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Alpha Bank Cyprus sued in England

In what is believed to be one of the largest Collective actions ever taken against a company operating in Cyprus, litigation proceedings are issued against Alpha Bank Cyprus in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Alpha Bank Cyprus LtdON the 27 June 2013, Maxwell Alves Solicitors in the City of London, filed a High Court action on behalf of 215 clients with substantial claims against Alpha Bank Cyprus and 24 associated property developers.

Despite the claims involving the purchase of properties in Cyprus, proceedings were commenced in England because all the people involved are claiming that they are UK consumers and they are afforded the protection of EU legislation on cross-border selling.

Many more claimants are to be added in a second wave as deadlines for filing claims are approaching in what appears to be an uprising by British purchasers of properties in Cyprus who have €1.6 billion of loans outstanding to Cypriot banks. Their balances have swelled because most of these loans were given in Swiss Francs that has appreciated in value by approximately 40% against the Euro while property values fell by up to 70%. More actions are to follow against other banks, developers, lawyers and sales agents unless they agree to a negotiated settlement.

These purchasers, who claim to have suffered many years of frustration in trying to deal with Alpha Bank Cyprus, allege the bank has failed to satisfactorily address and resolve the issues in question. They have decided the best recourse available to them is for a collective action in the English courts.

The Claimants are asking for complete nullification of their contracts due to the circumstances under which they were entered into with Alpha Bank Cyprus and the property developers concerned and compensation for various breaches.

A large number of Alpha Bank funded projects across the island, from Paphos to Deryneia have been named in the action including developments by:

Invest in Cyprus, Paschalis Holdings Construction, A.S.P. & K. Paschali Developers, Kassianos Landcase Development, Alpha Panareti, G. & V. Hadjidemosthenous, Aristo Developers, Kalliope Developers, Sol Terra Developers, G. Hassapis Holdings, G. Hassapis & Sons, Andreas Georgiou Property Developers, Demetris Elias & Sons, PMP Adamia Developers, Leptos Estates, Pafilia Property Developers, Yianmarie Properties, Cybarco, Panikkos Livadiotis, Atropos Hotels, Evagoras Properties, Arethousa Developments and Promitheus Investments.

George Kounis, consultant at Maxwell Alves Solicitors, who is leading the action on behalf of the claimants, says:

“This is just the first wave of actions being undertaken. We hope and expect many more to join us. The great number of claimants in this action is just a reflection of the widespread dissatisfaction, anger and grievance felt by many Alpha Bank Cyprus clients. They do not feel the bank has taken sufficient steps to equitably resolve the issues at hand. There are many thousands of people in this situation who have so far not taken action waiting for something to happen. Now they realise that nothing will unless they take action and with time limits fast approaching they have no alternative but to join or have their claims time barred. So far, Alpha Bank Cyprus has been indifferent to the threat of legal action, but now the pressure is mounting we hope that they will demonstrate a more conciliatory and sympathetic approach to their customers.”

If outstanding foreign loans to Alpha Bank Cyprus are not repaid, the bank would stand to lose a quarter of its loan portfolio.

Maxwell Alves Solicitors

Maxwell Alves is a firm of solicitors based in Central London with varying practices.

It specialises in legal matters not only in England and Wales but also in other jurisdictions including Scotland, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brazil, Greece and Cyprus.

Since its establishment in 2003, Maxwell Alves has rapidly developed into a major legal adviser both to businesses and individuals. It has established its own reputation as a small firm that delivers work to City of London standards.

Maxwell Alves is on the UK Trade and Investment’s panel of recommended advisers for inward investment as well as trusted advisor for UK companies exporting. Maxwell Alves is also on the Law Society’s Network of Lawyers for your Business.

Contact: George Kounis

Telephone: +44 20 8882 6864
Mobile: +44 7946 644360
Email: g.kounis@maxwellalves.com
Web: www.maxwellalves.com
Address: 75 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 3JY, United Kingdom

Readers' comments

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  • andyp says:

    @Leigh.

    You are not going to hear from anyone. You need to do something for yourself i.e join the action or contact a help group.

  • Leigh Rolfe says:

    Reading your article above. I have also a mortgage with Alphabank, and on there recommendation a Swiss franc mortgage was taken out.

    My property purchase is in Paphos Cyprus.

    My mortgage is tripled in monthly uk pound with the transfer over into Swiss francs which was Alpha banks recommendation.

    Look forward to hearing from you

    Leigh Rolfe

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    @pils. Don’t you mean that Maxwell Alves represents claimants AGAINST all banks?! I don’t think Mr Kounis would like to hear that he has switched sides!

  • pils says:

    @jam

    Maxwell Alves represents all banks, not only Alpha bank. Send e mails to Maxwell Alves and await response.

  • jam says:

    I was told my mortgage was never more than 600 sterling but it is now 1300.

    Is there a different group going to court for different banks as my bank was Laiki

    Anyway hope it goes well for the Alpha bankers.

  • Tojo says:

    Interesting article & comments – some of which are total tosh (a technical legal term I believe!)

