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A plan for all reasons

Proposals to resolve property purchase disputes in Cyprus without litigation and restore the credibility of its public, property and financial sectors have been submitted to the Cyprus Government.

GEORGE Kounis, Consultant with London City law firm Maxwell Alves, submitted proposals to the Cyprus Government via its Consulate in London on 1st August designed to resolve the numerous property disputes between property buyers and Cypriot developers, banks, sales agents, lawyers and financial advisors.

A document entitled ‘A Plan for All Reasons: How to resolve property purchase disputes in Cyprus without litigation and restore the credibility of its public, property and financial sectors‘ contains five proposals aimed at resolving the current backlog, stopping the market from taking another dive due to the planned repossessions and preventing a future recurrence.

“Three of these proposals are nothing new” said George Kounis. “They are about measures that should have been in place decades ago and nobody disagrees they are needed. They would protect the industry and the buyers and this is in the interests of everyone. The only problem seems to be a lack of political will to get on and do it.”

The remaining two proposals aim to resolve the more recent problems of properties losing up to 70% of their value since 2008, high loan to value mortgages in strong currencies like Swiss Francs, and almost non-existent rental incomes despite expectations. “These people are faced with losing all the money they invested and everything they own including their UK assets,” added George Kounis. “The last thing they want is to spend more good money after bad in protracted litigation,” he continued. The fact is that neither do the banks, the property developers and the Cyprus Government – and that is a good starting point for talks.

What is positive about the last two proposals included in the document is that they do not require changes in legislation. “The Government is only expected to facilitate and co-ordinate and this means that they are more likely to happen,” clarified George Kounis.

Government participation would help the proposals and add to the Government’s credibility which, so far, appears helpless.

“Although it would be good to have it, the last two proposals can go ahead without Government participation. We are, therefore, proceeding to contact developers, banks and other parties to get things going” declared George Kounis.

About the author

George Kounis started his career in banking and has been running businesses for over 30 years. He has recently joined Maxwell Alves as a business consultant.

Established in 2003, Maxwell Alves is a firm of solicitors and international lawyers based in Central London. The firm is on the panel of legal advisers that are maintained by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). UKTI is a government body which forms part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that promotes UK bilateral trade and investment.

Readers' comments

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  • Curmudgen says:

    ‘Government participation would help the proposals and add to the Government’s credibility….’

    What credibility?

    Dear Mr H.

    Assuming you have a commercial venture in the business of circumnavigating the Title Deed problem Just how far would it have got if it wasn’t for obtaining valuable information from this website and its contributors?

    Clearly you have not been on the receiving end of the Title Deeds debacle or if you have, you are being very smug about the history behind them.

    Having followed the debacle for the last 3.5 years I cannot see anything positive about the Title Deed issue. It’s all doom and gloom underwritten by a weak government.

    You appear to be well educated, are certainly articulate so why not disclose your nationality.

    That would go a long way to explaining your stance.

    Regards.

  • @Mr Holland – So basically you have done nothing – you seem to have the “I’m alright Jack” attitude.

    What do you believe gives you the right to criticise those who have been endeavouring to resolve the problems encountered by those buying property – including your clients who have yet to receive legal title to their properties?

    I suggest that you take you sanctimonious attitude and comments elsewhere.

  • Dr Spock says:

    @Holland. Oh God it’s you again! I was just having a nice nap!

    Now let me see, what are you bellowing on about this time? Hmmm. No, no……nope. Lots more confirmatory signs. Having any strange auras or hearing voices in your head? Can’t see that there is anything new to add to what I said last time. Just keep taking the tablets and don’t forget to pay your consultation fee on your way out.

  • Mr Holland says:

    I left it in your capable hands Mr Howarth…too many cooks and all that.

    I have waited for CPAG to resolve the issues …patiently waiting like you.

    Speaking to clients pre Amnesty, post Amnesty…hoping that someone would listen to you and other pressure groups.

    They have not listened…I have seen why and I am now going to assist …but maybe using a different formula.

    In hindsight I am glad I did not join in….i had the forsight not to

  • @Mr Holland – If you have been aware of the problems since 2005, what have you done to help resolve them?

