Grand Theft Cyprus: Part II

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    An employee of a luxury hotel hangs a Greek flag from a balcony in Athens, Friday, March 22, 2013, ahead of the national parade to mark Greek Independence Day on Monday, March 25. Greece's Finance Ministry says it has started talks with authorities in Cyprus for the sale of Cypriot bank operations in Greece, as the weeklong bailout crisis threatening the Mediterranean island with bankruptcy remains unresolved. The ministry said Friday that the proposed acquisition by Greek banks would "totally safeguard" deposits in Greece at the Cypriot banks. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

    An employee of a luxury hotel hangs a Greek flag from a balcony in Athens, Friday, March 22, 2013, ahead of the national parade to mark Greek Independence Day on Monday, March 25. Greece’s Finance Ministry says it has started talks with authorities in Cyprus for the sale of Cypriot bank operations in Greece, as the weeklong bailout crisis threatening the Mediterranean island with bankruptcy remains unresolved. The ministry said Friday that the proposed acquisition by Greek banks would “totally safeguard” deposits in Greece at the Cypriot banks. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)


    Cypriot legislators rejected Plan A. At issue was taxing savings accounts over 100,000 euros 9.9 percent and small depositors 6.75 percent. Plan B followed.

    On March 21, the Financial Times headlined “Cyprus targets big depositors in bank plan,” saying:

    On Friday, Cypriot legislators will “debate a 61-page bill on the banking system …(L)awmakers (say) they need more time….”

    Seven other bills were tabled. One included banking activity restrictions. Issues regarding check cashing and other transactions were addressed.

    The Wall Street Journal headlined “Clock Ticks on Cyprus,” saying:

    Legislators will consider a plan “to restrict noncash transactions, curtail check checking, limit withdrawals and even convert checking accounts into fixed-term deposits…”

    Time is short. On March 21, the ECB said emergency liquidity (ELA) ends Monday. It’ll do if an agreement isn’t reached on raising billions of euros internally.

    Eurocrats greeted Cyprus’ new initiative cautiously. A statement said:

    “The eurogroup stands ready to discuss with the Cypriot authorities a draft new proposal, which it expects the Cyprus authorities to present as rapidly as possible.”

    “The eurogroup would subsequently, on the basis of a troika analysis that needs to be undertaken, be prepared to continue negotiations on an adjustment programme, while respecting the parameters defined earlier by the eurogroup.”

    A Wall Street Journal editorial was blunt. Cyprus Popular (Laiki Bank) and Bank of Cyprus are insolvent. They’re the island state’s two largest banks.

    “Let them go bust,” said the Journal. Instead of negotiating how to inject capital, “time would be better spent arranging for their bankruptcy.”

    Cyprus is sick and failing. Eurocrats demand their pound of flesh. Stealing is their favorite way. Bailing out bankers matters most. What Cypriots face could happen anywhere. Grand theft is Western policy.

    Ellen Brown said Cyprus’ plan “was long in the making.” Confiscation schemes aren’t limited to Cyprus. She quoted Martin Hutchinson saying:

    If insolvency concerns “become really serious …(s)mall savers will take their money out of banks and resort to household safes and a shotgun.”

    Haircut schemes like Cyprus date from “the 1997 Asian financial crisis,” Brown said. At issue are expensive bank failures. Governments balk at bailing out lenders on their own.

    Creditors are easy pickings. They include “customers with cheque and savings accounts and term deposits.”

    Banks get bailed out. Savers get sold out. They get IOUs. They’re stuck with problems they didn’t cause. It can happen anywhere. In America, FDIC deposit insurance doesn’t matter. It’s worthless. Government diktats have final say.

    Financial tyranny overrides promised safety. Profiteers “get off scot-free.” Sovereign debt holders and other investors lose nothing. Grand theft reflects policy. Force-fed austerity makes ordinary people pay.

    If Cypriot bankers steal depositors’ savings, others anywhere can do the same thing. “Precedent will be established,” says Brown. Governments can make ordinary people bear burden sharing responsibility. Lots of dirty schemes can be imposed.

    “The push to confiscate the savings of hard-working Cypriot citizens is a shot across the bow for every working person in the world…”

    It’s “a wake-up call to the perils of a system in which tiny cadres of elites call the shots and the rest of us pay the price.”

    It reflects money power in private hands. It’s corrupt and ruthless. It’s a cancer endangering freedom. It can’t co-exist with democracy. Technocrats control things. Ordinary people are fleeced. They’re easy prey. They have no say.

    Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Cyprus’ scheme undermines global banking. “If such a solution is possible in Cyprus, it’s possible everywhere.”

    It “mean(s) there’s no place to keep money and that the banking system has stopped working.”

    He’s worried about Russian nationals. Of 68 billion euros in Cyprus banks, about one-third’s from non-EU countries. Much comes from Russian depositors.

    Economist Howard Davies says “Cyprus exposes (the) folly of eurozone banking union.”

    “Over the past three years, the EU has shown a remarkable facility for turning problems into crises into catastrophes.”

    Europe remains “a long way from financial stability.” Globalized economies won’t escape. Desperation measures are wrongheaded. Responsible solutions aren’t chosen.

    Depositors think savings are safe. Once they learn otherwise, they’ll take their money and run. Europe’s a house of cards. Money printing madness solves nothing. Robbing ordinary people reflects tyranny.

    Cyprus is a wakeup call. Most people don’t pay attention. They do so at their own risk.

    On March 21, Cypriot authorities announced a National Solidarity Fund. It’s a thinly veiled scheme.

    It involves stealing personal savings and pensions. It’s about playing fast and loose with state resources. Reports say Eurocrats reject nationalizing state pension funds.

    They’re against bonds based on future offshore gas deposit revenues. They want insolvent Cypriot banks recapitalized. They prioritize “bail-ins.”

    They favor targeting uninsured depositors. Many are foreign account holders. Thousands of Russians have Cypriot accounts.

    Cyprus is more than a small, Mediterranean island state. It’s a well-known tax haven. It specializes in incorporating offshore companies. European investors and businessmen take full advantage.

    Companies nominally pay 10 percent of profits. Clever accountants and lawyers assure lower amounts. Withholding taxes don’t apply to dividend payments. No wealth tax is assessed.

    Low taxes make Cyprus ideal offshore accounts.

    Cyprus International trusts are advantaged. They’re tax-free on income earned offshore. Dividends and interest aren’t taxed.

    Privacy is guaranteed. Bank employees and others associated with Cypriot banks swear secrecy oaths. Cyprus’ central bank requires them.

    Cyprus is business friendly. It advantages investors, debt holders and offshore depositors. They enjoy low tax liabilities legally. They do so as long as hairbrained schemes don’t target them.

    Things are up for grabs. They’re in flux. Legislators will decide what’s next. Eurocrats must approve it. They demand their pound of flesh. Expect ordinary Cypriots to be hit hardest. It always turns out that way.

    Force-fed austerity is policy. When will people harmed say no more? Things that can’t go on forever, won’t. Economist Herb Stein once said so. It’s just a matter of time.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].

    His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

    Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

    Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

    It airs Fridays at 10 a.m. U.S. Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


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