Cyprus watchdog asks UK to help with Laiki probe
NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus’s securities regulator will ask for assistance from Britain in a probe into transactions ordered by now-defunct Laiki Bank and conducted by Germany’s Commerzbank, it said yesterday. The Cypriot Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) is in- vestigating transactions made by Laiki and arranged by Commerzbank after complaints from a local lawmaker that the deals may have broken laws prohibiting a company from purchasing its own stock. Cypriot lawmaker Irene Charalambides, who filed a complaint to Cypriot authorities and to German’s financial services regulator Bafin, as reported by Reuters last week, alleges Commerzbank sold two structured products that acted as vehicles for Laiki to buy stock in itself and affiliates. Commerzbank has said it has no indication of any wrongdoing by Commerzbank related to the securities. The bank declined to comment yesterday. Laiki, once Cyprus’s second-largest bank, was taken into administration and wound down under terms of a 10-billioneuro international financial assistance package to Cyprus in March 2013. Some 4.3 billion euros in uninsured deposits exceeding the EU threshold of 100,000 was wiped out. On Monday, Charalambides said she had also asked Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority to assist in the probe because, she said, the structured products were arranged by a Commerzbank branch in the UK. The FCA had no immediate comment.
The number of banks and financial institutions in the euro area continued to decline in 2013, falling by 3.8 percent from the figure in 2012, the European Central Bank said yesterday. “On January 1, 2014 there were 6,790 MFIs (monetary financial institutions) resident in the euro area, compared with 7,059 on January 1, 2013,” the ECB said in a statement. The drop was sharpest in Cyprus, where the number of MFIs dropped by 26 percent, followed by a decline of 17 percent in Greece and 16 percent in Luxembourg, the central bank calculated.