    The businesses of the good developers as well as the bad have been suffering as a result of the actions of the ‘rotten apples’.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

  • Mr Holland says:

    Mr Howarth…thanking you again for the 5th mistaken identity incident

    I am fully, fully aware of the attacks, the magnitude of pain and the heartache and I for one am not saying it is not there or not real or more than a littel upsetting….but NONE and I mean NONE of those that listened to me since 2005 :

    Bought a Title Deed problem property…not saying they have them but they will all eventually get them

    NONE had advice from me re Swiss Franc Mortgages…Cyprus pound, sterling or Euro only

    NONE have had building issues….only pool and snagging slight frustrations

    ALL have been delighted with the transaction…and if not as I have the same details for contact for 15 years I have not heard a thing to suggest otherwise

    I would be pleased to work with anyone who is happy to change the way they look at things or at least
    consider it, rather than this dismissive …it’s never gonna work attitude.

    A fool will never listen to a wise man…but a wise man will always listen to a fool

    Confirmed Holland is not George Kounis

  • @Denton Mackrell – I have spoken with George Kounis and I can assure you he is not our Mr Holland.

    As for some being threatened with violence, one buyer spent several days in hospital having been beaten up by his developer – and was subsequently beaten up for a second time. And a 70 year old was rushed to hospital following an assaulted on him by his developer.

    In another case, which I was asked not to report, a developer threatened to take a client into the woods and shoot him if he reported the problem with his property to the press. Fortunately the client taped the conversation, which is now in some very safe hands.

    As you may know, I attend the PICAS meetings in Larnaca quite regularly. Many buyers will not attend the meetings and discuss their problems because they are scared of what reprisals their developers will take if they find out.

    Unfortunately our Mr Holland appears unwilling to accept, or perhaps unable to comprehend, the severity and the scope of the problems people are facing.

    Physical attacks are (fortunately) very rare. However there are literally thousands of people who have been lied to and cheated by ‘crooks’ masquerading as ‘honest’ property developers, lawyers, estate agents, etc.

    As has been advised by myself and others many times in the past, to avoid the risks and potential heartache and worry, the best way to protect yourself is:

    a) don’t believe the marketing hype;

    b) do your research properly;

    c) use a trustworthy lawyer who is independent of anyone else involved in the transaction;

    d) reduce your risk by limiting your search to properties that have been issued with their all-important Title Deed..

    If people did this, my workload would fall by 95%.

  • Mr Holland says:

    Dr Spock

    just because you have pointed ears and make people faint with pressure to their shoulder does not mean you need to remain an outcast….

    Come and join the new wave of optimism spreading accross Europe, that will eventually tickle Cyprus once we clear some of the debris left by our predecessors…

    You know you want to really

    ‘The ickle dutch boy’….with multi personalities and fingers apparently in many a pie

  • Mr Holland says:

    Denton….Jezzzzzusssss ..give it a rest mate.

    Kounis promised nothing…I promised nothing….CPAG promised nothing but have by their own admission got zilch….the king is dead long live the king

    You may have been in business for years but you have learnt nothing about hearts and minds ….intellegence is one thing, business acumen another and likeability amongst those that make decisions much , much, much more important in getting the job done.

    I think Kounis and co will achieve more in 12 months than the CPAG has in 6 years and they will win friends and business associates along the way because of their style and approach….instead of being trapped in some paranoic witch hunt for justice.

    Speak out on a public Forum and expect to be shot at Mackrell and for the record I said everyone should work together not Kounis and Holland take over….!!!!!!!!!!!

    Embrace, engage, listen , learn and stop being so self righteous and condesending

    There is only one Holland and Holland is only one

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Belligerence means warlike, aggressive, preparedness to use physical violence to achieve an end. This is a preposterous adjective to apply to CPAG, Nigel Howarth or any of those who have been battling for years to secure a just end to the Cyprus Property Scandal. Determined, organized and knowing how to apply pressure, certainly. But belligerent?! Aw, c’mon! It is precisely because they are NOT belligerent that they are taken seriously by the EU Commission, ECHR and various governments excluding Cyprus.

    Interestingly, neither Kounis nor Holland (are they one and the same? their wordage indicates they are) mention actual belligerence inflicted upon some buyers by developers or people acting for them. At least three instances have been reported on this website and two received local and international media attention. Others have also been threatened with violence.

    The more I hear from Holland & co the more it looks like what they really want is a clear field for their commercial activities, without independent buyer groups or any inconvenient facts that the latter tend to keep in the public eye and in front of the EU.

