Nemea Bank daily withdrawal limit raised to €2,500

Online-only bank’s assets remain under control of PricewaterhouseCoopers as MFSA continues supervision

The Malta Financial Services Authority has decided to lift the daily withdrawal limit from €250 to €2,500 as a first step into the normalisation of Nemea Bank’s operations after the online-only bank was taken under administration.

The MFSA had cited “serious regulatory concerns” flagged by the European Central Bank inside the bank, but Nemea has insisted that its liquidity consists of cash, loans and advances to banks, balances with the Central Bank of Malta, Malta Government Stocks and maturing loans always exceeded savings accounts and regulatory ratios.

The owners of Nemea Bank have protested that the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers to take charge of Nemea’s assets was “an arbitrary act without any valid legal grounds.”

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The bank’s co-chairmen Mika Lehto and Heikki Niemelä, said that a daily €250 withdrawal limit had been “against the interests and the fundamental rights of the depositors of the bank to own and operate a payment account at any bank of their choosing…. [it] is highly-damaging to all businesses using the account at the bank as their primary cash and payment account, with volumes of transactions exceeding such limits by large multiples and with some of which being exclusively dependent on their ability to perform transactions through their account at the Bank, to operate their business and pay salaries.”

The bank’s other directors include former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi and financier Joseph F.X. Zahra, recently appointed to head a special finance commission for the Vatican by Pope Francis

Nemea Bank PLC is owned by Nemea PLC, itself owned by Nevestor SA of Belgium (40%) and Ninovan Ltd and Shilmore Ltd of Cyprus (30% each). The bank is ultimately jointly owned by its founders Heikki Niemelä and Mika Lehto.

MFSA said the measures were taken following an on-site inspection at the bank carried out jointly with members of the DGMSIII of the European Central Bank and which was finalised in April 2016. “A number of serious regulatory shortcomings have been identified and the authority has decided to take regulatory action to safeguard the interests of depositors and other creditors of the bank.”

The MFSA said it was necessary to appoint a competent person to take charge of the assets of the bank for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of depositors and its other clients; and to assume control of the bank’s business and to carry on that business and such other functions as the MFSA may direct. “These precautionary measures will remain in place until such time as the MFSA may direct otherwise.”