Cyprus’ EU bailout fund and the Russian mafia

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Cypriot police standing alert at a murder crime scene in the heart of Ayia Napa’s night club scene, near the popular Russian Red Square Bar and Aqua Club in Famagusta. Photo – Cyprus-mail.com

The need of the hour seems to be aid and assistance. With countries like Greece and Spain already seeing protests in their streets, there is a move to get it out as soon as possible to limit the damage that seems to be sweeping through the Eurozone. This all seems well and good until one realises that the aid being provided can have indirect consequences as well. EU has recently approved an aid package for the island nation of Cyprus but experts fear that knowing the Russian mafias’ stronghold in Cyprus; it will benefit the gangsters in one way or the other. Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, has long seen immigration from Russia due to its hot climate and emerging economy. Analysts feel that the situation mimics the one that existed in the US in the early 1920s where the settled immigrants had started using organised crime in order to exploit the new country and expand their networks beyond their own borders.

Cyprus is seeing a similar influx of Russian immigrants and there are fears that with the immigrants, the country has also played host to the tentacles of organised crime. In addition to the social migration, the country has also seen funds being moved from Russia to Cyprus in order to avoid local taxation. All these form the perfect storm for activities like tax evasion and money laundering which are then used to carry out illegal activities. There seems to be a distinct divide between the interpretation of these events between Cyprian authorities and German intelligence which has stumbled upon the findings.

The authorities say that the laws that are in place adhere to the EU laws regarding banking and transfer of funds and the influx of finances is down to a better banking system and a lower corporate tax which is the lowest in EU. In case an aid package is announced, it is expected that the distribution of the aid will benefit the locals and end up into the hands of  the mafia in one way or the other. German leadership has denied commenting on the issue citing intelligence matters and national security. This issue has raised fresh concerns over the bailout package being raised for the country and it is an extra obstruction that has to be negotiated.

The EU bailout altogether has faced challenges throughout its life up till now and the saga is still not over. From the beginning, there was an issue of consensus of the countries involved and there has also been a bone of contention concerning the political and financial issues at hand. The political leaders have long played politics over the issue in order to maintain their vote bank while the finance ministers have pushed forward with a narrow focus. In addition to the big picture, there seem to be now dividing in different countries as well now where Greece has implemented the necessary austerity measures but is facing wide scale protests.

Spain has also been plagued by protests in the past and could see worsening conditions if further measures are put into place. The issue of aid has now come under further pressure with concerns of where the aid goes and whether the aid would be used in the right measures. There are still more questions that need to be addressed like how much aid would be required and whether it will be enough or not. We are already an year into this crisis and the establishment of the bailout fund but it still seems that the measures being done are too little and more questions are being raised daily as the legitimacy and credibility of the fund is being questioned. Critics still ask whether all this effort is worth saving the EU and the euro over.

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Zain Naeem is the head of equity research for Maan Securities (Pvt) Ltd based in Lahore with more than 3 year experience at trading and researching in the Karachi Stock Exchange and Lahore Stock Exchange. He has some experience at writing and commenting on the finance front and presenting to various audiences in different forums. He is a free lance writer with interests in politics, business and the world of finance and how the three intermingle with each other.