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Protest outside Alpha Bank London

Property buyers who maintain that they were mis-sold Swiss Franc mortgages by the Alpha Bank in Cyprus staged a protest outside the London offices of the bank in Cannon Street last Thursday.


ALPHA Bank London at 66 Cannon Street was the venue of a protest held to raise awareness of the plight of people who contend that they were mis-sold mortgages denominated in Swiss Francs by the Alpha Bank in Cyprus.

It was typical winter’s day in London and the dozen or so protestors who had braved the cold and wet weather handed out leaflets detailing their plight to a constant stream of commuters and passers-by in the busy heart of the city.

The protest was part of a ground-swell of campaigning against Cyprus-based banks and many of the protestors stayed in London overnight for a meeting with MPs at Westminster the following day – see ‘All-party MP group to help property buyers‘.

Swiss franc loans were sold to tens of thousands of Britons and locals by Cypriot banks and their agents in 2007 and 2008, during the peak of the island’s property boom.

Banks in Cyprus have started issuing writs and termination notices on those who have defaulted on their mortgage repayments. Several hundred buyers are now being represented by legal groups who are taking action against banks and developers in Cyprus and UK-based financial advisers.

Readers' comments

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  • Adele says:

    In reply to Brian, the Property Sales Companies entice you into sale, then offer to arrange your mortgage for you, a nice complete package. You do have to meet with a bank rep to sign the paperwork, normally at the premises of the Sales Company.

    I agree the sales companies should be named too, I had a friend who worked for one of them, the problem is they were advising people to take a cheap Swiss Franc mortgage because the banks were selling the idea to them, they passed on the so called good advice….. anyway many of those companies do not exist today.

  • Brian says:

    Did the banks sell the properties and advise people to take out mortgages or did property sales companies advise people to buy?

    Aren’t the property sales firms just as culpable? Are these firms still selling offshore properties? Shouldn’t they be named too?

    BM

  • Adele says:

    I don’t believe the banks were not aware of the future demise of the CHF and made cheap mortgage offers in 2007 & 2008 to capitalise themselves.

    At the time I didn’t work with currencies, since then I have researched the CHF to EUR history, in 2007 this was at an all time high and much higher than in the previous 5 years, there really was only one way it was going.

    When I met with the bank representative I was ushered into a area of a conference room and allocated about a 15 min slot to sign about 20 different documents and ask questions, the intermediary said it’s all above board. It would have taken me all day to have read those documents and understood them. There were many other clients after me in the queue.

    I’m sure somewhere in that pile of documents there’s some small print about currency risk.

  • Anna says:

    First of all- many thanks to those hardy souls who stood outside the Alpha Bank.

    I suppose a petition could be signed by a lot more people, then printed off and presented to the Alpha Bank in London. London is a long way for many people to go. A petition to which people could be directed from this page might be helpful. It could be printed off by many people and given out to passers by.

    Not a lot seems to be happening with some of the perpetrators of the initial scam – properties sold by MRI and Darragh MacAnthony. Has anything really drastic happened to them?

  • John Swift says:

    “Martyn’s says: November 5, 2012 at 8:47 am”

    In reply to your post Martyn, they may have been brokered in the UK but just as they appear to be OK the same applies to developers etc in Cyprus who employ UK EX-Pats as sales people giving the prospective buyers the feeling of security.

    I mentioned to one of these people about bringing in the EU way back in 2008 over the title deed issue, his reply was “No no shush you mustn’t do that”

  • Richard says:

    @Geo – hear hear!

    Also – the brokers never mentioned the risks – and the banks took TWO years – yes – TWO years – to provide proper documentation around the loans – and only when they were VERY hard pushed to do so.

    I don’t know if you have a vested interest Yiannos in protecting those who have profited from what is clearly an emerging ‘super-scam’ – but your ‘due diligence’ remarks are somewhat groundless in the face of some pretty shady and shameful practices coming to light across all aspects of sourcing property in Cyprus.

  • Dunn Good says:

    “In CYP the interest rate is the Libor +2.5% Margin, which now is 8%, so your monthly instalment will be CYP630,-
    > Considering the information above the CHF loan is a better offer, however if you want to change to another currency we will request for a new approval.”

    The above is a quote in an e-mail from the Alphabank when we applied for a loan in 2005.However, Alphabank have said they always warn people about borrowing in a different currency than their own. We have paid nearly 1000 euros to a barrister in CY for advice but have been told we have no defensive argument against the Bank.

  • Geo says:

    Yiannos

    That’s what we paid lawyers and “advisors” 10s of thousands of £s to do.

  • Geo says:

    Fighting for Justice, I am a victim of misselling in Cyprus. Mine and my family’s life has been destroyed I am about to lose my house in the UK to pay the 100,000s of swiss Francs the court in Cyprus says I owe.

