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Cyprus Popular Bank chairman ordered to quit

Michalis Sarris, the chairman of the Cyprus Popular Bank has been asked to step down after accusing the island’s government of making serious mistakes in a recent television interview for the BBC.

MICHALIS Sarris, a former Cyprus finance minister who was appointed chairman of the Marfin Laiki Bank earlier this year, has been asked to step down by Cypriot government officials.

According to media reports, the move to force Mr Sarris from office results from comments he made during an interview with HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur in May this year, in which he accused the government of making severe mistakes. It is anticipated that Mr Sarris’ successor will be Andreas Phillipou.

Michalis Sarris is the second senior banking official to find himself out of a job after crossing swords with the government.

Athanasios Orphanides, who served as Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus between May 2007 and May 2012, was not reappointed to the position. This followed accusations by the government that Mr Orphanides had not advised ministers about the critical state of the economy; a claim that Mr Orphanides vehemently denied.

Mr Orphanides accused President Demetris Christofias of doing nothing to shield the island’s banking system from the impact of the Greek debt. Christofias rebuffed the accusation saying that at no time in the past had Orphanides warned him about the exposure to the Greek debt.

However, President Christofias’ assertion was recently placed in serious doubt following the leak of a bundle of letters from Mr Orphanides to the government showing that he had repeatedly asked to meet Christofias, warning of the dire straits the economy was entering.

Readers' comments

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  • @Richard Knowles – The reason for Mr Sarris resignation was published in the ‘Wall Street Journal’ – “Cypriot government officials had asked Mr. Sarris, a former Cyprus finance minister who was appointed to head the bank earlier this year, to step down after he accused the government of making severe mistakes in a recent television interview, a Cyprus government official said, adding that comments Mr. Sarris made during an appearance on BBC’s “Hardtalk” program had a political tint.”

    ABC News reported that “Sarris didn’t elaborate on the reasons why he was asked to leave. But he has been critical of the government’s handling of the economy as the recession-stricken country’s credit rating sank into junk territory.”

    Bloomberg also carried a report.

  • Janner says:

    Richard Knowles,

    That is an extreme view. You make it sound like those seeking justice will never beat the banks. If the banks are above the law, does that include the lawyers? If this is the case then all the deception that has gone on will never be punished and justice not administered for the masses.

    If what you say is true then the world will implode. Now that is extreme!

  • Richard Knowles says:

    @Mike, while it might seem that banks are a free enterprise system that government shouldn’t be involved, anyone in banking and politics knows this has never been really achieved. The central banking systems since the inception of the industrial revolution has always had control of government and vice versa. This marriage has never been a “separation of church and state” so to speak. Banks form all democratic nations, especially noting Britain and the USA as prime leading examples, have controlled the outcome of political policy, controlled the fate of elections and financing of poltical candidates and controlled the fiscal and economic policy of these ( and any developed industrialized) nation’s. They are above the law and any educated man knows this.
    To paraphrase the quote from Great Britain’s own Baron Rothschild ( founder of the Rothschild mega financial Empire)

    “I care not what puppet is placed on
    the throne of England to rule the Empire, …
    The man that controls Britain’s money
    supply controls the British Empire…..And I control the money supply.”

  • Richard Knowles says:

    I believe the ” media reports” are false. There is nothing he said that would have had the Cyprus government fire him. It was a well defended attack from a self serving pompous journalist, where Mr Sarris is found speaking highly of Cyprus’ government’s efforts facing harrowing odds. His points were well placed and supportive saying they had single digit unemployment, reunification, while held off due to exploration of nat gas, was still being worked on and addressed the innovative solutions of financial bailout by the government through the EU central bank even in the face of threats of banks being exposed to loss of depositors. I don’t see a single place where the government would have felt they were exposed to libelous statements. In fact, quite the opposite.

  • @John Swift – I doubt he’ll receive a cent. He was appointed as non-executive chairman of the board eight months ago.

    It is, in my opinion, extremely stupid of the government to have forced his resignation. Having met him on two occasions I was impressed by his honesty, professionalism and integrity – he is a very capable individual who could have achieved a lot if Catastrofias & co. had left him alone to get on with things.

