Dou­ble stan­dards for Ira­nian de­pos­i­tors

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

In the light of the grow­ing of­fi­cial ties be­tween Iran and Cyprus, a num­ber of non-po­lit­i­cal emis­saries from Tehran are regularly meet­ing se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on mat­ters of mu­tual trade in­ter­est. Cyprus is keen to es­tab­lish some kind of favoured sta­tus re­la­tion­ship in the oil and gas area and, no doubt, get some­thing out of in­creased trade once the sanc­tions end, prob­a­bly in the first quar­ter of 2016.

Over the past ten years or so, and de­spite an­tiIran sanc­tions, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Ira­ni­ans have also bought prop­erty in Cyprus. Some come and go on a ‘hol­i­day home’ ba­sis, oth­ers ac­tu­ally live here with res­i­dence pa­pers and oth­ers con­duct in­ter­na­tional busi­ness.

How­ever, over the past two years, many have ex­pe­ri­enced in­creas­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with the Cyprus banks. Even those with long-stand­ing ac­counts of more than ten years have found dif­fi­culty in get­ting money trans­ferred in from abroad. Most of these prob­lems may have stemmed from the sanc­tions, but these Ira­ni­ans are be­gin­ning to won­der if there is some­thing more sin­is­ter in­volved as they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing prob­lems with the banks be­yond the ac­tual sanc­tions.

Typ­i­cally, even when pre­sent­ing cash sums for de­posit, they are be­ing re­fused, with the most com­plaints we have re­ceived re­lated to one pri­mary bank that seems to be the main of­fender which is re­fus­ing to ac­cept any de­posits (not just elec­tronic) to pay for mort­gages that Ira­ni­ans have on their Cyprus prop­er­ties. Then, the bank whacks them with hefty penal­ties for not pay­ing their mort­gages, with one case in­volv­ing so far a bank penalty of 11,000 eu­ros and a threat of re­pos­ses­sion.

At first glance, it looks like wil­ful abuse and ex­ploita­tion by the bank and one can spec­u­late that they are just cyn­i­cally look­ing for ways to steal the money of these peo­ple. How­ever, this is all hap­pen­ing quite bizarrely at a time when the two gov­ern­ments pub­licly ex­press so much entente cor­diale. More­over, many of the in­di­vid­ual af­fected are very well con­nected back in Iran and their anger at this mis­treat­ment is so great that they will register at the high­est level their dis­plea­sure at their treat­ment by Cyprus banks. One can en­vis­age this mat­ter spread­ing rapidly across the highly so­phis­ti­cated so­cial and busi­ness net­works in Iran (the mes­sage is “avoid Cyprus like the plague”) and for it to be raised at the diplo­matic level. Thus, just at a time when Pres­i­dent Anas­tas­si­ades is try­ing to im­prove the trade and gen­eral re­la­tions be­tween Cyprus and Iran, some­one high at the banks has di­rected branches to throw a span­ner in the works. Why?

When the sanc­tions are lifted, there will be vast amounts of pent-up money com­ing out of Iran seek­ing in­vest­ments of all kinds. If Cyprus banks con­tinue to treat their ex­ist­ing Ira­nian cus­tomers so badly, it is highly un­likely that much of that new money will end up in Cyprus.

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