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It is like getting blood from a stone

Seven months after selling their house in Cyprus, a British couple finally received the proceeds of the sale from their Paralimni-based lawyer after they engaged another lawyer to collect their money from him.

MY wife and I sold our house in England in April 2005. We purchased a house in Liopetri on the east side of the island. We both enjoyed our life there for nearly four years.

The pull of our family back in England grew stronger with the birth of our second great grandchild. We decided after many weeks of ‘will we or won’t we’, to move back to England.

We placed the house sale in the hands of an estate agent. Because of the situation with the recession we knew it would take some time to sell.

Finally it sold last year in May 2011. That’s when all my problems started. There was no contact from anyone in Cyprus unless I contacted them first. No one in the office did, nor would tell me about my funds. I knew the lawyers in Paralimni had my funds in their account by early August.

After more excuses and lies I found myself emailing their office three or four times daily. I became so worried about my funds that I contacted and employed another lawyer to find and collect the money.

A few days after the investigation started I received an email from the lawyer who I believe was keeping my funds illegally. He said I would receive my funds in three separate instalments. They did pay – two payments before, and the third after Christmas.

Then another email came saying he would pay me the interest lost on my funds due to the delay in transferring the money. The invoice for retrieving my funds came to €3,500, money well spent even though I could ill afford it.

What happened to my funds before they reached me is criminal. I just want this to end so we both can get back to our normal lives. I am only asking for the money I was forced to spend to retrieve my funds and the bank interest that was promised. One of the worst things was that the purchaser of my property lived in my house for months before I had my funds.

I have spoken to the Cyprus Bar Association disciplinary Board of Advocates and have said they will take on my case at my say so. All I want is an apology and the money lost.

Martin Brough, UK

Readers' comments

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  • marktyler says:

    A shocking story indeed; the line “There was no contact from anyone in Cyprus unless I contacted them first” resonates with me, it is so typical, at all levels in Cyprus.

    This is a deeply shocking place to invest and live…the stories and experiences are endless, recounting tales of lies, deceit, laws which don’t work, laws which protect the Cypriot incumbents, a people which gets away with fraud on a grand scale with very little just retribution.

    How does the EU retain leadership credibility when it allows its member states to behave in the ways that Cyprus does?

    The sad truth is the EU, like a metal chain, is only as strong as its weakest link – Cyprus is a pretty weak link, given the fairly chosen adjectives I’ve used here that characterise the EU side of this island.

    Perhaps this points to another reason why the EU itself, as a political and monetary administration, is (quite rightfully) sitting on death row…waiting, but doing nothing effective to ensure its survival!

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    Happily I have read that the latest victim of this crooked lawyer has been able to retrieve his sale proceeds after ‘just one month’.

    Disgracefully we almost feel he is lucky to have achieved this, but only after flying especially to Cyprus and going into his office refusing to leave until he was paid.

    Of course the lawyer tried to shift the blame onto his recently departed previous office manager. In true Cypriot style, nothing is ever his fault.

  • @Dennis – Thanks for your comment and I’m pleased to hear that everything went smoothly with your sale.

    One point if I may – the list of lawyers from the British High Commission in Nicosia is provided solely for the convenience of enquirers.

  • Dennis McKeever says:

    This must have been incredibly stressful, Martin.

    My wife and I bought our 2 bedroomed apartment off-plan commencing in 2003 in Kato Paphos. The build went well and in due course we moved in in 2005.

    We enjoyed the property and Cyprus very much and made friends with fellow residents on the development and looked forward to our stays. However, we were unable to visit as often as expected and so, earlier on this year, agreed to sell our apartment back to the developers who had received an expression of interest from a prospective purchaser.

    Recalling a prior article by Nigel Howarth we appointed an approved firm of solicitors, listed on the British High Commission Nicosia website, to act on our behalf. Our sale went through as planned in 4-5 weeks’ time overall and we received the proceeds in full (less prior approved solicitors’ fees) in a very timely manner.

    The purpose of posting this is to state that one’s experience selling need not be as bad as Martin Brough unfortunately had. By appointing an “approved” firm of solicitors, we also had the assurance that they were acting on OUR behalf, and so did not have to worry unduly (if at all) throughout the process.

