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Brit wins property dispute but must pay for defamation

British home buyer Conor O’Dwyer has won his long drawn out case against a Cypriot property developer who unlawfully terminated his contract but has been ordered to pay for defamation.

A BRITISH homebuyer has said he will appeal a court order to pay compensation for an online campaign against a property developer whom the court has found guilty of the unlawful termination of a 2005 contract.

After years of battling his case, and finally having the court acknowledge that his developers had unlawfully terminated his contract, the Famagusta District Court has asked Conor O’Dwyer to pay compensation to Paralimni-based Karayannas Developers over his online campaign.

Although the court awarded O’Dwyer €141,000 in compensation, which comes to around €200,000 with interest, he has been asked to compensate the developers to the tune of some €60,000 – over €85,000 with interest – for defamation on the website lyingbuilder.com, set up in March 2006 against the backdrop of a growing dispute with the developers.

“I’m being penalised because I dared express my opinion about how I was treated by the developers,” O’Dwyer said.

The website documented O’Dwyer’s interaction with the developers by scanning documents, recording conversations and posting photographs of the disputed villa.

O’Dwyer’s lawyer, Yiannos Georgiades, has been instructed to appeal the court’s decision.

In the case of defamation, Georgiades said that European law precedents weighed heavily towards the protection of freedom of speech and people’s right to express their opinion, even against major corporations.

Georgiades said they will also appeal the court’s decision not to award damages for expenses (travelling to and from the UK), loss of rent (by selling a home in the UK to settle in Cyprus) and damages for distress caused by the developers.

The O’Dwyer family sold their house to move to Cyprus with their two small children, buying property on land belonging to the developers in 2005.

They felt their agreement with the developer was breached but negotiations to find a mutually agreed solution failed.

O’Dwyer had already paid over €100,000 in instalments as per his contract and claims the house was resold without his knowledge in May 2007. His contract had been unlawfully terminated and his money never returned.

Karayannas and his son have already been found guilty twice of assault on O’Dwyer in 2006 and 2008. Concerning the second assault, the state has appealed the court’s decision to give a 12-month suspended sentence for actual bodily harm on the grounds the offence should have related to the more serious grievous bodily harm.

O’Dwyer is also waiting on a civil suit against the developers in relation to the second assault that left him six days in hospital.

Also pending is a Supreme Court appeal to a court’s decision to clear Karayannas of any wrongdoing, in relation to a private criminal prosecution.

Readers' comments

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  • Stacy Williams says:

    great points altogether, you just gained a new reader. What would you suggest in regards to your post that you made some days ago? Any positive?

  • uptown girl says:

    What happened to free speech ?

  • marktyler says:

    I have deep sympathy and respect for Mr O’Dwyer.

    I hope the European Commission and relevant authorities are made aware (again) of this cheating deceitful society of people that runs Cyprus. Shame on the EU for allowing its member states to behave in this way. Is this a Europe to be respected? Or is it a Union of independents, some of whom are (much) more Corrupt than the others?

    EU! Step up to the plate, apply backbone, and enforce decent behaviour from member states. Don’t BS it away, by instructing complainants to refer to their local “competent authority”. Cyprus loves you to do this, like a vampire would love you, when you shirk your responsibility.

    If EU fails to keep its house in order, then sadly, this might be why the EU is under threat of disintegration. Why should anyone hope for its survival!

    Perhaps disintegration is the dark nemesis that he EU is bringing onto itself, by virtue of its actions and inactions.

  • Steve says:

    Congratulations to Conor O’Dwyer for having fought hard and having fought well. I am sure the system in Cyprus was not expecting that he would have done that so well. For the rest of us, the compromise of a defamation award against Conor is a lesson for us all. Don’t expect a clean win in a fight away from home, even when you knock out your opponent. The truth of the matter is that Cypriots are prepared to take our money but they don’t have to like us. The same is true in many other countries; South Africa is one similar example where the baggage of colonialism cannot and will not be forgotten. Don’t forget, however, that the whole thing could not have happened without the willing participation of a certain British citizen called Michelle MacDonald. With such people around it is easy to see why the Cypriot building industry believe they can continue to operate in the way so many object to.

  • Duped says:

    How is it possible for a Cyprus court dealing with a contract dispute to hand down a judgement involving libel?

    Courts should be and are usually scrupulous in sticking to the precise issue at hand.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Mike.

    I refer to the last paragraph of your most recent comment.

    The majority of citizens in any country behave in a reasonable manner and know which boundaries they must not cross.

    Unfortunately, those who hold the reins of power in Cyprus, the government and all levels of the judiciary, have repeatedly proved to all and sundry that they have no boundaries, are rotten to the core and have no intention of dispensing natural justice. The O’Dwyer case is but one of thousands with the majority giving up out of frustration, fear of retribution, lack of willpower, ill-health or shortage of money.

    Mike & Maria.

    My mother was Cypriot and I have property in Famagusta. Why should those like O’Dwyer and the tens of thousands who’ve been swindled out of legal ownership of their properties (by the withholding of title deeds because of hidden developer mortgages and other scams) have any sympathy for the likes of us?

    I’m afraid that the game’s up for Cyprus as all the ‘artful ways’ and general wheezes have caught up with her. And all roads lead to a corrupt judiciary and resultant flouting of the rule of law by those who should honour and uphold it.

  • Alex says:

    I don’t understand the logic of the court. If they eventually agreed with the plaintiff that the defendant was a fraudster, then why saying that he was a fraudster is a libel? Is it because the plaintiff had called developer names BEFORE the court came to the same conclusion?

