Opposition parties are up in arms over alleged selling of assets belonging to the collapsed Cyprus Cooperative Bank in a non-transparent way by KEDIPES – the asset management company formed to undertake the bad part of the lender.
The House Watchdog Committee yesterday heard that prime property is now in the hands of politically-exposed persons as well as former officials of the defunct bank and even people who are now employed at KEDIPES.
A month ago, main opposition Akel leader Andros Kyprianou sent letters to both President Nicos Anastasiades and Attorney-General Costas Clerides asking for a probe into the management of the assets of the co-op bank.
Akel also demanded that parliament looks into the “non-transparent” way Co-op assets are sold, with MPs yesterday describing it as a “never ending party» at the expense of the tax payer who paid some €3.5 billion to support the peoples’ lender.
In addition, MPs said that preferential inside information has been given to certain buyers. KEDIPES’ acting CEO Stavros Iacovou dismissed the allegations, but did say that five property sale cases concerned politically exposed persons. And that there was no restriction on the participation of former Co-op officials in the real estate sale since they are entitled to bid in relevant procedures.
Iacovou then pointed out that employees or relatives of employees of former Co-op bank or of Altamira (the company which had taken over the lender’s non-performing loans portfolio before its collapse) participated in a total of 27 bidding procedures, stating their relationship from the start. Of these, only four got property belonging to the defunct bank.
He also said that out of 38 different cases where bids had been submitted by community councils, only five came through.
However, only a couple of days ago MPs got to realise that they had their facts wrong over the state of play of Co-op’s properties which amounted to some 3,000 with an overall value of €600 million. In addition, they were only told yesterday that Altamira, and not KEDIPES, has the management of defunct Co-op’s real estate.
As a matter of fact, the management is not limited to property for which 2,100 titles were received from owners by the Central Co-operative Bank over debt settlement. It also includes real estate for which 900 titles were received and which concern investment properties as well as mixed properties and ones used by the Co-op bank itself.
Auditor General Odyseas Michaelides pointed out that the original agreement between the Co-op bank and Altamira was modified along the way without transparency or an open tender. But this was dismissed by the Finance Ministry’s Dionysis Dionysiou who was taking part at the House meeting.
At the same time, the KEDIPES representative said that all Co-op properties on sale are posted on Altamira’s website after their evaluation is conducted by two independent real estate appraisers.