Russian “Black Money” Threatens To Boot Cyprus Out Of The Eurozone

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

German Bailout Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is trying to avoid any tumult ahead of the elections later this year, has a new headache. Cyprus, the fifth of 17 Eurozone countries to ask for a bailout, might default and exit the Eurozone under her watch. Using taxpayer money or the ECB’s freshly printed trillions to bail out the corrupt Greek elite or stockholders, bondholders, and counterparties of decomposing banks, or even privileged speculators, is one thing, but bailing out Russian “black money” is, politically at least, quite another.

Cyprus is in horrid shape. Particularly its banks. Their €152 billion in “assets” are 8.5 times the country’s GDP of €17.8 billion. “Assets” in quotation marks because some have dissipated and because €23 billion in loans, or 27% of the banks’ entire credit portfolio, are nonperforming. That’s 127% of GDP! And then there are the Russian-owned “black-money” accounts.

A “secret” report by the German version of the CIA, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) was leaked last November, revealing that any bailout of Cyprus would benefit rich Russians and their €26 billion in “black money” that they deposited in the now collapsing banks. The report accuses Cyprus of creating ideal conditions for large-scale money laundering, including handing out Cypriot passports to Russian oligarchs, giving them the option to settle in the EU. Much of this laundered money then reverses direction, turning minuscule Cyprus into Russia’s largest foreign investor [read...  The Bailout of Russian “Black Money” in Cyprus].

Now Cyprus needs €17.5 billion—just about 100% of its GDP—of which €12 billion would go directly to the murky and putrid banks. The package should be wrapped up and signed on February 10 at the meeting of the European finance ministers.

“I cannot imagine that the German taxpayer will save Cypriot banks whose business model is to abet tax fraud,” grumbled Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the opposition SPD that has been a supporter of euro bailouts; and Merkel, hobbled by opposition within her own coalition, had relied on them to get prior bailouts passed. “If Mrs. Merkel wants to have the approval of the SPD, she must have very good reasons,” he said. “But I don’t see any....”

The Greens are resisting the Cyprus bailout for the same reasons. And 20 members of Merkel’s own coalition are categorically opposed to it. For the first time, Merkel has no majority to get a bailout package passed. The opposition smells an election advantage.

Before the German finance minister can vote in the Euro Group of finance ministers for disbursement of bailout funds, he must seek parliamentary approval. The German Constitutional Court said so, inconveniently. But without his yes-vote, which weighs 29%, the qualified majority of 73.9% cannot be reached. The bailout disbursement crashes. That’s what Cyprus is contemplating.

Fearing defeat, sources within the government now made it known that they wouldn’t even present a bailout package unless Cyprus agreed to “radical reforms,” including massive privatizations of the bloated state sector—precisely what communist President Dimitris Christofias has ruled out.

The Russian “black money” is so unpalatable that even the bailout-happy President of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, got cold feet. Before a bailout package could be put together, he said, “it must be disclosed where the money in Cyprus is coming from.”

Markus Ferber, head of Merkel’s coalition partner CSU, demanded a guarantee that “we help the citizens of Cyprus and not the Russian oligarchs.” In addition, he wants Cyprus to reform its naturalization law. If Cyprus wants to get bailed out, he mused, it must make sure “that not everyone who has a lot of money can get a Cypriot passport.”

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP), who is no Eurosceptic, hammered home that the Cyprus won’t get special treatment. The European community is “ready for solidarity, but only in return for real structural reforms,” he said. “Greece didn’t get a blank check, Cyprus won’t either.” And those reforms included “banking transparence.” They’re all out there now, griping about German taxpayers bailing out Russian “black money.”

Having learned a lesson from Greece, Cyprus has gone on a charm offensive to persuade the other 16 Eurozone countries that its “black money” problem has evaporated and that more reforms aren’t necessary. On Monday, Central Bank President Panicos Demetriades invited the finance ministers to a dog and pony show that would explain the banking sector and the perfectly legit activities of the Russian funds.

If Greece is any guide, Merkel will vociferously demand more reforms and transparence in the banking sector. The February 10 deadline might pass. Cyprus will come up with a list of promises. Gradually the rhetoric will change. Words like “progress” will show up. “Black money” will disappear from the media. This might even culminate with a heartwarming meeting in Berlin between Merkel and Christofias. And suddenly, voting against the Cyprus bailout, once a safe bet, will become politically risky. It worked before. It might work again. If not, Cyprus with all its “black money” might become the first Eurozone country to go bust.

The European Commission issued its report on bank bailouts, the “2012 State Aid Scoreboard.” Turns out, the amount that the 27 EU states had handed to their banks amounted to €1.6 trillion. 13% of GDP—to bail out bank stockholders, bondholders, and counter parties, and enrich privileged speculators. Read.... The EU Bailout Oligarchy Issues A Report About Itself.

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Mi Naem's picture

The expulsion of Cypriots is cancelled in advance of any serious consideration of the matter. 

The bailout is forthcoming, just as soon as enough of that "Black Money" is used to grease a sufficient number of the right palms. 

In any event, Euro implosion is to be deferred until after the German elections. 

Dodgy Geezer's picture

Before the German finance minister can vote in the Euro Group of finance ministers for disbursement of bailout funds, he must seek parliamentary approval. The German Constitutional Court said so, inconveniently. But without his yes-vote, which weighs 29%, the qualified majority of 73.9% cannot be reached.


The usual way this is done in Europe is simply to change the way the decision is taken - by removing the democratic element...

MillionDollarBoner_'s picture

Do not underestimate the true depth and intensity of the hatred between Germans and Russians.

These guys go back a loooong way  - and have memories to match...