    Incidentally, in my earlier days (in the ’80s) I used to run a cadastral survey department in one country in the Caribbean. This undertook subdivisions of government land and checked and approved private surveys and subdivisions of private property all in support of the local Land Registry. Following a land adjudication programme in the ’70s, before which transactions in property had almost ground to a halt, and in conjunction with the work of the Survey Department (and the Planning Department), confidence in the Land Registry grew, additionally also because Government were by then able to guarantee title to land. Transactions that took forever, or not at all, before, took only days under the new setup, and the frequency of transactions really took off. A prospective purchaser was free to go him or herself to the Land Registry and carry out the transaction with full confidence that title would be good. Alternatively such purchaser could go through their solicitor who also had a hassle-free experience with the local Land Registry because title was guaranteed. So nobody lost out. The whole property transfer business could all be so different in Cyprus if only there was the will and the means to change. But I expect other countries’ successful cadastral systems have been studied to death.

    Although highly aware of the frequency of wrongdoing in the Cyprus property business I just wanted to share my positive experiences above.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    I despair sometimes Nigel.

    I can well understand, sympathise and support anyone who has been scammed without knowing anything bad about the person that scammed them. It is inconceivable that there are not many people who happily dealt with this scumbag to purchase their property without problems and so use him to sell it.

    However, neighbours of mine in Cyprus know every single bad thing that I know about this man including the 2 people I knew of in March this year that had trouble getting their sale proceeds and yet they are still using him if they get a sale for their property. When I looked incredulous at this and asked if they were mad I was met with “but he’s our lawyer and he has a very good girl working for him now.”

    I hate to sound callous but you have to say some people ask to be scammed.

  • @Fighting For Justice – I am very surprised that people were scammed on this ‘promise’ to obtain Title Deeds. Several warnings were issued:

    The Interior Ministry published an announcement about these empty promises.

    The Cyprus Mail published an article Is help at hand with Title Deeds? naming Buy Sell, Fotos Pittadjis and City Living.

    I published an article We will get your Title Deeds for a price.

    Unfortunately, I believe that many people wanted to believe what they were told and were prepared to hand over their money without checking out these empty promises of Title Deeds.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Nigel Howarth.

    You’re quite right. All too often the onus is put on the individual to find the ‘right’ lawyer. Assuming one isn’t ‘clever’ enough to find said ‘right’ lawyer, you’d assume that the regulatory authority would protect you, cough up under their insurance scheme and strike off the lawyer. Wrong on ALL counts.

    I’m afraid that the words “This is Cyprus” are habitually trotted out as a catch-all phrase to waive away negligence and fraud with a metaphorical flick of the wrist.

    I regret to have to write that crookery in the legal ‘profession’ has become an institutional pastime which the powers that be condone and by implication allow to flourish.

  • @Andrew – I agree, Martin Brough did trust the wrong people.

    But if you cannot trust a lawyer in Cyprus, who exactly can you trust?

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    Part of a letter sent to the CBA this morning.

    In another of his scams he charged people €3,000 with the promise that he could obtain their title deeds for them. Unfortunately, while totally unscrupulous, this was not illegal and was merely a scam to part naive and gullible people from their hard earned money. What however he also did was to take the Transfer Tax from these people that would be payable to the Government on issue of title deeds. Article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus states:

    Article 24 requires citizens to pay taxes. It states that “every person is bound to contribute according to his means towards the public burdens.” It also states that no organization may collect a tax without permission in a court.

    Has he then committed a criminal act in collecting this tax? Is this money sitting in his client account waiting for the issue of the title deeds in goodness knows how many years or has he spent it? Is he paying the interest on this money to his clients, if it is even there?

    I would request that you immediately examine this firms accounts as is allowed for under the Code of Conduct and protect more people from falling victim to this villain and give those people who have already become victims to gain justice.

    How many more lives are you going to allow this man to ruin? When are you going to stop him and his father ****** ********* who acts with him, shields him, speaks for him and protects him. They are both despicable evil people.

  • Andrew says:

    With all due respect, you left yourself exposed and you trusted the wrong people (it seems).

    I have done numerous property deals in Cyprus without physically being there, but the funds are transferred into my own personal account every time I sell. I never trust anyone to receive the money on my behalf.

    Sorry, but you could have been more careful.

  • John says:

    I notice that this particular Lawyer has taken his sign down on his property at Cape Greko.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Martin Brough.

    I and doubtless many others more than sympathize with your plight.

    Let me endeavour to put your situation into some sort of perspective, something with which you may or may not agree but that’s your prerogative.

    Firstly, be thankful that you managed to sell your house and you received all the monies.

    Secondly, don’t waste your time in trying to get justice or recompense via the Disciplinary Board of Advocates. It’s a closed shop which bends over backwards to protect its own members and has little or no interest in protecting the rights of the likes of you and me. By all means write a letter of complaint setting out the facts clearly and concisely and if indeed anything positive transpires, that’ll be a bonus. However, don’t hold your breath.

