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MEP Alyn Smith asks Cyprus president to help

In a letter to the President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, MEP for Scotland Alyn Smith asks if an impartial ombudsman or foreign investor advice service could be established to deal with the many property issues.

Alyn Smith, MEP for Scotland

Alyn Smith, MEP for Scotland

CONSTITUENTS of Alyn Smith, MEP for Scotland, have approached him for help in their cases involving the exploitation, extortion and fraud they have suffered in Cyprus as a result of buying property on the Island.

Earlier this year, Alyn raised a question in the European Parliament on the subject of Cypriot legal and property rights.

In the latest development Alyn has written to the President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, asking for his assistance in this matter and suggests that the President may wish to consider establishing a foreign investor advice service, or an impartial ombudsman to assist in such cases.

30th November 2010

Our Ref: AES/Cypriot Property
When replying please reply to: Brussels

President Dimitris Christofias
Presidential Palace,
Presidential Palace Avenue,
1400 Nicosia,
Cyprus

Dear President Christofias,

Cypriot property rights & legal concerns

I am writing to you, as a friend of your beautiful country, regarding concerns of my Scottish constituents surrounding the purchase and build of properties in Cyprus.

I have received many letters which all express similar, if not the same, concerns regarding the difficulties they have encountered when buying or building properties in Cyprus. Despite attempting to seek a solution to their problems through Cypriot channels, they have received no assistance and so have instead approached me as one of their representatives in the European Parliament for guidance.

Over the last few months I have heard complaints of substantial build delays, illegally-obtained Power of Attorney documents, unauthorised draw-downs of money, failure to obtain rental licences, unfinished and poorly maintained properties, remortgages on land, and extortionate mortgage and maintenance fees. In one case, a constituent found that the entire amount of her mortgage was taken and used to fund an entirely different project, leaving her with a £150,000 mortgage in Cyprus and only a concrete shell to show for it. As a result of practices like this, hundreds of UK investors have defaulted, and will default, on their mortgages and file for insolvency, losing their deposits and their homes, suffering the risk of Cypriot banks pursuing their UK assets to recuperate their losses.

I am afraid that I have been informed that many of those who have attempted to take legal action in Cyprus against such unscrupulous practices have found no solace in the legal system. Firstly, those lawyers who have been engaged to deal with property transactions have deliberately or neglectfully failed to perform the relevant checks. Further, lawyers have refused to represent members of the public who wish to take civil action against other lawyers. I am told that complaints directed to the Cyprus Bar Association are consistently ignored also.

Clearly, with such a volume of investments some are bound to go wrong, and there are property disputes in every country.  However, I am afraid that the volume of complaints I am receiving is growing, and I think it right to make you personally aware that the combined actions of this sector are reflecting poorly upon your country, which I personally know well.  Reports such as the ones that have reached me do nothing to encourage faith in the legal processes of your country and therefore are very unlikely to encourage further or prolonged investment by Scottish citizens.

Perhaps you may wish to consider establishing a foreign investor advice service, or an impartial ombudsman for such cases as it would appear to me that, at the very least, the existing domestic channels are not functioning as well as they might be expected to.

Thank you, and I look forward to receiving your reply at your earliest convenience.

Yours aye,

Alyn Smith MEP

About Alyn Smith

BORN in Glasgow in 1973, Alyn grew up in Scotland and Saudi Arabia, returning to Scotland in 1986. He studied Law and European Law at Leeds University and spent an Erasmus year studying at Heidelberg in Germany.

He graduated from Nottingham Law School in 1996. Alyn also gained a Masters degree in European Studies from the College of Europe in Warsaw. After a year teaching English in India and working with Scotland Europa in Brussels, Alyn moved to London where he qualified as a lawyer with commercial law firm Clifford Chance.

In 2000 Alyn moved back to Scotland working first for a legal firm in Edinburgh and from 2002 for Richard Lochhead MSP then the SNP Group at Holyrood as an adviser on European, Justice and Business policies.

Elected to the European Parliament for the first time in 2004 and re-elected in the SNP victory in the 2009 election, Alyn is Scotland’s youngest MEP and is Honorary President of both the youth wings of the SNP, the Young Scots for Independence and the Federation of Student Nationalists, as well as a member of the SNP’s National Executive Committee. In Parliament, he is a full member of the Agriculture Committee and won the coveted Scottish Farmer Magazine award for “Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture” at the Highland Show in 2009. He is an alternate member of the Education and Culture Committee in addition to the Constitutional Affairs Committee. He is a full member of the Delegation for relations with the Arabian Peninsula, and also sits as alternate member on the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.

Alyn and his partner Rob live in Edinburgh.

Readers' comments

Comments on this article are no longer being accepted.

  • Paul says:

    The President will not reply direct to Alyns letter, but the Presidential Palace will, although the reply will be nondescript.

    My MEP wrote to the president regarding the lack of response and illegalities regarding the Courts and the CBA. The Presidential Palace replied ensuring that we will be dealt with fairly by the Cypriot Judiciary, what a joke, and what audacity it the face of so many current cases.

  • Costas Apacket says:

    I think it will be a good thing if Alyn Smith gets the bums rush from Christofias.

    He’s only finding out what we all already know.

    This will add to the picture being formed in many MEP’s minds about Cyprus and it’s ways.

    Let’s hope this helps an overdue ‘whack’ on it’s way.

