who would face justice.

    "The names cannot be kept a secret because prominent people are involved," Pourgourides said. "This is unfair and damaging to the public interest; it would show that we are a state of double standards."

    The fracas was sparked after the arrest of 71-year-old Michalis Masouras, a retired EAC technician who allegedly received money from people and companies all over the island to 'fix' their electricity meters so they saved thousands of pounds on their bills.

    Masouras reportedly kept a detailed notebook containing the names and addresses of his clients.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Union wants a law to end supermarket discounting

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE shopkeepers' union POVEK yesterday called for a law banning supermarkets from selling products at below cost price. But Commerce and Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis said that the European Commission has proposed a regulation that would not allow governments to interfere with such sales.

    On Tuesday Rolandis met representatives from the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE), POVEK, suppliers and the Supermarket Association to discuss unregulated supermarket discounts.

    Although the meeting ended with agreement to end selling below cost price, POVEK General Secretary Melios Georgiou said yesterday his union was still not completely satisfied, and called for a law that would prevent supermarkets from indulging in the practice.

    "You couldn't actually say that we came to an agreement to stop selling products below cost price," he said. "The supermarkets merely stated that this is what they would do -- but we do not have any written legally binding agreement."

    Even though plans were discussed to stop the practice by the end of this week, he said he wanted the Ministry to promise more concrete measures.

    But Rolandis' hands are tied since the European Commission has proposed a regulation that states selling retail goods below cost price should not be prohibited.

    The Minister did say that the regulation has to be adopted by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for it to become applicable in all member states.

    "Nonetheless, if it does become a regulation, it will supersede any member state's national legislation contrary to it."

    Greece and France may have existing legislation barring selling goods below cost price for the time being, he said, but this would be revoked the minute the proposal is adopted.

    Georgiou said Cyprus should go ahead and implement the law banning the practice, since "we are not yet part of the European Union" and if in the future the EU issues a regulation "we can re-examine our legislature".

    Rolandis disagreed with this approach.

    "As a candidate country, we feel we should wait and see what Brussels' position is so we do not jeopardise our accession course in any way or give them cause to feel we are provoking them," he said.

    The Minister said there are very strong views in the Commission to impose this regulation and that usually it seeks the advice of governments represented there before making a proposal.

    "I will be in contact with Brussels on Monday and will examine this delicate issue very carefully. Until then the unions and supermarkets seem to have come to some sort of informal agreement to stop the current practice," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Accident scam suspects remanded again

    By a Staff REporter

    TWO men suspected of defrauding insurance companies by staging fake accidents were yesterday re-remanded in custody for eight days after a marathon hearing in Nicosia District Court.

    It was the third remand order for garage owner Andreas Antoniou and his employee Haris Tsiakkas, both 27, who are suspected of staging numerous fake accidents and receiving thousands of pounds in insurance claims.

    The hearing had started on Wednesday morning and was adjourned in the afternoon.

    It continued yesterday well into the afternoon, but despite objections raised by the defence the two were remanded again.

    Four more people are also being held in connection with the same case, including a police officer and Antoniou's fiancée who is two months pregnant.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Inspectors sent to stricken tanker

    By Jean Christou

    THE MERCHANT Shipping Department has sent two UK-based ship inspectors to Cornwall where the Cyprus-flagged tanker Willy ran aground in bad weather on New Year's Day.

    "Two surveyors are on their way to the scene to investigate," senior surveyor Captain Andreas Constantinou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Reports from the UK said the 3,000-tonne Willy was to be inspected by marine experts yesterday after being monitored overnight by coastguards as a tug stood by in case it was needed.

    The grounding of the vessel in 30-knot gales on Tuesday caused the evacuation of 150 residents of the nearby village of Cawsand as police imposed a 1,000-metre exclusion zone and the 12-strong crew was safely evacuated.

    Although the ship's cargo of petrol had been offloaded at Plymouth, her vapour-filled holds meant there were fears of an explosion. The vessel had been carrying 93 tonnes of intermediate fuel oil, 41 tonnes of gas oil and five tones of lubricating oil when she was grounded.

    A Brixham coastguard told the Press Association that no one had boarded the tanker during the night as experts wanted to ensure it was safe before going aboard.

    Moves were already under way on Wednesday to pump air into the ship's hold to minimise the risk of an explosion.

    Shipping newspaper Lloyd's List said yesterday that fuel from the Willy had formed a kilometre-long film. The half kilometre wide leak from the vessel is not causing concern at the moment, authorities said.

    "It is not known how stable the vessel is, and there is concern she will break up," said Coastguard spokesman Wailim Wong.

    Constantinou said he hoped there would not be any criticism of the vessel or of the Cyprus flag over the casualty, since according to his information the ship was in excellent condition.

    "No one can claim the casualty was caused by the bad condition of the vessel," he said. "It simply ran aground in very bad weather."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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