    Having been in business for many years, I’m all for business but businessmen simply cannot solve all problems. A solution to the Cyprus Property Scandal certainly warrants their input but definitely would fall flat if they were given total lead control. Even ignoring their inherent skill limitations, to whom would they be accountable? If, as Holland/Kounis want, CPAG steps aside to let them take over the baton and they proceed to do just as they like, what happens if they fail to deliver their promised results? Who gets sued? Holland? Kounis? CPAG has never made any extravagant claims and promises about getting results whereas we are already lots of early froth from Holland. Where are their specific, testable objectives? Where is their plan that we can measure progress against?

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    Collaboration will work wonders

    Mmmm

  • Dr Spock says:

    Ah,the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam, an answer for everything and a solution for nothing. Stand clear everyone lest you drown in his belligerent tsunami when he finally pulls his finger out!

  • Mr Holland says:

    The CPAG decided to embark on a campaign without reckoning with the brick wall….instead of finding a suitable way to get over the wall, you and others in ther infinate wisdom decided to try and break a hole in in….alas to no avail.

    You have not embraced the Cypriot mentallitey merely dug a suitable hole for all…and have opened a huge gap….you have alienated them…you decided to go to war and you are losing the battle, by your admission and words

    “What has happened since then? Two thirds of three eighths of zilch. The Minister didn’t have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of the report, let alone comment on it’s content.”

    “More than six years of efforts by CPAG and others to work with the government to resolve the issues has got nowhere.”

    You upset the wrong people because you thought you knew best…6 years of ‘zilch’ says you took the wrong action….in my honest and humble opinion of course.

    I just think all parties should work differently , call an amnesty and start the process at a different angle…using the report as part of the solution….

    not dismiissing it out of hand as already done by some on here on here.

  • @Holland – I suggest that you read CPAG’s report to the Cyprus Government – http://www.cyprus-property-buyers.com/files/cpag-report.pdf

    How can you say that this is belligerent?

    In 2007, together with Denis O’Hare and members of CPAG, I met with the Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry plus two of his senior civil servants and the Finance Minister to discuss the problems with the island’s property industry.

    As a result of those meeting, the Finance Minister asked that we prepare a report on the various issues together with suggestions as to how they could be addressed. The Finance Minister said that he would then discuss the issues with his government colleagues.

    That report, ‘Cyprus Property Pitfalls – a time for action‘, was delivered by hand to the Finance Minister’s office in January 2008.

    What has happened since then? Last year the government introduced a replacement Specific Performance Law which provides a degree of additional protection to new buyers – but it only scratches the surface of the problems.

    The government appears to have no intention of resolving the issues – it has merely tinkered with the existing laws and regulations (which, incidentally are rarely enforced as evidenced by the 130,000 properties that have yet to be issued with Title Deeds).

    As a consequence, CPAG in now in constant communication with Europe and progress is being made as can be seen by their latest update at Cyprus Property Action Group and the EU.

    You may not be aware that in 2010 the European Union conducted a survey ‘Attitudes of Europeans towards Corruption’.

    That survey revealed that a staggering 94 percent of Cypriots who responded believed that “Corruption is a major problem in Cyprus”.

    You may read a summary of the EU report at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_325_fact_cy_en.pdf

    And by the way, it isn’t only expatriates who are battling to for the rights of property buyers, the Cyprus Land and Property Owners’ Association (KSIA) and others are also working to that end.

  • UBoat says:

    I agree with the majority of the comments here.

    Having been in a Cypriot lawyers office to talk about taking my developer to court, some 4-5 years ago and being told in no uncertain terms that there was a conflict of interest here and that he (the Lawyer) could not continue further with my request. (I was subsequently quickly ushered out of the office) I firmly believe there is no heart or will from any one in authority in Cyprus to resolve this mater any time soon.

    In my humble opinion if they do then they will have lost, lose face and be ridiculed even more than they are now. So I personally think we will never see this resolved.

    This man and his report seems to be another smoke and mirrors delay tactic, probably dreamed up from a think tank somewhere in the Cypriot Government basement.

    I hope I am wrong for all of us ???

    But I doubt it! call me a non believer.

