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Cyprus

Cypriot finance minister resigns, judicial probe launched

Cyprus' Finance Minister Michalis Sarris has resigned, and a judicial probe launched into how the country came so close to bankruptcy. Sarris' replacement, Haris Georgiades, will be sworn in on Wednesday.

The government accepted his resignation on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Christis Styianides said.

Finance Minister Michalis Sarris faced strong criticism for his handling of Cyprus' negotiations with international creditors.

Labor Minister Haris Georgiades will be sworn in on Wednesday morning as Sarris' replacement.

Sarris, who last year headed the country's Laiki Bank in an attempt to save it from collapse, told the Associated Press news agency he was stepping down from the position of finance minister to ease the judicial probe which was announced earlier in the day.

The president of Cyprus appointed three former supreme court judges to lead an investigation into how the country almost went bankrupt. Among other things, they are to try to find out whether large sums of money were transferred out of the country in the days before capital controls were introduced.

President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday that no-one was immune from the inquiry, not even he or his family. Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for the three commission members, Anastasiades also said he had encouraged them to investigate him and members of his family as a "matter of priority" and with "extra vigour."

This comes after a newspaper published a story containing unsubstantiated allegations that members of the president’s family moved money out of the country based on inside information that the government was set to introduce capital controls.

Other leading politicians and business figures have also been accused of moving large sums of money out of the country in the days leading up to the agreement that secured an international financial bailout for Cyprus last week.

Cyprus was granted emergency loans worth 10 billion euros ($12.8 billion) by its European partners and the International Monetary Fund in March.

jlw, jr/hc (AP, AFP, Reuters)