    @Steve, there are many of us who have been trying to do something for a long time but unfortunately we are being held up by the inefficiencies of the Cypriot legal system (I wonder who this suits?), and our best guess is that that many of the legal group that I belong to will get into court early next year – we have been waiting about two years already.

    @ just me, the case for many is not simply about swiss francs but about how the bank behaved and continues to behave. The bank has not acted responsibly and failed in its duties whichever way you look at it. Unfortunately for the bank there were others involved acting negligently or fraudulently however the bank is the biggest target and will therefore be the target of our writs. Buyers were not informed of the risks or in fact the full details of the loans that were arranged until after the event and when compared to details that had been provided prior to completion the details had in fact changed. The banks case is not watertight and my view is that we will never get to see the bank in court.

    @NICHOLAS XENOPHONTOS, what are you talking about, are you an employee of Alpha Bank or have some other interest?

    @Andreas Neofytou, Ditto

    The developers, agents, lawyers must be happy, after all the way this is going they will get off scot free having pocket their ill gotten gains unless of course the bank has the guts to go after them which I doubt but hey ho.

  • aggis demetriou says:

    If titles were available at point of sale will there still be legal action?

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    I agree with andyp. While speculators may engender less sympathy, they too are entitled not to be diddled. Nevertheless, over the last 10 years I have met hundreds of buyers here and barely a handful could possibly be described as speculators. Personal use of a single property is by far the norm.

    Andreas Neophytou’s assertion that these latest plaintiffs are all speculators who somehow (from disparate private existences all over the UK) not only identified each other and then conspired from the very start to buy these properties just so they could all collude in making false compensation claims is, frankly, preposterous!

  • andyp says:

    Sorry Nigel don’t know what happened there.

    @Just me.

    Rubbish. How can you possibly state the banks case is watertight? No one knows apart from those involved.

    Have you seen with tedious regularity PPI adverts in UK and how much banks have set aside to repay that fraud?

    Some of these people may have been ordinary folk and others may have been speculators. Either way this is irrelevant. You were either misled or you were not.

    Banks in my opinion are at the heart of this fraud as they knew that properties they were giving mortgages to individuals to purchase were already mortgaged by the developers.

  • Just me says:

    Dear Janner indeed you never agreed to have your property used as collateral for further loans but unlike movable property such as cars the ownership passes on possession however on immovable property it is by registration only. This means that although you paid for the house or land as you wasn’t given a title deed it is legally speaking not yours.

    Who is at fault? Well, breach of contract by the developers for failure to transfer the property (their part of the deal) after money was received (buyers part of the deal).

    With regards to the lawyers mis selling aside, they should of ensured the buyers had a title deed before transferring funds to the developers.

    The banks (water tight as stated below)

    The agents? Not legally responsible with the formalities as that’s what the lawyer is for.

    The land registry; if a buyer applied for their title deeds after proof of ownership and confirmation buy the bank to note its interest in land and the land registry failed or took unreasonable time to register the legal owner and issue the title deed and as a direct result the owner lost out due to the developer drawing money as collateral then the land registry will have a lot to answer for.

  • Just me says:

    Thank you for your comments steve andy and denton. Indeed denton there may have been substantial mis selling in place, but how does that affect the dept? It appears to me that it was more likely then not that the developers and their associates done all the mis selling. Indeed it likely that the developers had a good relationship with certain mortgage departments that lead to a high percentage of mortgage acceptance rates for their clients however whether they ‘colluded’ with the bank is unlikely at best as why would the bank take security on a loan if the property was either defective or unworthy?

    The point I am trying to make in light of denton’s argument is that the action may very well use consumer unfair trading laws to show that the buyers were either duped or otherwise deceived but that doesn’t make the debt go away. Sadly the loans still have to be paid but the only legal remedy is to bring action against the developers but how is that going to happen when as were all aware the vast majority are either in liquidation or have safely secured there money and assets to a tax heaven where no UK or Cypriot court could trace or enforce a payment.

    It’s no different then the likes of me and you going to buy a car from a dealer, finance is obtained but the car is faulty. Your finance (bank) has done no wrong and the loan is still payable and legally enforceable but you can bring an action against the trader for losses and damages assuming he is still trading and has adequate funds and insurance in place which as stated above is unlikely for Cypriot developers.

    There maybe just maybe a 3rd remedy and that is the Cypriot trading standards. If any of the claimants can prove that from 04 onwards a complaint was brought to the Cypriot authorities about the mis-selling and all the details and as is likely in Cyprus nothing was done about it and after that as a direct cause the claimants suffered a loss then that might be an avenue worth exploring.

    In light of fees being paid upfront this action is a nice little earner for the law firms involved, just think if there are 1000 applicants at say £1000 per application that has brought a fee of £1m upfront on an action that will cost the firms a maximum of £50k.

    Still, best of luck! They will need it.

