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Cyprus Complied With EU Sanctions, Petrides Says In Reply To CBS Report

Cyprus Complied With EU Sanctions, Petrides Says In Reply To CBS Report

Cyprus complied from the start with the EU sanctions against Russia, Finance Minister, Constantinos Petrides said in reply to a report aired by the CBS show "60 Minutes". He clarified that Cyprus' exposure to Russian capital is much smaller than the one suggested by the show and said that the network presented only part of his statement, calling this "unethical".

Moreover, the Minister noted that the repeated interest of foreign media on Cyprus has to do with the "sinful past" of the country, although several things have changed in the last ten years. In relation to the Cyprus Investment Program, the Minister spoke of "mistakes" that tarnished the image of Cyprus abroad.

Petrides noted that Cyprus, as an EU member, complied with EU sanctions against Russia, despite their adverse effects on the Cypriot economy. However, he said, there were a lot of "fake news" in the foreign press, presenting Cyprus as a country opposing sanctions or rumors about Cyprus' ineffective implementation of European sanctions, or that Cyprus continues to be a safe haven for Russian oligarchs' capital.

Also, he highlighted that the exposure of Cyprus' economy to Russian capital is very different today, that it was in the pre-2013 era, when most of the things reported by CBS took place.

According to the Minister, by the end of 2021 total loans with exposure to Russia comprised only 0.8% of total loans. In the same period, total deposits with exposure to Russia represented just 3.8%, compared to 40% in 2013. "This amount is a far cry from the CBS claim that the exposure of the Cypriot banking system to Russia is €5.6 billion. In reality this exposure does not exceed €1 billion. It is sad that such inaccuracies are said by an international news network", he noted.

In addition, Petrides said that banks in Cyprus in recent years, interpret and apply in the strictest way the framework of combating Money Laundering. This practice, documented by the MONEYVAL Report in 2019, he said, has led to the closure of more than 80,000 accounts and rejection of account opening requests for thousands more. Furthermore, he added that Cyprus does not hold any reserves of the Central Bank of Russia, unlike other European countries.

In relation to the implementation of sanctions, the Minister said that this is documented in detail by the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) of Cyprus by MONEYVAL. In addition, "the government, by decision of the Council of Ministers in June 2021, decided to establish and operate a 'National Sanctions Enforcement Unit', based on the model of the corresponding Unit in the United Kingdom" the Office for Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI).

Petrides stated that, due to sanctions, Cyprus has so far frozen €105 million in deposits, with another €720 million from investment companies registered in Cyprus and €719 million in funds held by administrative service providers supervised by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission.

Finally, the Minister said that, to date, the Council of Ministers has approved the launch of a process to deprive Cypriot citizenship from 63 persons and 96 of their dependents, a total of 159 persons. Of these, 10 persons are under the sanctions regime with 31 dependents, he added.

The reports of EU and international organizations on Cyprus, but also the upgrades of the Cypriot economy "demonstrate the opposite image to that of tolerance or inaction, which is sometimes projected", he noted, adding that in the last ten years the government has made great progress in transparency and combating Money Laundering, "a progress which is recognized internationally."

"At the same time, mistakes have been made, especially with regard to the Cyprus Investment Program which tarnished the image of Cyprus abroad. However, these mistakes cannot undo the enormous progress that has been made in recent years and which must continue, nor be used to further stigmatize our country", he concluded.

Finally, the Minister clarified that his interview on the network was over an hour, while an exchange of emails followed. "Those seconds were cherry-picked, to convey this image", he said, adding that "I don't think this is ethical, especially for a news agency of this scale".

Source: CNA

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