by Peter Tompa
The Bank of Cyprus has raided its own depositor's money to stay afloat, taking 47.5% of deposits over 100,000 Euros. The depositors are thus paying for the sins of their bankers, who stand accused of many of the same foibles as some of their American counterparts.
Ancient coin collectors may recall the the bank was a player in the controversial decision to impose import restrictions on coins "of Cypriot type." Its cultural foundation supported that request, which has made it much more difficult for American collectors to compete with the bank for the same ancient coins on the open market. The bank appears to have also offered support for the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute. CAARI actively lobbied the State Department for the import ban, presumably using the considerable connections of Clay Constantinou, a CAARI trustee, campaign funds bundler, former ambassador, and lobbyist to convince the State Department to ignore the recommendations of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to retain a longstanding exemption for coins.
Now, however, the bank should be concentrating on survival, not on coin collecting or supporting archaeological groups that lobby against the interests of collectors. Perhaps then, its time to sell off its cultural foundation's coin collection, end any funding for CAARI and give the bank's battered depositors a break.
As always, Tompa's suggestion makes a great deal of sense -- and as always, nothing of the sort will actually be done.
In the strange world of state custody of antiquities, the door to the storeroom might bear these words of Dante:
"Lasciate oggi speranza, voi ch' entrate" -- abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
This famous quote from his Inferno surely also applies to antiquities such as ancient coins, which once entered into State custody have no better hope of escaping into a private collection than damned souls have of escaping from Hell.
Thus the bank's battered depositors will not receive a break.