Cypriot policemen scuffle with bondholders outside a Bank of Cyprus
Nicosia - AFP
Around three hundred protesters scuffled with police Thursday as Bank of Cyprus held an AGM for shareholders to elect a new board at the island’s troubled largest lender.
A handful of demonstrators broke through a police cordon and forced their way into the BoC headquarters in central Nicosia.
They were rounded up by security inside, while other demonstrators threw stones, smashing signs and windows, witnesses said. No injuries or arrests were reported.
The protesters -- many of them bond holders who made heavy financial losses when the Cyprus banking system nearly collapsed last year -- hurled abuse at Finance Minister Harris Georgiades as he entered the building.
“Thieves go to jail” and “We want our money back,” cried the demonstrators, who had wanted to state their case at the AGM itself.
Former Deutsche Bank boss Josef Ackermann, 66, was voted in as new chairman of the board with Russian Vladimir Strzhalkovsky remaining deputy chairman, while ex-RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) chief executive John Patrick Hourican was kept on as CEO.
The shake-up comes after BoC successfully completed a private capital issue in July that attracted big-hitting foreign investors such as US billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.
In return for 10 billion euros ($12.5 billions) in aid from international lenders, the island in March 2013 agreed to wind down its second largest bank, Laiki, and impose losses on depositors in under-capitalised BoC.
Depositors in BoC were hit with a 47.5 percent "bail-in" as part of the bailout package.
BoC is now trying to steady the ship after restructuring and to overcome the problem of bad loans, which account for around of 50 percent of its loan portfolio.
The new 10-member board is said to be the smallest in the bank’s history with non-Cypriots in a 6-4 majority.
A year ago, 16 members were voted onto the board, 10 of them Cypriots and six Russians.