    I wish you well.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Costas Apacket & everyone else.

    There are NO “levels of morality” in the Cypriot judicial system because “morality” simply doesn’t enter into the equation. It doesn’t exist: period.

    The regulatory authority, the Disciplinary Board of Advocates, is the principal culprit because they condone evil practices as a matter of course by at best delivering derisory punishments (the maximum fine is €1,000.00) and never, ever strike off negligent or corrupt lawyers.

    To all those starry-eyed prospective buyers who dream of purchasing a property and spending time on a sun-kissed isle, you have been warned.

  • Costas Apacket says:

    So it would appear that purchasers of Cypriot property can, and often do, get conned at the start, in the middle and at the end of the process?

    It would appear that we are absolutely nowhere near having systems in place in Cyprus that adequately support and protect Consumers from those professions who are supposed to act in a legal, honest and equitable fashion and who set the standards of behaviour and levels of morality that the country is judged by.

    Even Caveat Emptor doesn’t seem to cover it completely, does it?

  • Conor O'Dwyer says:

    I can share my experience and maybe it will help shed some light on the situation in Paralimni. In a near identical situation to the one reported I was contacted by a couple last year seeking help and advice. The lawyer who failed to return their money in a timely fashion was Fotos Pittadjis of Paralimni. This couple were at their wits end by the time they contacted me. I put them in touch with my lawyer and with his help they eventually had the proceeds of the sale returned.

    I have been sharing my experience of Pittadjis of Paralimni for years and it saddens me that things have not changed. I have no qualms in sharing my experience. I am saddened that others in the past have felt obliged to sign confidentiality agreements for the return of what was rightfully theirs.

    Conor O’Dwyer
    Pittadjis has my address :)

  • Viennese says:

    “Basura”
    thats a good one…

    (by the way, I obtained my title deed, years ago… it was a battle.)

  • Yvette says:

    I have personally seen this particular lawyer lie on the stand in court in the Conor O’Dwyer case, the hard and solid evidence was handed in to the chief of police in Nicosia and passed to the Attorney General who chose to do absolutely nothing! He has friends in high places this one.

  • NLP says:

    I think those of us who live in the Farmagusta area all know who these solicitors are, I have heard of at least 3 similar cases.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    All we can do Nigel is keep banging the drum and hope that one day he will not be allowed to keep taking people’s money to fund his profligate lifestyle.

    I am certainly writing to the CBA once again today and will be calling for his accounts to be examined as is allowed in the Code of Conduct.

  • @Fighting For Justice – I do not believe that the Cyprus Bar Association has the intestinal fortitude to to revoke a lawyer’s licence to practice (although it is within their powers).

    Lawyers are required to keep client funds in a separate bank account and the money must not be used for any other purpose – and

    “All monies or other property of a client which come under the possession of an advocate to the benefit or on behalf of the client must be handed over to the latter the soonest possible.”

    (In the UK I believe it is a criminal offence to use clients’ money for any other purpose).

    And I agree, most people will recognise this lawyer – his name has appeared a number of times in the Cyprus Mail and Cyprus Property News.

  • @cojack – It would be extremely foolish of me to publish the name of this lawyer based on an unsubstantiated claim.

    However, I can tell you that he is NOT one of those on the list of lawyers provided by the British High Commission in Nicosia.

  • cojack says:

    For the benefit of others, name and shame your crooked solicitor.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    It doesn’t take much nous to work out who this lawyer is.

    How long are the CBA going to allow him to continue to practise? If they had acted promptly when I complained about him in May 2010 he wouldn’t be allowed to keep taking people’s money.

  • Basura says:

    It just goes on and on doesn’t it? I would suggest that if one was able to round up all the uncorrupt and honest Cypriot lawyers in one place you would probably be able to fit them into a telephone box and still close the door.
    Basura

  • Peter G Davis says:

    My friends sold their villa 6 months ago and couldn’t get the money from the solicitor the buyer had insisted on using.

    Eventually after several visits to her office, where she denied holding the cash, they put the buyer in their car and drove her to her solicitor’s office so she could instruct her to hand over the cash. Even then it came in instalments and took over 3 months.

    This is not an unusual case. I have heard of several others in the same position.

    My neighbours had to get a second solicitor to sue his first solicitor when he failed to hand over monies from a sale of land after 18 months.

    Another solicitor went to Romania with client’s money, and unlike England there is no insurance if you lose the cash on the sale of your home to a crooked Lawyer.

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