    But as it appears he wasn’t prepared to toe the government line, they knifed him in the back.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    I’m not sure Khristochev is desperatly trying to emulate current neo-communist leaders abroad. There aren’t many left and even Russia is a proto-capitalist proto-democracy. No, I think Khristo thinks he has much more in common with those old style Euro commies now long consigned to the dustbin of history:

    Enver Hoxha
    Todor Zhivkov
    Jarozelski
    Erik Honecker
    Milosevic

    Not to worry, it’s his turn to join them very soon.

  • John Swift says:

    Wonder how many euro millions he’ll get as a pay off?

  • Curmudgen says:

    Gavin Jones makes a good point likening President Christofias to former communist leaders. Given the warm relationship between the government and communist states (Russia and China) perhaps he has more communism in his blood than I thought. Dread the next steps.

  • Basura says:

    When I watched this interview, I thought, “What a breath of fresh air”, that Mr. Sarris was being so refreshingly honest, a rare event in this dry and corrupted land. So now the stunted dwarf has said “Off with his head” thus proving once again that Cyprus has more in common with Alice in Wonderland than even we might have given credence to.

    Basura

  • Adrian says:

    This is typical, “nobody told me the explosives would blow up and wreck the power station” and nobody told me the banks were at risk” and “we are in talks about it”. The next we will get is “a big boy did it and ran away”.

    There is only one thing to go and it must be this useless government. NOW BEFORE THEY DO ANYMORE DAMAGE

  • Mike says:

    Well at least Cyprus has managed to do what UK has consistently failed to do; that is get the banks to listen to government and be seen do do as they instruct.

    Why government should be interfering with a Banks commercial activities, unless it is suspected that those activities are anything but legal, moral or ethical is beyond me. I guess I answered my own question there!

    Regarding Robert Briggs’ question on democracy – the following may help: A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public purse. From that moment on, the majority
    always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship of sorts.”

  • MARTYN says:

    Yes, the Great Dictator, but awful Leader, has sacked, surprise, surprise, the only person who has given detailed open and honest assessments in international forums about the dire financial and economic situations in this country.

    But, Michalis Sarris will now have greater freedom to ‘speak out’, hopefully in depth, about numerous problems in banking, finance and, particularly, government. Yes, he would make, I think, a good next President – but would the general Cypriot electorate embrace, vote for, someone willing to spell out not only what has gone so awfully wrong but also the severe measures, actions that would need to be taken, probably over at least 2 terms of government, to start putting them right? Very probably not.

  • David says:

    Sarris for President in 2013

  • Costas Apacket says:

    The Cypriot Politburo strikes again.

    Sarris should have known that anyone telling the truth, or even saying something remotely sensible, in public, was bound to lead to a severe reprimand from the Great Dictator.

    Sarris ought to take this has a compliment, an endorsement of his integrity, and be proud of this latest development.

    Let’s look forwards to, hopefully, more revelations from Mr Sarris, once he has been relieved of his duties and is free to speak out.

  • Jim says:

    The amateur dictator strikes again.

    I wonder what state the country will be in, when this government is removed.

    I fear for the financial safety of assets kept in Cyprus & have been removing my own as quickly as is possible.

    At the moment, we are in the calm before the storm, but when the troika hits, I hope to have only my house here & a monthly income to live on.

  • Robert Briggs says:

    If Cyprus is supposed to be a democracy, why then is Mr Sarris, who was only stating the “facts of life” to these idiots, being forced to resign by this so called government?

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Well, what a surprise.

    I suppose Michael Sarris should be thankful that he isn’t living in the Soviet era as he would have been dispatched with a bullet in the back of the head, sent to the Gulag or would have simply disappeared. Ditto ex-Central Bank Governor Orphanides.

    Communist President Christofias displays the traits of former Soviet leaders who tolerated no dissent whatsoever. I suppose Sarris will be relieved that the equivalent of the Lubyanka doesn’t exist in Nicosia.

  • Peter II says:

    Typical Cypriot (aka mafia) politics. If he doesn’t do as we say, shut him up!

    This government (if you can call it that), more like a kangaroo administration, has shown it’s true colours yet again. The president takes no responsibility for anything. Shame he won’t stand again so we can have the pleasure of telling him to F off!

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