    G’Day
    UBoat

  • Holland says:

    From the report

    The Benefits of taking action

    This is indeed a win-win proposal. From the moment the Government of Cyprus is seen to
    be proactive, the climate and the bad press will change. Most disgruntled buyers I spoke to,
    do not support the belligerence displayed by some pressure groups and if they have an
    alternative, they would flock to it. Furthermore, the single voice of belligerence that is
    currently being heard will suddenly have a counterpart: it will be the voice of reason, the
    voice of resolve and the voice of justice.

    Much as I see the benefits of the CPAG it has not the support it needs.It’s rhetoric far too Anti-Business, ‘belligerence’ is not pretty and is run by those with emotive and rightly so very real reason to be more than disguuntled.

    But all is not lost if you would listen to others trying for a solution.

    Support this new document instead of seeing it as opposition, embrace it for what it is trying to do, which is the same end result as the CPAG …just different.

    All you Mackrell’s, Howarth’s, 2 Bob Jim’s , Sweet shop owners and Costa SmelltheCoffees should actually consider your aloofness and start to realise….

    You have done your job…we thank you for bringing the issues to our attention, you have instigated change and things will change and because of you are happening…too slowly but they are moving….

    However that does not stop you trying to assist others with the same end goal…collaboration will work wonders…. opposition without discussion and engagement will just drive a further wedge and I can assure you support will and is already satrting to dwindle from your CPAG efforts.

    I am here to help new and old buyers, and I support all positivity ….but as I have pointed out on this forum…there is never much of it just ANTI CYPRIOT PROPOGANDA AND SCAREMONGERING AND NO REAL ANSWERS…JUST EX PAT CRITIQUE, SNEERS, QUIPS OF JUDGEMENT AND DISMISSIVE COMMENTS….especially from the Head Teachers who concentrate on spelling mistakes more than any solutions of benefit.

    just an opinion
    Holland

  • Stuart says:

    This isn’t the first time we have had ‘plans for all reasons’ presented on CPN. If my memory serves me correctly, each ‘plan’ has been appropriately filed in the round filing cabinet by those who, with knowledge and experience of Cyprus corruption and practice, rightly receive such plans with a healthy dose of scepticism.

    Nor is it the first time that a London firm of solicitors has offered to “resolve property purchase disputes in Cyprus” as I recall. If that were possible, there would be universal rejoicing by the informed contributors below. Instead, I concur with all who are of the opinion that to restore the credibility of Cyprus public, property and financial sectors will take rather more than simply a document submitted to a Consulate.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    I too share Gavin’s cynical view.

    There is no requirement for pre-action protocol in Cyprus so when the other party simply refuses to communicate there can be no solution but litigation. There has never been anything to stop the various parties negotiating settlements but they don’t want to. They rely on draining every last vestige of energy and will from people and them simply giving up.

    Legislation is required to force pre-action protocol but that requires cooperation from the government and that is, and never has been, the least bit forthcoming.

  • John says:

    Just read this document.

    I started to comment, but not worth the effort as none of his proposals will work full stop.

  • Rona says:

    Andrew, a banania is a banana republic.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Having read his proposal again, I have two further points.

    1. The ‘elephant in the room’ surely missing from his list of causes of foreigners no longer buying property in Cyprus is the mass of withheld title deeds and the various frauds perpetrated against buyers. While he cites the recent cases of buyers successfully gaining UK court jurisdiction for their cases against Alpha Panareti which involved Alpha Bank (and a number of these plaintiffs are also among those who have successfully registered forthcoming cases against Cyprus at the ECHR), what about the 120,000+ properties whose deeds are withheld because of developer mortgages and/or the constipated issuance system? By skating over this lot, his document is distorted and therefore undermined as it may appear uninformed.

    2. He rightly petitions the government to intervene on this matter to ‘save Cyprus’ and, as he notes, this relies on their political will to act. However, as noted in earlier threads, there is the over-riding problem of sovereign corruption here that will prevent this. Regrettably, I feel that his initiative will therefore simply join the growing list of others that have been ignored.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    @Mr Kounis back to the drawing board I think and work out how do you deal with crooked lawyers + Developer loans 6-7 Billion ?

  • Andrew says:

    Did I miss something or did I see no mention of the many people who have paid in full for their homes. These people could lose everything because their Cyprus Bar registered lawyer did not inform them of a developer mortgage which was taken out before their contract was allowed to be lodged at land registry. What proposals does Mr Kounis put forward to address this huge problem.

    BTW what is a BANANIA?

