Finance Minister Harris Georgiades has said that anti-money-laundering procedures in place in Cyprus are stricter than in any other European state, noting that an organised campaign to raise awareness is ongoing at an international level.
Georgiades, who was replying on Thursday evening to questions in the context of the 4th annual lecture he gave at the University of Cyprus on the Cypriot economy, assured that “matters have been corrected to a tremendous degree.”
If a non-Cypriot tries to open a bank account in Cyprus and he compares the procedure to open a bank account here with the procedure implemented in any other European state, he said, “I am convinced that in Cyprus the procedure will be stricter.”
The concern and fear felt by everyone, banks, state and Central Bank meant that in Cyprus we have overcompensated in order to restore our image and to reduce the risks, he noted.
The Finance Minister said that there is increased focus internationally and on a European level on this matter and in spite of improved procedures the government has introduced, there are reports, which are more often than not unfair to Cyprus.
Therefore, Georgiades said, part of the effort is not just to correct things but also to communicate these changes, adding that an organised raising awareness campaign at an international level over the corrective steps taken in Cyprus has been ongoing recently.
To that extent, he informed those present that a Cypriot senior delegation had met with the relevant US Under Secretary of State, in Indonesia, on the sidelines of the IMF’s annual meeting.
“The meeting went very well. The concerns raised by the American authorities have been addressed, whether they related to the banks or some investment organisations,” he said, adding that this is the path to follow with specific steps and correct communication so that “our country’s reputation and credibility on this matter is fully restored.”
Replying to a question on the IMF’s recent report, he said that he agrees with most observations made.
The Finance Minister clarified that it is expected that Cyprus’ public debt in 2018 will stand at 104% of GDP and not at 112% of GDP.
Replying to a question on the references made by the IMF about the Cyprus Investment Programme, Georgiades said that the government carefully monitors the programme, that it has already modified the scheme twice and has made scrutiny procedures stricter.
“We are vigilant at all times, monitoring and reviewing this programme like any other tool, in order to be able to correct it again if needs be,” he noted.
Georgiades also said he is in favour of the European Banking Union and supports the concept both at Eurogroup and ECOFIN level despite some questions he may have in particular on raising the bar of oversight continuously, something which in itself could cause destabilisation.
Referring to the Cooperative Sector and its partial sale to the Hellenic Bank he said that it was clear that its structures “could not have a place in this demanding European environment.” He added that “we had to take bold steps in order to prevent dangers and to ensure confidence and stability once and for all.”
The Hellenic Bank acquired a balance sheet amounting to €10.3 billion with 400,000 CCB clients transferred to Hellenic, rendering the bank the second largest lender and the largest retail bank in Cyprus.
The bank will close 43 CCB branches in October, whereas an additional 100 branches are expected to close in the next 15 months, while two mobile banking which are expected to become operational serving clients in rural communities.
A total of 1,100 employees of the CCB have transferred to Hellenic as part of the deal.
(Cyprus News Agency)