  • Robert Briggs says:

    Mr Conor O’Dwyer was merely stating the truth about this scum in his website
    I am awaiting a statement from the EC regarding the Cyprus property gross malpractices. (According to CPAG’s update report in July, this should have been issued in August!) R.B.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Regrettably, this outcome is an outcome of the police and courts instructed by the Attorney General to treat alleged property fraud by developers et al as civil and not criminal cases. The two parties are treated as if they are equals in a dispute, whereas any alleged fraudster should be treated as having committed a crime against the victim. A big difference in the judicial approach, attitude, standards of evidence, proofs and court decisions. Cyprus does brag about how closely it follows English law and precedent. I’ve seen precious little evidence to support this boast in relation to property fraud.

    The offsetting of Conor O’Dwyer’s win on unlawful termination of contract by the declaration on libel is, to say the least, bizarre and highlights the absurdity of how Cyprus courts address such cases. This decision appears to more to do with warning off others from also washing Cyprus’s dirty linen in public. So, what are they going to do now that the Russian Federal Complaint Register is going after wayward Cyprus developers on the Internet just as Conor did?

  • Stuart says:

    The European Parliament has voted to make every EU Member State take a common approach to cross-border defamation and privacy cases.

    This will result in common law jurisdiction where libel can only occur where a proven false statement has intentionally been made. Truthful statements, therefore, remain a defence against such alleged defamation.

    Truthful statements, however, are not a defence for ‘invasion of privacy’ which arises on revelation of information that is not of public concern and would offend a reasonable person.

    In the matter of lyingbuilder.com, public concern was clearly of paramount importance and hence there could be no case for an allegation of invasion of privacy.

    It is also worth noting that in 2012 the UN Commission on Human Rights ruled that the criminalisation of ‘libel’ violates freedom of expression and is inconsistent with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    I sincerely hope and trust that O’Dwyer will be fully compensated as a result of the appeals that are going forward albeit he may have another long wait for final justice.

  • andyp says:

    Having been through the Cypriot, so called,judiciary mill, to a far lesser extent than Conor and family, they deserve a medal for hanging in there. More than that they deserve justice and in my opinion this verdict was not it.

  • @Mike & @Maria – I avoid commenting on the Cyprus Problem as it is very politically sensitive issue.

    But I cannot see how the government will be able to resolve the return of properties to their rightful owners in the event that the Island is reunified if it takes six years to resolve a relatively ‘simple’ problem in its own back yard.

  • maria says:

    Great comment and I agree with your wife, I lost in 1974 and lost again. They say don’t trust Greeks bearing gifts.

  • Mike says:

    My wife and I have just read the report in the Sunday Mail. When she had finished reading she looked up and said to me. “Who will now have any kind of empathy with those of us who lost our houses in 1974. We are no better than them”. Sadly I am inclined to agree with her. She added “we of all people should be sympathetic to those who lose their homes, this will not be good”.

    I feel perhaps she is right and sadly rightly so. If we can do this to guests and investors in our Country then perhaps we do not deserve any kind of civilised partnerships and must question if we are deserving of any guests at all if this is how we treat them.

    So so sad but please be aware that this is not how the majority of ordinary Cypriot people wishes it to be.

  • viennese says:

    B R A V O !!!

    Congratulation!

    continue and stick to it!

  • MARTYN says:

    Well Done CO’D for battling so hard and so long for ‘Justice’ and an outrage that he should now be ‘fined’ for doing so. So, Good Luck CO’D now in the next stages, your appeals etc.

    Hopefully your case has had sufficient attention/publicity to help others, Brits, Russians, Chinese, whatever to put them on extreme caution before even thinking about buying a ‘new’ or ‘off-plan’ property in Cyprus.

  • Mike says:

    We must remember that this case was won by Mr O’Dwyer however we must also hang our heads in shame in the knowledge that justice has not been served. What message that sends out to prospective investors god only knows.

    The greatest argument for summary justice would be a trawl through case brought by foreigners and subsequent judgements in a Cypriot court. Obviously not worth the cost both in time and money. Is it any wonder that Cypriots themselves by-pass the judicial system and hand out their own form of retribution in many cases.

    Have any statements in the Lyingbuilder.com site been proven to be untrue? If not then it could surely be argued that this individual is delivering a valued service to potential buyers and to the Construction industry as a whole.

    Perhaps it is time, as we are now allegedly European, to be able to choose in what country we wish our case to be heard and judged. At least then the victim may stand a little chance of receiving some form of justice. Methinks Cyprus and perhaps just one or two other states will not see any cases brought by foreigners into their courts – then the obvious question must be asked by ECHR as presumably Cyprus’ Attorney General will not intervene, or will he?

  • Maria says:

    I am in business here in Cyprus and although I am half Cypriot I find that the Cypriots will not deal legally with any issues, they always threaten and cause violence and the police will not take notice.

    If the Developers in this case just dealt with matters professionally I am sure they could have come to a compromise.

    I love Cyprus and I wished the Law was easier to deal with.

  • Adrian says:

    There is the law and there is justice and the Cyprus legal system manipulate and read them to suit themselves and it goes all the way down to the police pulling in “foreigners” and a Cypriot speeds by or a motor cyclist not wearing a helmet.THERE IS NO RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    I wonder if the Judge in the first assault civil case now faces charges of defamation for calling the developers, Karayiannas, liars as was proved in front of my eyes?

  • Gavin Jones says:

    This is a simple case of the “Cypriot judiciary giveth and the Cypriot judiciary taketh away”.

    It would be very hard to defend the opinion that a non-Cypriot has an almost impossible task of obtaining unconditional justice in Cyprus.

    Blood really is thicker than water and the rule and application of law exists only for those with the ‘right’ blood.

    For those still foolish enough to be considering purchasing a home in Cyprus, you’ve been warned. It simply isn’t worth it.

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