    I, like you, have been fighting this for years I have spent another £100000 on lawyers in UK and Cyprus and been let down by them all.

    What I find incredible is that if so many people are affected then WHY are we not all in this together?

    There is an air of secrecy that is not helpful. Maybe if we were to share experiences then yes something my happen.

    The right to take someone to court in the UK is being challenged, then even if it goes ahead it will take years cost lots of money (which will not be repaid if they win)and then will have to be enforced in Cyprus. You know that will not happen.

    All party MPs and MEPs may well investigate, they cannot do anything in the European parliament as we have already seen. The EU may ask questions of Cyprus but Cyprus is not listening and certainly not answering, and even if they do answer it is also secret.

    More publicity, an open agenda, less secrecy is the way to go and that is the way I will go when it no longer adversely affects my family.

    Believe me I am not “on the sidelines”.

  • @Steve – I have seen a few of the mortgage documents and they do not contain any warning about foreign currency risks.

    I also know that the banks have been exerting pressure to get people to sign and return statements saying they were advised of the risks.

    Any ‘decent’ lawyer would also send mortgage documents to their client for perusal and signature – they did not.

    There are some other issues as well that I know of.

    @Yiannos – These people were constantly reminded by the independent financial advisor involved in this that they had carried out ‘due diligence’.

    Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  • Steve says:

    There will be a clause, there always is, in the mortgage documents stating the risks of mortgages in a foreign currency and that the applicant has read and understood and accepted the risks. Those who gave a lawyer carte blanche to sign for them, in other words a Power of Attorney, may have some chance of redress if the risks were not communicated to them. Those who personally signed on the dotted line and are expecting the British courts to get them off the hook, are facing a more difficult task, unless the British courts will behave like Cypriot courts often do. Wouldn’t that be a turn-up for the books!

  • costasmyhealth says:

    Martyn, you are right that a dozen people will not get noticed too much. However, I can assure you there are plenty of other legal action groups of purchasers who are busily working on legal cases in very similar circumstances – I am involved in two such groups with many other purchasers – 1. Alpha Bank Swiss franc loans 2. Misrepresentation/ valuation issues by UK sales agents, developer, Cypriot lawyer & bank (in this case Marfin Laiki).

    See the article on the MPs Group last week – this needs following up by constituents with their MPs.

    Momentum will gather pace, however slow it seems.

    There are too many people in desperate plight for this to go away.

    Keep the faith.

  • Yiannos says:

    Swiss Franc mortgages carry a risk, these buyers should have done their due diligence.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    Geo you are right about the number of protesters but until you become a victim of the awful practices of lawyers, developers and banks in Cyprus, and sometimes a conspiracy between all three, you cannot know how hard it is just to carry on every day. You see your life passing you by while you write letters to various agencies and just get fobbed off and told to go somewhere else.

    The Cyprus government does not regulate these banks.

    The Cyprus Bar Association just take your money, take 3 years to investigate your complaint and then do nothing.

    The Cyprus Consumer Protection Service tells you they can’t help.

    If you’ve got a spare €25,000 or so you have to put your trust in another lawyer and take them to court and there you come up against the totally inadequate Cyprus INjustice system and 6 years later, if you;re lucky, you’ll usually find yourself having to go to the Supreme Court.

    This group has achieved much. They’ve managed to win jurisdiction in a case to bring a developer before the English courts. A similar action has been filed against the bank. The All Party Parliamentary Group is being set up by the British MPs to investigate all this on behalf of their constituents.

    It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise but at least something is getting done.

  • Martyn's says:

    Lets not forget that many of these deals were brokered by ‘Intermediaries’ in the UK, whether or not licensed and/or within the domains of the UK ‘regulators’. Time will tell.

    Also, There’s a Huge gulf I agree between 10 Protesters and ‘tens of 1,000s of Britons’ who seemingly ‘bought (more likely ‘were sold’)’ these Extremely High Risk products, but as hopefully as usual in such cases ‘from little acorns’ huge oak trees may grow. At the very least they are drawing attention to their plight.

    A further body blow and soon to be high profile constraint on the already creaking expat Cyprus property markets.

  • Geo says:

    “Swiss franc loans were sold to tens of thousands of Britons and locals”

    Where are they all then? I am sure that there cannot be thousands who are happy. Why so few protesting?

    The Alpha Bank are not going to be intimidated by 10 people outside their London office.

  • Andrew says:

    We should all lend our support to these protestors. Let us hope that the warning is heard by any future buyers.
    Alpha Bank will be the trigger for an avalanche of reposessions by all the other Banks in Cyprus who hold toxic developer mortgages. Mortgages which unsuspecting buyers had no knowledge of. Mortgages which lawyers conveniently forgot to mention to their clients.

  • Fighting For Justice says:

    A few passers by commented that all banks are the same. They have no idea of what has gone on and hopefully we will ensure that not one more victim falls into the trap.

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