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Under-fire leader probes meltdown of Cyprus banks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Faced with mounting public anger on Wednesday over the EU-IMF bailout deal which he struck, President Nicos Anastasiades is launching a criminal probe into how Cyprus banks were brought to their knees.

A parliamentary watchdog, meanwhile, has asked the Central Bank for a list of names of people who withdrew money from the island just before a first eurogroup haircut was ordered on March 16, since when banks have remained closed.

The cabinet was to have met on Wednesday to appoint an investigator or commission to determine any criminal, moral or administrative responsibility for the banking crisis, or uncover cases of incompetence.

But as the authorities struggle to have banks reopen on Thursday after a 12-day closure prompted by fears of a run on deposits, the government said it was postponing the meeting by a day.

The powerful opposition party Akel, meanwhile, has called for a demonstration on Wednesday night outside the presidential palace against the bailout deal sealed by Anastasiades, who was elected president only last month.

His Akel-backed predecessor, Demetris Christofias, had held out for months against the harsh terms of the bailout for the island's heavily Greece-exposed and bloated banking system with its massive Russian deposits.

The deal struck with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund last Monday deals a major hit to investors and depositors in the island's biggest bank, the Bank of Cyprus, and effectively shuts down second-largest lender Laiki.

It has devastated the island's prized banking sector, a mainstay of the economy, and also inflicted huge losses in savings and jobs.

Under attack on the political front with charges of having folded to bullying by European countries led by Germany, which insisted that bank deposits take a major hit, Anastasiades has vowed to press ahead with a criminal investigation.

"I undertake in the next few days for the cabinet to appoint criminal investigators with a clear term of reference to find and attribute responsibility wherever it belongs," he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130327/under-fire-leader-probes-meltdown-cyprus-banks-0