Roman was nooot looking forward to getting off the plane.
March 25th, 2013. Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow.
It had been two glorious weeks of mostly sunshine and shirtsleeves in Cyprus.
It was a trip he made at least once annually. Sometimes as much as three times in a 12-month period, depending on how business was going.
Cyprus was a great place to store cash away from the prying eyes of Putin’s peeps. He could write the trip off as a business expense, and get two weeks of R &R in. And after the Muscovite winter, two weeks of sun and sand was darn near a physical necessity.
But the two weeks was over. He was on final approach into Sheremetyevo, and the ground was still white with snow. He knew the blast on his face would be icy.
Walking towards passport control, he was surprised by the heightened voices in the terminal. People getting off this flight were almost always subdued, so why the buzz? A lot of people were checking their phones, and immediately talking rapidly into them. Two were yelling.
The line for Customs and Immigration was moving really slowly, and there were five officials grilling everyone. Two usually sufficed.
Something was up. He didn’t like it.
He suddenly realized, his phone was still off from the flight. Switching it on, he was surprised to see three missed calls from Mikhail, his business partner, and two from his wife. Uh-oh. This did not bode well.
But before he had a chance to start listening, the line in front of him had melted away, and he was up. Retrieving his passport, the phone went back inside his coat.
But the anticipated grilling did not materialize, and he was through after barely a minute.
After two tanned weeks, the pasty faces of the Muscovites at Arrivals always seemed both amusing and disturbing to him. He scanned for his wife.
Finally spotting her, he immediately sensed trouble. Her face was no more pale than anyone else’s, but at the same time it had that ashen look that comes only from bad news.
Someone’s died. Or . . . .
Hang on. Mikhail and Sascha, both trying to call me.
The bad news isn’t here. It’s back in Cyprus.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Roman is typical of several hundred (or maybe thousand) foreigners who on March 25th, 2013, found themselves substantially poorer.
For no reason other than, the government of Cyprus had a BIG financial problem, the EU was bailout-weary, and they had more than enough money to solve the problem.
And were easy targets. Their money was in Cyprus in order to hide it from the Russian tax man. Putin’s Peeps had no sympathy for them.
Cyprus was the fourth European nation to go begging to the EU that year. Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain had been bailed out already, and the EU was hyper-sensitive to any more bad news.
They agreed to a partial bail-out, but insisted on the Cypriots also doing what’s now referred to as a Bail-in.
That’s code for unilateral seizure of some of their Cypriot banks’ uninsured deposits, in order to recapitalize the banks, and dig themselves out of a hole.
Foreign depositors were not asked to donate, they were not consulted, and they had no warning.
Totally unethical and illegal. But they did it. Hey, governments make the laws, right? So they can rewrite the laws when it’s convenient.
Cypriot citizens’ bank deposits were protected, of course. Angry citizens sometimes revolt. They get violent, and destroy lives and property of the wealthy and privileged. Not a good idea.
But foreigners? Just seize their money, and deport ‘em if they protest. Who cares? They’re foreigners! They don’t matter.
Thankfully, this won’t happen again, will it?
By 2016, Cyprus had managed to repay the loans to the EU.
And the EU was delighted. Wow! Those smart Cypriots! Seizing depositors’ money is good business!
So impressed were they . . . and the other G20 central banks and finance ministers . . . .
. . . that all of them codified this actionable measure into banking law.
If you’re in the US . . . . . or the UK, or Germany, or France, Canada, Australia, etc . . . . I don’t suppose you have any money in the bank?
Ask just about anyone who’s a descendent of immigrants from China or 1930/1940-era Europe.
A lot of them have stories handed down to them by parents and grandparents, about money and assets being confiscated by hostile governments.
No permission given. No apology offered.
We the government have a financial problem on our hands. If we don’t solve it, the ignorant masses will pitchfork our backs.
We need money now, and you’ve got it. And most people here don’t like you, anyway. You’re a stingy Jew, or Muslim, or Tibetan, or some such.
Hand it over NOW, and clear off. Or this pitchfork will have your name on it by nightfall.
Funny how that kind of experience tends to stick with someone for life.
Their offspring have the stories. And, partly to make sure that it never happens to them, and partly to honour their grandparents . . . . . they’re looking for SOLUTIONS.
Way to make sure their wealth, and the wealth of their loved ones, remains safe and accessible if their world ever turns against them, and they have to flee.
They’re the kind of people that the Wealth Wizardy Report is for.
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