BIG BULGARIAN CLIENTS WILL BE CITIBANK'S PRIORITY
Amin Manekia, Managing Director of Citigroup for Bulgaria, to the BANKER WeeklyMr. Manekia, before you came to Bulgaria, the Citibank branch in Sofia was servicing mainly big corporate clients. Will this policy change?- Citibank is a part of the international investment group. In Bulgaria we have focused at this stage at big corporate clients, government agencies, multinational firms and financial institutions. But each market is dynamic and changing, so what is right today may not be right tomorrow. Will Citigroup continue to work by its branch office in Sofia or will it transform it into a subsidiary?- This model is very efficient at present and I do not expect it to be changed in the near future. In 2005 the Government plans to make significant investments in the country's infrastructure. Which of these projects is Citigroup's branch interested in?- I cannot specify any project, but I can tell you that Citigroup is principally focused on financing the public sector and various projects in that sphere. We have specialized in a number of areas, such as infrastructural projects, where we have much expertise not only in consulting services, but in financing the projects implementation as well. The range of our products is far beyond these operations. Depending on the specific case, Citigroup can present expert evaluations in various industries, e.g. telecommunications, aviation, or metals and mining. Is Citigroup interested in the project on the construction of a second local N-plant in Belene?- There are various projects in the energy sector, but Citi may participate in their financing only if they are bankable. In November 2004 one of the analysts of Standard Poors said that Citigroup managed equity fund investments for the deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, worth $6.8 million. Foreign mass media announced that an investigation of the case immediately bеgan in the bank. Are there any results yet and what are they?- We do not play along with media speculations. We have officially presented to the press our reply to that issue and I can furnish you with a copy of it. But for us it is a matter of media speculations. To what extent are big financial groups such as Citigroup protected against accepting money from leaders of movements, charged with terrorism?- For each business Citigroup supports we have strict standards called know your client. For anyone who wants to open an account with us we have to establish if he has credit relations with the bank. I'd like to stress that we would not deal with anyone who does not meet the know your client standard in the respective business. What were the reasons for which in 2004 Japanese supervision authorities accused Citigroup's division on the island of disloyalty to its clients and forced it cancel offering services relating to private banking?- I think the story in Japan was widely covered in the press over the last few months. The bank published a detailed statement in the press. We were very swift. Citigroup offered a new business plan for the development of private banking to the Japanese Agency for Financial Services. As a rule Citigroup complies with all local rules and regulations in the respective country where it operates. Some two or three weeks ago regulators in Germany accused Citigroup of disloyalty to its clients. In fact, over the last few years the names of US banking giants, such as Citigroup, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch have been involved in big financial scams. What is the reason?- Being the biggest financial institution in the world Citigroup shall be always valued as per the highest standards and we accept that challenge. There is no organisation where people work which is perfect all the time. The key is to have a structure where the problems are aberration and not the norm. We have a very strict control on our business. We aim to comply with the regulations in the countries where we operate. And to answer you question I should say I believe these cases you mentioned are aberration and not the norm.