“We are not told anything and several people in the UK have committed suicide because of what is done to them”
It has been about seven years since the Central Bank (CBC) closed the Cypriot branch of a Tanzanian lender named the US’s leading money laundering financial institution, blocking access to deposits, and Affected savers have yet to hear any news about their money, some committing suicide out of desperation.
It all comes down to the fact that Cyprus and Tanzania have agreed to cooperate, freeing up some 1.3 billion euros held by foreign banks abroad. Struck depositors, however, shouldn’t expect to receive all of their money.
In a letter to the Sunday Mail, a group of UK-based depositors who wish to remain anonymous, urged the CBC to take control of the funds in FBME and return them to their rightful owners. The letter highlights the desperation felt by many and blames Cyprus for the deaths of several savers who have committed suicide.
“We are not told anything and several people in the UK have committed suicide because of what is done to them,” the letter said. “We blame the Cypriot authorities for this mess and for the loss of life. “
The CBC acquired the Cypriot branch of the FBME in July 2014, after the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) designated the lender as a lead financial institution in Hezbollah-linked money laundering, the Lebanese militia considered a terrorist organization in the United States. and the European Union.
FBME is based in Tanzania, but according to FinCEN it has carried out 90% of its global banking business through branches in Cyprus.
The report, which effectively prohibited US banks from opening and maintaining correspondent accounts with the FBME, prompted the SRC to place the bank under administration and subsequently in resolution.
The CBC revoked the branch’s license on December 21, 2015.
In April 2016, the CBC triggered the deposit guarantee scheme to compensate depositors up to € 100,000.
The depositors were paid the € 100,000, but they insist that the bank was not insolvent at the time and are claiming the amount of their deposits.
All funds remaining after this payment were blocked by the CBC, “which prevented us from getting more of our money.”
“The vast majority of account holders have nothing to do with money laundering. So far, to our knowledge, there have been no charges or prosecutions on this matter, ”they said.
The owners of the bank have consistently denied the charges. They also argued that their bank was solvent when the decision was made to resolve it.
However, according to Kleovoulos Alexandrou, currently the fourth director appointed by Radio-Canada, savers should not expect to get all their money back.
“They certainly won’t get all of their money,” he told the Sunday Mail in a telephone interview.
Alexandrou said a lot of time has passed and it will depend on the assets of the lender.
He said € 1.3 billion was withheld by foreign banks which would only release them if Cyprus and Tanzania agreed to the terms of the resolution.
The Bank of Tanzania revoked the FBME’s banking license in 2017 and decided to liquidate the lender. The country faces similar problems as savers are unable to access their money.
“There does not seem to be a solution to this problem, the customers of this bank have not been paid their deposits. Although they have huge deposits – such as 200 million shillings and 300 million shillings – they only have to be paid 1.5 million shillings, according to the regulations, ”a Tanzanian MP said quoting a member of parliament. in June of this year.
Cypriot courts have so far barred the CBC from appointing a liquidator despite 90 percent of deposits held by the Cypriot branch.
In August 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling declaring that FBME Bank Ltd could not be subject to liquidation proceedings as it was a foreign bank with a branch in Cyprus and not from a Cypriot bank.
Several months later, in January 2019, the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Republic of Cyprus in an appeal against the country by the owners of FBME.
The owners of the bank appealed to the court to seek 1.5 billion euros in damages from the Republic, citing its inability to protect their investment.
It is understood, however, that efforts to appoint a liquidator are underway, with Alexandrou hoping that a decision will be taken soon.
For the moment, the case is still bogged down in lengthy legal processes which savers believe are the fault of the Cypriot authorities.
“Some of these people have lifelong savings and pensions involved in this Cypriot fiasco. After the problems with the banks in 2013 and the closures and losses suffered by many people, including Cypriots, you would have thought that the Cypriot government would have paid more attention to the problem and the consequences of what bank closures and the freezing of accounts would kill families and lives. “