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Do we want the Iranians or don’t we?

The government may be having second thoughts about its policy of enabling Iranian citizens buying property on the island costing more than €350,000 to be eligible to obtain residency status.

WITH the recent news that Russian tourist arrivals are on the up, or at least will be this summer, the government seems to have washed its hands of plans to attract Iranian tourists and investors.

Cyprus banks, in line with conforming with the US led UN sanctions imposed last year and mirroring the denial of banking facilities to Iranians in the UAE and the Gulf states, have frozen the accounts of a number of Iranians, many of whom are long-term residents or students. To overcome the problem of sending money back home or receiving student fees, individuals are resorting to money transfer services, but this is far from ideal.

The flipside here is that this problem just adds another negative to Iranians buying property here on top of the title deeds/fraud issue. Of course, our government must surely have factored that in and decided that the Cyprus property market doesn’t need new foreign buyers as the Russians will save us.

Perhaps unrelated to the sanctions, or maybe simply attributed to stupidity, there are also some cases of harassment reported at Larnaca airport of incoming Iranians who either have visitor visas or yellow slips. An associate of the Financial Mirror was held up for 20 minutes the other week when she came in from Dubai. When she showed both her Iranian passport (on which she travelled from Cyprus and exited from Tehran) and her British passport and her Cyprus Certificate of Permanent Residency, the immigration officer first tried to insist that she needed a Cypriot visa, then tried to assert that her permanent residency permit had expired and then when he got bored and ran out of excuses said “OK, you can enter”. This has never happened before in the past seven years she has been going to/from Iran from here. A really brilliant advert to go with “Love Cyprus… PLEASE!!! We’re BEGGING You!!!”

Perhaps if we rely on the Russians more, we can continue to sweep under the carpet all the property related horror stories, the latest being that Alyn Smith, the sole MEP for Scotland and its 5.2 million inhabitants, who has issued a statement that he is now advising all Scottish residents NOT to buy property in Cyprus, following years of complaints from his constituents and the failure of the Cypriot authorities to do anything.

This is probably the first specific blacklisting from an MEP and others are likely to follow suit, as the discourteous behaviour of the Cyprus government towards him has not helped. There is also a new campaign being co-ordinated by Daniel Hannan, MEP, to put pressure on both the Cyprus government and the EU Commission over Cyprus’s failure to implement the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive in respect of immovable property. The British High Commission has also beefed up its advice on its website; it’s the closest coded language to ‘don’t buy in Cyprus’.

Readers' comments

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  • Gavin Jones says:

    Mike (08.39 a.m.).

    I echo Odd_Job_Bob. Thank you for your well written and obviously heartfelt comment.

    I remember Cyprus for the joyous, hospitable, unconditional place that it was and can hardly believe how the reverse has come about.

    And no. I’m not harping back to some Golden Age of juvenile remembrance either.

    I too “despair at the antics” that are displayed by those in authority and I know that the example as described in this article is not an isolated case.

    The teaching at home and in the classroom of tolerance, courtesy and respect is the only way to unblock this logjam of crude behaviour and I have to believe that ultimately this will change.

  • @Steve – I have been operating my websites for the last seven years, so there has been plenty of opportunity for British buyers to obtain information and advice about the problems associated with buying property here.

    Regarding Iranian buyers, these have contacted me too. One chap I recall in particular got in touch after buying a number of properties in Paphos using a lawyer and a developer, both of whom have very poor reputations.

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    Mike. An extremely insightful and I believe acutely accurate piece.

    But, what happens next?

    As mentioned many times on this forum, as most nations in Eastern Europe have been falling over themselves to sever all ties with Russia, Cyprus has been moving in the opposite direction. This selling of valueless land for huge sums of money but retaining possession of it has worked with Brits and various assorted foreigners, but try it with the Russians, especially the ones that Cyprus has been courting for years with their “special relationship” and, as Gavin hints at below, they will kill you. No question.

