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 Avenue,
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.
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.