Eastern Mediterranean island’s newly-found natural gas wealth

Cypriot Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis on Thursday blasted unnamed European Union (EU) partners for money laundering allegations hinting at envy because of the eastern Mediterranean island’s newly-found natural gas wealth.

Sylikiotis said that the prospect of Cyprus becoming a natural gas centre is probably the reason behind what he called "slanderous attacks" against the eastern Mediterranean island.

He said recent gas discovery and the prospect of construction of a gas liquefaction plant to provide Europe with liquid gas will give Cyprus an added political and economic status.

"This is possibly the reason behind recent slanderous attacks against Cyprus," Sylikiotis told the state broadcaster.

He was commenting on allegations mainly made by German politicians, who oppose eurozone bailout support for Cyprus. They allege that the island is being used by wealthy Russians to launder black money and also claim that it is a tax paradise for thousands of offshore companies.

Cyprus has strongly denied money laundering allegations and has called for an independent investigation of money laundering charges.

Cypriot authorities also dismiss that the island is a tax haven for Russian companies, pointing out that out of all shipping companies registered under the Cyprus flag only 3 are Russian and about 80 German.

Cyprus is expecting endorsement of a bailout request by its eurozone partners, who are likely to consider the issue at a finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday.

An Eurogroup official said that the Eurogroup will probably make a decision on Cyprus’s bailout during the second half of March, after a new government assumes office.

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