Monday 22 January 2018

'It's a total disaster – the country is destroyed'

Shane Phelan Nicosia

"THEY have killed our golden goose and they are now taking the eggs."

These words, spoken by Dublin-born Bernadette Charolambus, pretty much sum up the reaction of Cypriot-based Irish businesspeople to the €10bn EU/IMF bailout deal, which will see thousands lose their jobs in the country's banks and large investors losing billions in deposits.

Mrs Charolambus, a conference administrator based in Limassol who runs the Cyprus-Ireland Network, fears the penal terms of the deal will decimate the financial services sector.

"From what we see, Cyprus is finished. We are going to be saddled with these huge debts for years to come," she said.

"It will kill financial services, which is the main industry here. Offshore companies are going to ship out. They have destroyed Cyprus. It is a disaster."

Thomas Keane, an Irish lawyer working with foreign investors in Cyprus, was equally downbeat. He expects up to 8,500 jobs will be lost when the Popular Bank of Cyprus (Laiki) – one of the country's two main lenders – closes.

Wealthy

Clare-born Mr Keane's firm, Keane Vgenopoulou & Associates, represents several wealthy Russian corporations with investments in Cyprus.

Russian investors – whose deposits of around €30bn account for about a third of money held by Cypriot banks – look set to be hardest hit.

"You are looking at depositors and foreign investors with substantial deposits in the two Cypriot banks suffering quite a substantial hit," he said.

"As a consequence the credibility of Cyprus as a financial centre will be greatly damaged. This will result in a move away from Cyprus, a reduction in international transactions here, which in turn is going to reduce the tax take of the government."

Meanwhile, there was some good news for a group of up to 30 Irish property investors whose money is tied up in a Cypriot bank.

Richard Jones, a Mayo-based project finance consultant involved with the investors, said their money would not be affected as it was in a bank where deposits were not going to be raided.

The investors, mostly Irish ex-pats living in the Middle East, put at least €20,000 each into a fund to buy property back in Ireland.

Irish Independent

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