NICOSIA, Sept 1 Two Cypriot branches of a bank
accused of money laundering by the United States will resume
limited activities, an administrator appointed by the island's
central bank said on Monday.
Clients of Tanzania-based FBME Ltd., which has two branches
in Cyprus, would be permitted a daily withdrawal of up to 10,000
euros by cheque and in the depositor's name. The arrangement
would only be applicable in Cyprus, the administrator, Dinos
Christofides, said in a statement.
Cyprus's central bank assumed control of FBME's local
branches in July after a division of the U.S. Treasury described
the bank as a "primary money laundering concern".
Although the bank is headquartered in Tanzania, the U.S.
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has said that most
of its activities are conducted through its Cypriot branches.
According to FinCEN, the bank also came under scrutiny by
Cypriot authorities in 2013 for allegedly circumventing currency
controls imposed by Cyprus in the wake of an international
bailout that year.
FBME's Lebanese shareholders deny the allegation of money
laundering and have hired lawyers and auditors to fight them.
In a statement carried by the semi-official Cyprus News
Agency, Christofides was quoted as saying efforts were being
made to extend the withdrawal facilities for overseas
Work at the bank has come to a virtual standstill since the
U.S. Treasury report was released in mid-July and Cypriot
authorities took over, announcing days later that the bank was
being placed under resolution for its eventual sale.
Cypriot authorities say they had to act because as a result
of the U.S. report the bank could not access a pan-European
payments system known as SEPA, while an administrator appointed
in Tanzania, suspended operation of SWIFT payments.
The Cypriot central bank has not commented on the merit of
the U.S. allegations.
(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Susan Fenton)