  • Peter G Davis says:

    The report says a lawyer who is acting on behalf of a buyer who has an association with the bank and the developer cannot see a conflict of interests? .. Yet many of these lawyers advertise they are British trained. So how can they not understand the conflict of interest which is taught to English standards?

    Further if the buyer has agreed a mortgage but finds out he doesn’t own the property; isn’t it immoral to expect someone to keep paying for something that someone else owns?

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Any well-constructed initiative that hastens the end of the current Cyprus property scandal is to be welcomed. At first glance, there does seem to be a lot of good in this latest one, although of course the proposal for a Property Ombudsman was first put to the government by the Cyprus Property Action Group in Oct 2007 and repeated in a letter from Alyn Smith MEP to President Christofias in Dec 2010.

    Mr Kounis’ thinly veiled sneer at CPAG which he describes as the ‘voice of belligerence’ unfortunately puts a question mark over him and his motives. One might reasonably argue that without CPAG’s persistence and dragging the scandal into the international spotlight, Mr Kounis would have been unlikely to ever been able to put forward his own initiative. Instead of sneering, he should be grateful that his initiative now makes some sense following CPAG’s efforts over many years.

    It would also be helpful to know more precisely what Mr Kounis’ credentials and commercial interests are. Apparently, he is some kind of property market consultant (selling property??) and not a lawyer, although associated with Maxwell Alves law firm. A little more transparency might help his cause.

  • Geo says:

    A good idea/plan, but this requires some give and take from all sides. The Cyprus banks/authorities give nothing and take all.

    If they could be persuaded to be flexible then this could be the way forward.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    This report seems full of good intentions and one can’t help but continue to remain cynical. I rather suspect that the matter is out of everyone’s hands as all concerned are insolvent: government, banks and more than likely many developers. If it were otherwise, why is the troika now involved and having to pick up the pieces and inject billions of euros? (There’s also no mention in the report of the €6+ billion of debt owed by the developers to the banks. I know there’s no law to say that it needs to be inserted but this is a salient part of the general equation).

    As far as “adding to the government’s credibility”, it doesn’t have any in the first place to be “added to”. In addition, “these proposals…would protect the industry and the buyers…”. Excuse me. Up until now it’s the ‘industry’ which has been well and truly “protected” with the buyers being left to hang out to dry.

    I’ve read this report twice and it seems that nowhere has a reference been made to the way that buyers have been stitched up into purchasing real estate with hidden developer mortgages: a subterfuge perpetrated by unholy trinity of the developers, banks and the legal ‘profession’ with the government condoning such criminality. Perhaps I’ve missed it and I stand corrected if it has indeed been mentioned.

    What a farce all this is. I expect the usual suspects will soon be arriving on this thread to assure everyone that it’s not that bad and that all will be well. Quite.
    Welcome to the land of wishful thinking, chicanery and downright lies.

  • Costas Apacket says:

    There are some good suggestions in this report, but, unless I have misread it, it doesn’t seem to recommend that a simple system should be introduced where individual Legal Title Deeds must be made available to property purchasers at the point when the transfer of ownership of each property takes place.

    Indeed it seems to suggest at one point that it would be good for Cyprus if another ‘positive voice’ could be manufactured by taking some measures to counteract what it calls the singular ‘belligerent, (i.e. hostile and aggressive), voice’ that is currently being heard from some pressure groups and taking precedence.

    By all means convert the Swiss Franc mortgages into Euro mortgages, but also let the owners actually legally own their properties, at the same time, rather than them just continuing to pay for something that isn’t actually theirs.

    My view is that this ‘belligerence’ doesn’t need to be ‘re-balanced’ by a veneer of positive spin, but, in fact, needs to be stepped up a gear to avoid any possible watering down of the pressure that is currently being applied to the Cypriot Government and their collusive partners in crime in the Cypriot property industry.

  • Janner says:

    Interesting. I wonder if there has been any response from official sources. It would be great to avoid litigation, but to do this parties would have to agree. Cyprus would have to ‘bend’ their mindset considerably for this to even be an option. It is important that opportunities to avoid legal action are looked at carefully and I welcome anything that can be done to avoid the misery. My concern is that, in many cases, buyers have been treated very badly and the proposed course of action may not be enough to resolve the matter. Many purchasers believe the law has been broken. The legislation was created for a reason and is it right that those concerned should be able to escape their actions. The resolution would need to be very good to avoid this.

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