FBME owners seek ICC arbitration to stop branch sale

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By Stelios Orphanides

THE shareholders of the FBME, the Tanzanian bank whose Cyprus operations were placed under administration by the Central Bank of Cyprus following money laundering allegations in the United States, has resorted to the arbitration court of the International Chamber of Commerce, a spokesman said.

The central bank took over the management of FBME Bank in Cyprus four months ago and adopted resolution measures which include the sale of the Cyprus unit’s operations after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the US Department of Treasury named FBME as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern on July 17.

“The owners will not be happy to see the bank sold,” the shareholders’ spokesman Nigel Perry, managing director of Perry Associates, said. “This was a unilateral decision by the CBC and opposed to the sale from the beginning”.

Perry added that the mere admissibility of the case means that the Paris-based ICC accepts that the case of the Lebanese shareholders of FBME has merit, as a bilateral promotion and protection of investments agreement between Cyprus and Lebanon prohibits the nationalisation and expropriation of citizens of one county by the other.

The forced-sale of the bank is an expropriation, Perry said.

According to a statement distributed on behalf of the shareholders, “measures taken by the Central Bank of Cyprus, including the sale of the Cyprus branch of FBME Bank, clearly come as an obvious and unjustified infringement of this agreement, especially in the absence of any litigation or conviction against the Bank.”

“These measures were issued under the Special Resolution Decree of the Central Bank of Cyprus which was designed for insolvent banks or those facing serious liquidity problems, not a healthy financial institution such as FBME Bank, where the financial position at the time of the Resolution was and still is sound and fully in line with capital adequacy and solvency requirements of the European Central Bank and of the Central Bank of Cyprus itself.”

In August, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the bank’s owners that the CBC should suspend the CBC’s decree for the sale of the FBME’s Cyprus operations.

The central bank was unavailable for a comment.

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Stelios Orphanides is a journalist at CyprusBusinessMail.com. To contact Stelios Orphanides: [email protected]