In an in-depth interview with Sigma TV, Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian investor behind the Ayia Napa Marina hits out at the Cyprus government.
The wide-ranging interview covered everything from the cancellation of the "Golden Passport" scheme to reducing further investments, completion of the Marina and Turkey's actions in the area.
By way of introduction, Sawiris expressed his satisfaction in the development of the project, saying that every time he visits it (the marina), "I think my God, it is not comparable to any marina in Cyprus! It has what I call architectural glory." He went on to analyze how not only he but also other investors suffered damage because of the decisions made about the passport scheme. He noted later that those involved should "pay the price for their wrongdoing" adding that you "don't punish everybody for one rotten apple."
"From a financial perpective it's not what we expected." He explained that the "investor's nightmare is when governments change the rules of the game in the middle or renege on their promises" while the project is underway. He went on to say that when they received the concessions, they were exempt from VAT. Then when the EU began to put pressure on Cyprus, they should in turn signal that there is a contract and that they cannot impose VAT on a contract that has already been signed without tax.
Talking about bureaucracy he stated that the bureaucracy in Cyprus was worse than that experienced in Egypt and everything takes too long.
He said there would be no new investment in hotels and other buildings. We want Ayia Napa to attract young people for start-ups and joint ventures. We want to make it a business destination and to bring in capital so that it works in winter. He said, among other things, that large investments create a lot of jobs.
He went on to detail that the main bank that was lending for the project stopped loans immediately after the investment programme was abolished. We had to invest EUR 50 million equity he said noting "I wouldn't leave a tower unfinished, I have a name. However, "we find this today in many areas of Cyprus. Some investors decided to do this."
His greatest challenge now is to complete the work of the Ayia Napa marina, as he mentioned elsewhere " I am the only one who decided to complete the project with my own money after the funding from the banks stopped."
He made it clear that as an investor he does not want to change the terms. He respects the law but said that they (the Government) did not respect the law. "My contract states that no VAT will be charged. I am only giving suggestions." He said that through Sigma and the interview he is trying to get the message across to correct everything that happened with the investment program. "I am not a person who seeks to make money. I love Cyprus. You have a fantastic country. Infrastructure, roads, modern airport, nature.. everywhere there is a sea, the financial sector has been upgraded. There is a possibility for the country to become bigger and compensate for what is in the occupied territories."
In conclusion, Mr Sawiris said that when he came here to invest the country was at the lowest point. "It was 2013. The banks were closing. And I came to invest 250 million. Even when they attacked the president for the Ayia Napa Marina, I stressed that the concessions had been given long before his election to the presidency."
At this point, the investor was specifically asked if there is any secret deal between himself and President Anastasiades. He reiterated that the concessions were granted even before Anastasiades was elected to the presidency of the country.
Full interview below: