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Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board in the dock

Reports of “crooked” lawyers, particularly in Paphos, are widespread; but what hope is there for justice when the Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board appears unable to address complaints in a timely manner?

HAPLESS home buyers are filing up to 50 complaints a month to the Advocates Disciplinary Board against allegedly corrupt lawyers, it emerged this week.

According to board member and Cyprus Bar Association (CBA) president Doros Ioannides, the majority of these complaints are filed by British expats against Paphos-based property lawyers – and mostly involve developers.

The rate of applications has become so unmanageable that, according to one scam victim, one such lawyer has even racked up more than 25 complaints over the past two years without a single judgement against her.

So what is going on at the Advocates Disciplinary Board?

According to Ioannides, the glut of applications has followed the landmark Supreme Court ruling against Paphos lawyer Nicos Papacleovoulou in April 2010, who negligently carried out his duties on behalf of a British couple in a property transaction in 1999.

Since then, he said, “many” lawyers have been disciplined by the board according to Ioannides, although he declined to give a precise figure.

The Papacleovoulou case was also the first in which a lawyer agreed to represent clients suing another lawyer in Cyprus, and it appears to have opened the floodgates to hundreds of hopeful property buyers seeking justice, compensation or Title Deeds.

“We have been receiving around 50 (complaints) a month. Most are foreigners, and most of those are British… we have many problems with developers from Paphos,” Ioannides said.

Unfortunately, the response has overwhelmed the seven-man disciplinary board; composed of attorney-general Petros Clerides, Ioannides and five other members, each with more than 15 years of practice, and there is now a huge backlog of applications Ioannides does not expect to clear until September or October.

It is a source of frustration for many complainants who have to wait in line irrespective of the scale or blatancy of the lawyers’ wrongdoing, especially since the alternative – to sue lawyers directly in court – is all but impossible due to the hefty costs and general reluctance among lawyers to go against their colleagues in court.

Only with the disciplinary board – and therefore the attorney general’s implicit backing – is a case like Papakleovoulou likely to be taken up by a legal office and pursued through the courts.

One hapless British expat in Paphos, who is taking action against his former lawyer after he learned she is the sister of the developer that was building his house, faced exactly this dilemma recently.

After taking his money and stalling on the construction of the house for several years, the expat only learned of the siblings’ relationship when a subcontractor tipped him off in 2009.

After six months of waiting for the CBA to act, he said this week: “I am very annoyed that the Cyprus Bar Association is not acting against these rogue lawyers. It seems to me the CBA is a brick wall.”

So, what, aside from having only seven part-time members is causing the delay?

In many cases, it seems to be the lawyers themselves: once a complainant has paid his €68 administrative fee, his complaint is sent on to the lawyer for their comments.

In several calls to the CBA to follow-up on his complaint, filed in January, the above mentioned expat was told that the lawyer simply had not replied to the board’s request for comments.

“This has been an enormous travesty of justice,” he said, adding: “if this was happening in the UK, that lawyer would have been suspended.”

Asked what would happen if a lawyer refuses to reply to the request for comments, Ioannides said they can proceed straight to trial.

In practice this does not always happen. For example, another Paphos lawyer – who reportedly has over 25 complaints against her for such misdemeanours as colluding with developers and forging clients’ signatures – simply called in sick ahead of her hearing, which was postponed. One such complaint was filed more than two years ago, but the hearing did not take place until June this year.

The Cyprus Mail was unable to obtain details of the remaining 24 cases against her.

The board has the authority to strike off, suspend or fine a lawyer up to €1,000, if, in their view, the lawyer is guilty of moral turpitude, disgraceful, fraudulent or unprofessional conduct. In practice, this process presents another opportunity for lawyers to stall the process.

Come September, if Ioannides’ assessment of his association’s ability to turn around cases is accurate, Cyprus could begin to see lawyers behind the bar – or even bars.

Readers' comments

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  • Stuart says:

    Hi again.

    If you have not already discovered the name of the unnamed lawyer from following the link in my previous comment of 27 July below, you can also find her named on Ripoff Report as suggested by Nigel.

    Use the link provided by Nigel and once you are on the Ripoff Report website, enter ‘Paschali’ in the search box. You will then be taken to the report by Marilyns who has published her own amazing story.

    You cannot fail to know the name of the female lawyer after reading all these articles!

  • @Curmudgeon – if you are looking for a platform to report facts and name names, I suggest ‘Ripoff Report’ at http://www.ripoffreport.com/

  • andyp says:

    Mike. The trouble is that whilst we would love to post a name it will actually be Nigel who suffers and where would we be without his site and help.

    She is out there (I assume that even in Cyprus there can’t be two of them) and you may google or read CAREFULLY my earlier post script to Curmudgeon. I call her The Stigette. My case against this creature is due to be heard in October.

    Naming names in The Cyprus press or websites will only lead to the closure of the offending media.

    This is not a free country with a free press despite what we think.

    Sad but true.

  • Stuart says:

    Hi All,

    The unnamed lawyer was jailed in July 2008 for 30 days for repeated offences of driving whilst disqualified but was pardoned after only a day or so when the entire legal fraternity (with a few notable exceptions) protested to the Attorney General that lawyers should never be sent to prison.

    You can read all about her and the ensuing outrage on: http://www.paphospeople.com/ppforum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4408

    Happy viewing!

  • Mike says:

    Curmudgeon I agree.
    The Paphos Lawyer of dubious repute that everyone seems to know is unknown to me. I would like to know who it is. She is obviously still being retained by unsuspecting clients so we are guilty of perpetuating the deceit by not naming on some platform or another.

  • andyp says:

    P.S. If you know where to look Curmudgeon, not too far from here, Melwill makes an interesting post!

  • andyp says:

    @Costas

    I sent my complaint and regularly write to The Attorney General for progress. [email protected]

    Replies have numbered three in the last 25 months and generally come from [email protected].

    Whilst replies are few I do now have a confirmed hearing date in October this year,touch wood.

    @Curmudgeon. I have tried to name Clive Isherwood’s pal in the past but quite simply the law favours the lawyers who have almost immediate access to the courts. Not to protect their good names but to keep hidden their guilt.

  • Curmudgeon says:

    Why, I ask myself, are we afraid to name and shame. If the the facts of a complaint have foundation and hard evidence is available, then why not name the corrupt party or parties for all to see? It is downright maddening reading about fraud and corruption on my doorstep and not been able to avoid the responsible person(s).

    My belief, based on UK litigation procedures some time back, is that a missive/letter/memo starting and ended ‘Without Prejudice’ cannot be used against you in court.

    Maybe starting with ‘It is alleged that Mrs. Smith done it’ would suffice. Of course you would need a third party to report it as you would not be able to write that as the first person.

    There must be a platform out there somewhere where you can report facts (assumes hard evidence available) and name names. Just got to be.

    Nigel, your thoughts please.

  • Costas Afortune says:

    We now have a Nicosia based lawyer, and when they asked our Paphos based lawyer for all my files relating to sale of property, loan agreement etc, they received a handful of papers and said they didn’t even have a signed loan agreement! He told us from the start it was a standard contract and nothing needed changed, no advice on Swiss Frank mortgage, happy to let the developer take massive draw-downs when the site was obviously not at required levels, a couple of years late, but no suggestion of termination etc.

    Many Brits have had there fingers burnt by what seems very corrupt practices in Paphos and will never set foot on that island again. I have e mailed the Bar on numerous occasions and never had a reply back! Can you tell me the best contact name and e mail to try and complain “yet again”. How can the president sit back and watch fraudulent activity take place on a massive scale yet seem oblivious to it?

    The Cypriot embassy in London have even wrote to us saying, the POA is invalid if signed at our home and then filled in by someone in Cyprus whom apparently knew us and in the presence of.

  • @Clive – The lawyer you mentioned in connection with your MRI purchase (whose name I have removed) is the one referred to in the article who has 20+ complaints outstanding against her.

  • Clive Isherwood says:

    I have just been reading your article on the Swiss franc mortgages. We like your previous reader did exactly the same, In Paphos. The female solicitor *****! was the one the MRI took us to.

    We have offered the property to the bank who are in the investigation stage. We have been told that the power of attorney could be void as it was not signed by the person from the government office. The problem is, who do you believe. They all want money, we are already £50k into it. Again if they take the property back but agree not to come after me for my property in the UK I will be relieved at that. I would never buy abroad again. The lawyer should have explained, had she sent the banks details at the time I would have stopped it then. It certainly was not as stated. But Hay, life goes on.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    What I find strange is the comments Doros Ioannides is making to the Cyprus Mail, It seems to contradict letters he has written to victims who have paid the fees to sit some for years for Justice from rogue members of the CBA.

    Maybe The President of the CBA can give the Cyprus Mail a interview and reassure the Public that the CBA defends clients rights just as much as they defend members from the public who complain ?

  • @Anna – I suspect that the Cyprus Mail does not want to get entangled in a legal dispute.

    The lawyer who has 25 outstanding complaints against her is very well known!

  • Anna says:

    Why no naming and shaming, to prevent other buyers being caught by the same lawyer?

  • andyp says:

    Nigel

    How about doing one of your “Have Your Say” polls to find out how many complaints have been lodged and how long people have been waiting on a decision? Results might be interesting.

    To the guy in the article who has been waiting six months don’t hold your breath but do not give up. I have been waiting over 2 years.

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