Owner of troubled Turkish Cypriot bank flees to Greek-held south
A financier allegedly involved in the banking scandal that has rocked Turkish-held northern Cyprus in recent months has fled to the Greek Cypriot south of the island and asked for asylum, fearing for his life, according to police reports from both sides.
Turkish Cypriot Elmas Guzelyurtlu, 48, who made his getaway Tuesday evening, was a director and shareholder of Everest bank, one of the six financial institutions which has been put under state administration in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
"He walked into a Larnaca police station on Monday night and said he was afraid for his life," a police source told AFP, adding that his whereabouts are being kept secret for security reasons.
"There are fears that Turkish agents are roaming the free areas to track down the banker," said the police source.
The banker crossed over at the UN-controlled mixed village of Pyla late Monday and was then escorted to a Greek Cypriot police station at Oroklini - some 50 kilometres from the capital Nicosia.
The Interior Ministry was considering whether he should be granted asylum or sent abroad for his own safety.
After the Turkish Cypriot finance ministry found a loss of some $30 million in Everest bank, Guzelyurtlu and 12 other bank managers were banned from leaving the TRNC and had their passports seized as prosecutors started an investigation.
Subsequent court appeals by the 48-year-old businessman for the lifting of the ban on going abroad with the aim of selling his property in Britain and saving the bank were rejected.
TRNC prime minister Dervis Eroglu described Guzelyurtlu's escape as an "act undertaken in guilt" and guessed that the runaway was likely to go to Britain.
"We have good dialogue and cooperation with British police. We will, of course, cooperate with them on this issue as well", he told reporters in Nicosia.
The banking scandal has put a further strain on the embargo-hit TRNC's struggling economy which is heavily-dependent on financial help from Turkey, the only country to recognize the self-proclaimed state.
An estimated 30,000 people were affected by the banking scandal, in which they lost about $200 million, according to official figures.
In July, thousands of protesters broke into the parliament building in Nicosia, briefly taking Eroglu hostage, in a bid to get the government to pay them their monthly compensation to cover losses incurred after the banking scandal.
Turkey has also become increasingly critical of Eroglu whom it accuses of poorly managing the TRNC economy, and has said that it will intervene to bring back order.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied the northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia seeking to unite the island with Greece.— (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)