  • Andreas Neofytou says:

    This poor excuse it should not work. Ignorance of law it is not an excuse. All these British house buyers speculators in Cyprus were well aware what they were doing. They came to Cyprus and with peanut deposits were given houses and loans by stupid bankers. Some of the British house buyers were giving wrong addresses in the UK. It was a well ORGANISED AND PLANNED method by British buyers who bought with the intention to make profit without REPAYING any money !!! thinking that the Cypriots are stupid. I was living in the UK for many many years and I never had the luxury to get a mortgage so easy as the British were getting in Cyprus with 2000 euro deposits ! It is about time that the Cypriot banks start repossessing these penniless property speculators.

  • NICHOLAS XENOPHONTOS says:

    These people they were well aware that they were doing. So they should stop pretend stupidity.

  • Janner says:

    It’s all well and good saying the banks are water tight. However, my understanding is that land and the properties which sit on that land have been used as collateral for other people’s loans. And, to further complicate matters there has been all manner of cross-collaterisation. I never agreed for ‘my’ property to be used by the bank as collateral for someone else’s loan. Who is at fault? The agent, lawyer, developer or the bank? Maybe it was all of them in some state endorsed scam. The result is the fact that I don’t own it and this is what it all boils down to.

    The benefit to some of not having a clear title at point of sale is apparent. It allowed them to borrow huge sums of money based on vulnerable assets. Now that it has all come crashing down the problem is clear to see. The fact that the title is not issued at point of sale allows the crooked system to roll on. This system has been signed off at the highest level. It is no coincidence!

    Purchasers are quite rightly asking what they have they paid for. If there is nothing wrong with it where else in the world does a system the same as Cyprus’ exist without problems and constant legal action? If the agents, developers, lawyers and banks have done nothing wrong and complied with all necessary EU laws then they have nothing to fear and the law will protect them. Only time will tell when the cases start going through the courts.

  • steve redmond says:

    I must agree with JUST ME. Alpha Bank will not negotiate because they are in the right. Alpha Bank have been set targets and are now under pressure from Troika to recover these loans. I too stand to lose a large amount of money without a guarantee that I will own the property at the end of the term. If you download the terms of Maxwell Alves they want upfront fees and promise nothing. I have been in constant contact with Alpha Bank who have been helpful with my situation but at the end of the day the loan has to be repaid at some point. Because of my situation I did find that they were prepared to take a reduced payment as opposed to nothing. My advise is talk to the bank, don’t just sweep it under the carpet. The last thing is that if you don’t have any assets in the UK the worse they can do is make you bankrupt. You still get to keep the keys for your property in Cyprus as they have told me they don’t have facilitates in place to re-posses your home. The last auction they held to sell 4 properties not one person turned up.

  • andyp says:

    I think so too Denton. The SF issue is an addition. It is essentially a mis-selling case and from the article it looks like they will be after the developers and lawyers next.

  • Denton Mackrell says:

    @Just Me. You may well be right about the wording and terms of the contracts that were signed. However, my understanding is that the plaintiffs’ main thrust is that the bank and the other defendants acted in concert to mis-sell the properties by deliberately omitting or disguising material facts to encourage them to sign up. The SwFranc mortgage issue is an additional allegation and the entire action may not stand or fall on this one issue.

  • just me says:

    Although I greatly sympathise with the buyers who have lost a lot of money, I am under the impression that the banks case is fairly water tight. It is very unlikely that alpha bank has not made it absolutely clear in the terms and conditions of the risks associated with taking out loans dominated in Swiss Francs. This means that if the borrower or solicitor signed the required contract documents then the borrowers are fully aware of the risks involved and had full capacity to enter into the said contract with the bank. Therefore it is fully enforceable no matter what losses have been suffered. The issue I am concerned is that if the Cypriot lawyers have signed the loan off under a general power of attorney without the full explanation and consent by the borrowers then this raises further action under professional negligence. I can’t help but speculate on the fact that if the tide had turned the other way meaning the loans where slashed and the property prices soared and the banks for some reason tried to declare the loan voidable due to the so called explanation of Swiss francs loan not being explained or consented, the same claimant’s would still of been back in Court (but this time trying to enforce it). It is only because the prices plummeted that this action has been brought about to escape a bad bargain.

  • andyp says:

    Best of luck to all.

  • Steve says:

    After many years of complaining and saying that someone should do something (and pay whatever it costs), have we finally reached a line drawn in the sand, where the victims actually dig in their heels and do something for themselves? If so, the importance of this moment cannot be overstated; the naughty boys of Cyprus have been encouraged to be indifferent by the lack of a determined response every time they are found out. All the general complaining and writing to MPs and MEPs produced nothing concrete and more of the same would produce the same result.

    The brave deserve to succeed; onward to Victory!

  • pils says:

    We are not all millionaires in UK, just hard working people, who have a dream of living in Cyprus, enjoying nice weather, pleasant surroundings and living a peaceful way of life.

    We were not advised, on a one to one basis, the suitability of a Swiss franc mortgage by Alpha bank and other banks and now us Brits are now paying the price. Some of us are at our wits ends, how we can afford and repay our Swiss franc Cyprus mortgage.

    The only option is to fight the banks to change their attitude and negotiate a new arrangement favourable to us not the banks.
    Maxwell Alves represents people with Swiss franc mortgages and action is necessary to win cases of unfairness and the mis-selling of mortgages.

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