Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with ex-Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann (L) as the head of Knauf Group Nikolaus Wilhelm Knauf in 2010
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with ex-Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Josef Ackermann (L) and the head of Knauf Group Nikolaus Wilhelm Knauf in 2010Reuters

Bank of Cyprus has had to de-leverage, dispose of overseas assets, and take depositors' cash to recapitalise after the crippling credit crunch and eurozone debt crisis.

But it has emerged that the group is looking to add another heavyweight and infamous financier to help turn around the business.

The Cypriot lender has allegedly tapped former Deutsche Bank boss Josef Ackermann, who resigned in 2012, to join the bank after nominating him as chairman at the group.

He is supported by the second-richest man in Russia Viktor Vekselberg and the US billionaire who made money investing in Bank of Ireland, Wilbur Ross.

"We made up a very small list of names, and the most prominent on the list was Josef Ackermann," said Ross, head of a group that invested €360m (£282m, $447m) in the country's largest bank, in an interview to Bloomberg.

"He has a huge Rolodex. You can imagine he knows practically everybody in Europe, everybody in Eastern Europe and huge numbers of people in the US and elsewhere."

Bank of Cyprus is led by CEO John Hourican, the former Royal Bank of Scotland head of investment banking that resigned after the group settled with US and UK authorities over Libor fixing.

Another former RBS banker Euan Hamilton has also joined the ranks.

Meanwhile, Ackermann is already a director of an industrial holding company Renova Management, part of the parent company Renova Group, which is controlled by Vekselberg.

Renova Group is the second largest single shareholder in Bank of Cyprus and has Vladimir Strzhalkovskiy vice-chairman, worked with Putin in the KGB in the 1980s.

Cyprus Popular Bank owns 9.6% of Bank of Cyprus. Ross represents a group of North American investors who collectively own 17% of Bank of Cyprus.

Meanwhile, Cyprus and Russia have had a tight knit relationship for decades.

During the Eurozone debt crisis of 2010, Russian President Vladimir Putin helped bail out Bank of Cyprus because many of the lender's depositors were Russian as the country treats Cyprus as safe haven.

According to the Moscow-based Federal Statistics Service, Cyprus invested $69bn into Russia in 2013.

Ackermann is an academic, a Swiss native, but most of all, a banker. Ackermann started his career in corporate banking at Credit Suisse in the mid-1970s, before fighting off lesser rivals to become chief executive of the investment giant Deutsche Bank in 2002 for ten years.

He then became the Chairman of Zurich Insurance Group but resigned one year later after the firm's chief financial officer Pierre Wauthier committed suicide and cited Ackermann in a final note that claimed he was under "undue pressure" from the former financier.

Zurich's Acting Chairman Tom de Swaan, who took over from Ackermann after the resignation, confirmed a note had been found with Wauthier's body.