Eugend66's picture

Heh, I still like the teutonic Guido Westervelle`s approach.

One may dream ... .

Mister Ponzi's picture

Anyway, a central bank chairman with the first name "Panicos" is priceless...

spanish inquisition's picture

How dare they bail out Russian organized crime, when there are so many European crime families going hungry right now!

Joe A's picture

Germany is wrong of course because Olli Rehn and Jose Barosso said that the Eurocrisis was over and the Euro saved. Who are the Zermans or anybody else for that matter to doubt the words of our all knowing masters?

rufusbird's picture

What? The Germans don't want to bail out the Russian oligarchs?

NEOSERF's picture

Not that there is any love lost but boy if Germany wanted to extract a carte blanche IOU from Putin, this might be it...there is always opportunity in a crisis.

Notarocketscientist's picture

I fail to see the difference between the Cyprus situation and the situation in the US.

The Fed is handing over TRILLIONS to gangsters who masquerade as bankers

dunce's picture

Much like our current administration ,the worst choice seems to always be the first choice in the Euro mess. Short sell their future.

Peter Pan's picture

Why doesn't Mrs Merkel and all the others ask about the $20-$30 trillion stashed away in tax havens by the honest taxpayers of Europe, the USA and the UK?

This money is accumulating without any tax being paid (either at the time it is earned or subsequently) and through a series of complex structures finds its way back into mainstream economies where it proceeds to turn citizens into serfs.

By my reckoning I would say that this amount could recapitalise and re-boot the world economy and at the same time it could be a catalyst for bringing to an end the over generous promises of the welfare state that can never be delivered in the longer term.

Random's picture

Please do not ever ever question why is it that free people of the world "have to" pay tax in the first place. Bitching about folks that do not pay taxes is just slave auto-policing. I applaud the tax cheats and the ones that try to reclaim (conscientiously or otherwise) their freedom from theft.

Joe moneybags's picture

Financial aid to Cyprus, and its banking system, from the ECB, will inspire the Cypriots, as they bask in the brotherhood and support of all Europeans.  Many of the conflicts and animosities of the past, especially the strife between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, will defuse, as the goodwill shown them will overwhelm the quarrels of the past. And the Russian Mafia, forgetaboutit.  Honest, hard-working, freedom-loving citizens will eschew, that's right, eschew, their dealings with the unsavory characters and their ill-gotten booty. Where cynics see corruption and greed, I see a City on the Hill, in a dawning new age.....

Mister Ponzi's picture

While elsewhere, if you see something shining on a hill, it is probably a drone...

Peter Pan's picture

For a minute I thought you were serious.

JamesBond's picture

i see the russians have mastered US Economic/investing principles



agent default's picture

Are the Germans trying to fuck with the Russians again?  This will get interesting.

pasmurf's picture

uk Guardian reported that there would be no bailout without the Cypriot communist president Cristofias gone. Vote in Cyprus in Feb, approval in March?

Rochefort10's picture

Are these the same oligarchs that did so well during the Yeltsin years?


jldpc's picture

Isn't this the place that recently blew itself up? Really! with very large quantities of high explosive munitions stored in the sun next to the islands main power station that was blown to smitherins and killed dozens of nearby persons? I mean how fucking stupid/crooked are these scum? Which is worse a stupid banker or a crooked banker? or a stupid politician or a crooked politician? or a stupid crooked bought and paid for politician? I mean would you lend these idiots any amount of money after they have put themselves into hyper/debt, and no electric power to boot? J H Christ given their debt to  GDP ratio - a sure sign of various irregular and nefarious activities, if you are you are as fucked up as they are. God who can believe this  stuff?

Navymugsy's picture

That explosion was heard 20 miles away in Limassol. The powers that be here are not very bright in many respects.

zorba THE GREEK's picture

The Russian Mafia runs most business ventures in Russia.

You have to pay to play, so to speak. If you are a foreigner and

you start a business in Russia, you have to pay a "tax" to the "mob"

If your business venture becomes lucrative, they just take over and throw 

you out. China is almost as bad. You have to give them your technology after

10 years as a price for doing business in China. It is time we start to protect

our interest in the U.S. by not letting foreign countries buy all of our assets.

Freegold's picture

Maybe they are not all assets but the US has been buying stuff for centuries with funny paper called a dollar. The world allowed it bc it was good business for everybody. But the free ride won´t last for ever.

steve from virginia's picture


I guess the Germans are all going to have to turn down their thermostats starting next month ...



JamesBond's picture

mid 2013 you can expect a significant reduction in taxes paid in germany -

small businesses are quickly turning to 'cash' only.

turnaround is fair play, isn't it greece?



Nussi34's picture

Exactly! The winning strategy is: Work less, earn less, pay much less German taxes! That´s what I do since the bailouts started. Noone can transfer my free time to Grees, Cyprots, Africans and the like!

CheapBastard's picture
Germany's Sliding Back Into Recession


German production engine: splutters

—The scant 0.2 percent monthly increase in German industrial production in November was a "major disappointment," according to Capital Economics, reinforcing expectations of a "big fall" in fourth-quarter gross domestic product. As for that much-needed rebalancing, production of consumer durables is down "almost 10 percent over the last year," the firm notes. That leaves it looking pretty likely Europe's biggest economy will contract at around a 1 percent annualized pace for the quarter. On top of yesterday's weak report, it "provides a strong warning that the German economy is heading back into recession."


Acht du Lieber!

worbsid's picture

I would imagine the Russian "Black Money" has enforcers.  We may see our first "bankster justice".

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Don't messing with Russian mafia. "Bankster Justice" in muzzle of AK47.