    I was surprised when I saw all the fur coat shops on the seafront road in Limassol (who needs a fur coat in Cyprus?) but a friend, at one of these Cyprus-Russia investment forums told me that 90% of ALL Cyprus exports go to MOSCOW. Not Russia, Moscow. Methinks I know why…

    Petty crime has already started to increase (collapse of tourism has left many in the service industry, particularly from Eastern Europe, with no job and no other way of earning a living), the really serious crime is gearing up now, with Property Developers bombed, “mysteriously” killed and possibly worse to come.

    With no real police force to speak of and basically money-laundering oligarchs cottoning on to the fact that their million euro properties are not actually theirs, this place will become a lawless no-go area, all for the sake of selling off its assets to the highest bidder, irrespective of the consequences.

    Remember what happened the last time Russia “saved” anyone? Speak to Poles, East Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Czechs…

  • Mike says:

    As a true Cypriot, proud of the fact, and the way my country has been viewed by the international community for 100 years or so up to mid 90’s (I do not include the years since then) I despair at the antics displayed on a daily basis by some in positions of authority as reported above.

    It proves the point that you cannot take what is effectively to all intents and purposes a peasant, and I do not mean that in a derogatory manner as most of my family including me come under that banner, put him in a Mercedes Benz, gift him lots of money (via sales of worthless family assets such as land which are suddenly in demand for silly prices) dress him in now, suddenly affordable, fine suits and expect him to suddenly acquire a sense of reason, common sense, demeanour, justice, honour and class. Fundamentally we remain peasants in our thinking until we travel, learn from others and adopt best practices and customs.

    We can send our children to university and they will be educated, however as much as academic achievement is to be applauded the real education is what remains after what was learnt in the classroom is long forgotten and I am afraid as noted in too many instances from the highest echelons in our society to the lowest we always, when in Cyprus, revert to our true selves – but today, never admit to it and decry anyone who hints at the fact.

    We are living a lie as a Nation and are blinded to the fact which is inhibiting the possibility of us moving forward other than in material possessions or arrogance.

    We would, it appears, sell our Grandmothers to Russia if it earned us a few more roubles. My belief is we are losing pride in who & what our fathers and generations before them built and the good name and sense of justice and honesty we were renown for; so today we have to many others laughing at our ‘peasant dressed in Armani’ ways. Will we ever say “stop this is enough” or will we continue to give the international community ammunition to ridicule us.

    The official at Larnaca airport highlighted above is in need of some serious training in European Law & Custom.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    With reference to the beginning of the penultimate paragraph, much has been said and written about the Russians coming to Cyprus’ aid and saving the day vis-a-vis buying property and thus filling the gap created by those “whingeing” Brits.

    Sorry to disappoint those developers out there who might conceivably read this because if they employ their ‘artful ways’, stiff the Russians and not cough up the title deeds, the latter don’t recognize Queensbury Rules and will probably break their legs or worse…

  • Alan Waring says:

    The suggestion that Iranians here are having problems ‘sending money back home’ is way off beam, since none of them comes here to earn money. They are mostly either relatively High Net Worth individuals who want to bring large sums of money in to buy property and have a nice lifestyle while they are here, or are students who again need to bring in significant sums of money for fees, accommodation, living etc. It’s the inward money movements that are causing disruption. The net loser from the financial clampdown and harassment is the Cyprus economy and reputation.

    Iran itself is now a high risk/high return investment market now that restrictions on foreign investors have been largely removed and foreigners can open bank accounts, own property, own businesses etc. Deposit rates in Iranian banks are currently 17%pa but can rise to 24%pa if part of a property mortgage arrangement. Have you recovered from the shock yet? Yes, 17-24%pa. This of course reflects the high price inflation and stresses on the economy. Oh, BTW property transaction law in Iran is very strict and Title Deeds must be delivered up on sale completion. I’m not suggesting anyone invests in Iran but it’s useful as a comparison with Cyprus.

  • Peter G Davis says:

    We are international players, its just that we don’t like foreigners and can’t understand why the two go together.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    So much for the bilateral agreement between Cyprus and Iran, barely two years old. Makes you wonder how much trust anyone dare place in any policy, law, agreement or promise made by the Republic of Kyproulla on anything. And now they are telling property buyers and the EU that their five new Bills have fixed the Title Deeds crisis, there will be no more fraud cases, etc etc etc. Well, would YOU buy a second car from these people?!

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