‘Mass deletion of data’ on former BoC execs’ computers

By George Psyllides Published on April 5, 2013
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DELETION of data allegedly took place on computers belonging to senior Bank of Cyprus (BoC) executives, according to the leaked findings of a probe into the circumstances that forced the island’s biggest lenders to seek state assistance.

Alvarez and Marsal, the firm tasked with investigating why Bank of Cyprus and Laiki sought state assistance, said the information provided by BoC was incomplete and data deleting software were found on the computers of two senior executives.

“Our computer forensic technologists have found that the computers of two employees, (former CEO) Mr. (Andreas) Eliades and (senior manager group treasury and private banking) Christakis Patsalides, have had wiping software loaded, which is not part of the standard software installations at the BoC,” A&M said. “Mass deletion of data appears to have been undertaken on the Patsalides computer on October 18, 2012.”

A&M’s findings were handed over to parliament on Wednesday.

The firm said some deletion had taken place after a data preservation notice was issued to BoC by the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) on August 21, 2012.

Investigators found no e-mail files, mailboxes or user documents on Eliades’ desktop computer.

This, according to the firm, could suggest that the computer was not used by Eliades or the hard drive was formatted or wiped by BoC IT after the former CEO left the bank or it was wiped using data removal software such as CCleaner installed on the computer.

A&M said there were more gaps in the data collection.

“We had significant gaps in the e-mail data received from BoC for the period 2007 to 2010, a key period for our scope of investigation,” the firm said.

The reason was the lack of an e-mail archiving process before late in 2010 or early 2011, the time when e-mail systems were upgraded.

No e-mail backups were performed before the upgrade, the report said.

A&M said its team was not authorised to issue subpoenas or compel anyone to attend an interview or compel the production documents and data if they did not work for an entity supervised by the CBC.

However, any conduct identified as suspicious will be surrendered to the attorney-general, A&M said, citing the CBC.

A&M looked into how BoC accumulated €2.4 billion worth of Greek government bonds (GGBs), later suffering huge losses because of that.

It also looked into BoC’s expansion to Romania and Russia.

The investigation of Laiki however, does not appear to be as detailed or in-depth.

A&M appeared – at least from the leaked documents --  to have focused only on Laiki’s merger with Greek lender Marfin Egnatia Bank (MEB), and only from the side of the CBC.

There was also no reference to the lender’s GGB holdings, most of which – €2.0 billion – had been held by MEB before the merger.

It was not immediately known why the probe did not appear to have touched upon any other aspects of the Laiki debacle, especially since according to a statement by CBC Governor Panicos Demetriades – attached to the A&M report – “Next matters to be addressed include the Cyprus Popular Bank acquisition of GGBs and international expansion, along with oversight by the CBC and status supervision.”