Cyprus revokes license of Yugoslav bank owned by Karic family
The Cypriot branch of Astra Banka, once closely linked to Yugoslavia's disgraced Milosevic regime, has had its operating license revoked, a senior Cyprus Central Bank official said Wednesday, November 21.
"We revoked the license after the National Bank of Yugoslavia informed us they were winding up operations at Astra Banka in Belgrade," Spyros Stavrinakis told AFP. He said the authorities would now ask a court to appoint an administrator, who will work closely with the National Bank of Yugoslavia. Astra Banka, formerly named Karic Banka, was put under the administration of the National Bank earlier this month due to insolvency.
"The Karic family bank will go into liquidation to pay off liability, but most of its loans were extended to the Karic group. It was a small operation here," said Stavrinakis. "The bank had links with Milosevic, and Karic switched sides after the regime collapsed," he added. With Astra Banka closing in Nicosia, the island has seen the last of three major Yugoslav banks that thrived on Cyprus during Slobodan Milosevic's 12-year rule in Belgrade.
Beogradska was the largest banking unit, folding due to insolvency after former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power last year. It was allegedly a significant conduit for dirty cash and a major reason why Cyprus earned an unwanted reputation of being a money-laundering center.
UN war crime investigators and the new government in Belgrade believes Cyprus offshore accounts were key to Milosevic money-laundering activity, with an estimated four billion dollars vanishing from Yugoslav state coffers.
Astra Banka linked Serbian tycoon Bogoljub Karic with the Milosevic regime and is alleged to have profited from favouritism, which enabled his business empire to grow. Prior to the closure, the Belgrade authorities ordered Karic to pay tax on wealth allegedly accumulated on privileges while Milosevic ruled Yugoslavia.
Cyprus accommodates 30 international banking units. The newest license to operate in Nicosia was issued to Russia's Promsvyaz Bank on Wednesday. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)