Church tight-lipped over €50m investor

By Elias Hazou – January 2014

ARCHBISHOP Chrysostomos has said the Church has secured a €50m loan from a foreign investor – but is it another flash in the pan?

The wheeler-dealer Archbishop, who first broke the news to reporters last week, has steadfastly refused to name the investor, whose identity remains a mystery.

Whereas initially the Prelate had enthusiastically talked up the investment – claiming the €50m would be used to create jobs, among others in the tourism sector, and even cited debt-ridden Cyprus Airways as a potential beneficiary of the cash injection – he has since cooled off.

Speaking to newsmen this week, Chrysostomos let off that even he has turned somewhat incredulous about the loan.

“Unless and until I see the money actually flowing into the account of the Church, I want to be something of a doubting Thomas,” he said.

Yet perhaps giving out mixed signals, Chrysostomos had earlier insisted that signatures have been put on paper.

The head of the Church declined to disclose any further details, except to say that the first installment of the loan – around €5m – was due on January 17.

“We have nothing to hide,” Chrysostomos said, responding to persistent questions from the media.

All would be revealed once the deal was 100 per cent and the money came through, he added.

Daily Politis, meanwhile, has suggested that the foreign investor is likely the Triple Five Group, a US-Canadian conglomerate.

It is the same conglomerate which had expressed an interest in investing in Cyprus back in March 2012.

Talks with the then government had culminated in a visit here by Nader Ghermezian, the Triple Five chairman.

Following a meeting with President Demetris Christofias at the Palace, Ghermezian called Cyprus “one of the best countries in the world today to invest in.”

Triple Five was at the time reportedly interested in buying up to €500m worth of government bonds, establishing a new bank in Cyprus and investing in Cyprus Airways, among others.

Nothing came of the contacts, although memories lingered of a photo-op with the fedora-wearing Ghermezian planting a kiss on Christofias’ cheek.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to the Church said the €50m loan deal was concluded with a foreign company “some time ago.”

The low-interest loan to the Archbishopric – the Mail was unable to find out the rate – was all but a done deal, the sources said.