  • Maxwell Hannah says:

    Dear Nigel
    I wonder how Long has Mr Smith got ,will his term of office be long enough to wait for a reply from the President of Cyprus, after all he is very busy to listen to anything of real Importance , we Foreigners ARE of no importance
    Regards
    Maxwell

  • Gavin Jones says:

    I sincerely hope that the comments posted here reach the eyes of Mr. Smith.

    However much one welcomes the published letter to President Christofias, many thousands of us who have been abused by the artful ways and downright chicanery perpetrated by the Cypriot regime (and I use the pejorative word ‘regime’ deliberately and pointedly) know that noble gestures such as his well intentioned letter will fall on deaf ears. The all too familiar weapon of silence and adjournment employed by government departments and the discredited judiciary will, I guarantee, be the modus operandi of the President. I welcome being proved wrong but past history dictates otherwise: a reply with platitudes of good intent being the best that Mr. Smith can hope for.

    The Western European citizen assumes that the workings of Cypriot Ministries and institutions would be replicated in a so-called member of the European Union. Big mistake. Many have religiously presented their legitimate grievances and frustrations to government departments and have been summarily hoodwinked or stonewalled. They’ve also found the Cyprus Bar Association and its regulatory body, the Disciplinary Board of Advocates, to be unashamedly biased and overtly protective of its fellow lawyers’ rights – even when the latter have blatantly indulged in fraudulent or negligent activities.

    It is patently obvious that this rogue state has absolutely no intention of addressing either the core issues underlying the title deeds scandal or those of the judicial system. The time for diplomatic cajoling in the corridors of the European Union and letters to the Cypriot Head of State are well and truly over. What IS urgently required is something metaphorically more akin to the Sicilian Cosa Nostra’s methods of dealing with recalcitrant allies or belligerent opponents: in real terms, the EU needs to politically and economically ‘whack’ Cyprus. Nothing else will work as has been clearly demonstrated.

    I address my final words directly to Mr. Smith.

    All of us have tried every which way to obtain restitution or justice and as individuals we have failed and will continue to do so. We can do no more other than continue to endure every form of justice being denied to us.
    To quote Churchill at the top of his wartime memos, “Action this day.” We look to you and your European Parliament colleagues to do just that. And now. Natural justice demands it.

  • @Denton. The story has been picked up by InBusiness News – see http://www.sigmalive.com/inbusiness/news/property/333288

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Thanks Nigel. I have suggested to Financial Mirror that they get permission to re-print his letter. Not sure any of the other eds have got the bottle though.

    @Denis. Thanks for reminder that this one letter is but part of a multi-pronged strategy at EU level.

  • jon frazer says:

    On my earlier post I overlooked two points. Firstly, irrespective of outcome, this letter from an influential MEP has got to be good publicity. I am delighted to see from Nigel’s comment below that it also appeared in the Sunday Times.

    Secondly, the “powers that be” will one day treat the wrong person or party with the usual arrogance and contempt with which they assume that we are all underdogs. I sincerely hope this is that case.

  • Denis says:

    @Peter

    Don’t speak too soon about the EU – see this.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+P-2010-9137+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

    And well done Alyn Smith for at least keeping the pressure on, even though he won’t receive the courtesy of a reply based on track record.

  • @Denton – I asked for permission to publish the letter and agreed to hold it back until the story broke in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

    If other media want to publish it they should contact Alyn Smith or Laura Rayner, his policy advisor.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    As this appears to have been sent by Mr Smith as an open letter, perhaps it should also be sent to Cyprus Mail and all other Cyprus newspapers, CYBC, other TV stations etc. Nigel any thoughts on your passing it on to them??

    Regrettably, I concur with all other commentators thus far. An answer from the President or indeed any other Cypriot worthy has as much chance of happening as a snow flake surviving in a furnace. Or, as Gandolph has so aptly put it on previous related matters, as much chance as a pint of scotch and soda coming out of my backside.

    Sorry, Mr Smith. Brace yourself for deafening silence and disappointment. Hope you have a Plan B.

  • Kal says:

    “unlikely to encourage further or prolonged investment by Scottish citizens” or in fact any other nationality.

    Alyn – you will be lucky if you even get a reply. Cyprus will only learn the hard way and unfortunately that will take years.

  • jon frazer says:

    With reference to the last line of Alyn Smith’s letter, I fear that the President’s “earliest convenience” in which to reply could be quite a long time. The President has either to refute the comments made, or to agree that they do constitute problems, and need addressing. And I can’t see him doing either.

    Going on past form I think the letter will get “mislaid” for several years in the dept. of agriculture or suchlike…

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    Alyn and other Scottish MEPs/MPs state the Obvious ie

    There is no good mechanism to solve the Huge amounts of Cases, The AG/CBA by there decisions and actions have failed to provide Justice and solace to victims.

    What should be considered till there is a mechanism in place is to suspend legal applications originating from Cypriot courts being entered into Scots and English Courts.

    There is enough Evidence there Showing Cypriot lawyers have been falsifying affidavits, Documents, Cyprus Court officials failing to do due Diligence, constant adjournments, Change of Dates etc.

    Many individuals have been treated to above, and when they look for Justice from the AG or the CBA they get nothing.

  • Peter says:

    I’ll eat my title deeds if Alyn gets a reply. (not that I have any of course)

    Many Government Departments fail to provide a reply within the 28 days, although there is a requirement under EU law to reply in a timely manner and to monitor their department’s response.

    The EU is totally inept where Cyprus is concerned.

    Maybe its time David Cameron got involved and threatened to withhold the British payments until the EU sorts out Cyprus?

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