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Is Alpha Bank ready to settle all Cyprus property claims

As thousands of British buyers of properties in Cyprus are taking on the banks before their claims are time-barred on 31st December 2013, the Alpha Bank are beginning to settle claims to stem the tide.

FOLLOWING reports that more waves of claims against Alpha Bank Cyprus and a number of property developers are being prepared by Maxwell Alves Solicitors in the City of London, a number of borrowers advise that they have been approached by Alpha Bank with offers to write-off 20% from their liabilities.

“This is indeed welcome news,” commented George Kounis, the Consultant at Maxwell Alves leading on these claims. “Considering that Alpha Bank says it admits to no wrong doing, this seems quite a climb down.  It shows in our opinion that the determination and the unity of the borrowers will eventually win through.  We are only looking for a fair solution and Alpha Bank may find it less painful to agree on overall principles for settlement than to deal with each case piecemeal.”

Thousands of Britons are realising that they may have been wronged and that there is EU legislation in place that protect consumers according to which their cases can be heard in London.   An initial action by 215 claimants was filed by Maxwell Alves at the High Court in London on 27/06/2013 and additional waves will be joined to the main action until all borrowers who wish to claim have been included.   This, however, has to be done before 31/12/2013 otherwise they may be out of time. Alpha Bank Cyprus is thought to hold over 70% of the €1.6 billion owed by UK residents to Cypriot Banks.

“We have been having discussions with the other Banks and we hope to reach in the next few weeks an amicable solution with them on the principles of reaching a settlement on individual cases.  If Alpha Bank is also willing to compromise this could be the beginning of the end of this long and sad affair,” said Kounis.

According to figures provided by the Central Bank of Cyprus it is estimated that 25% of Alpha Bank’s loan portfolio is borrowing by UK Residents mostly in Swiss Francs.  The CBC advises that over 33% of loans to Britons are in default but Maxwell Alves believes that the figure in reality must be much higher because Alpha Bank has been re-arranging these loans so that they are no longer seen as non-performing.

“You cannot escape from reality,” says George Kounis.  “These borrowers cannot afford these loans.  They were given at the peak of the market at what appeared to be extremely favourable terms only to see everything overturned and they are now paying a heavy price.  If they have a problem with the property in addition to the loan, they may have no choice but to lodge a claim against the bank and the developer involved or live with the consequences.  Alpha Bank on the other hand has done well out of this.  It has established itself in the Cyprus market, it has profited from the appreciation of the Swiss Franc against the Euro, it has profited by offering repayment free holidays, it has profited by hiking up interest rate margins and it has profited from lending to the developers.”

Considering the Swiss Franc appreciation alone was 40%, offering 20% back may be considered cynical.  “If they had offered this some years back, it may have worked,” says Kounis. “People could at least have sold their properties and cut their losses.  Now people are stuck with properties that have lost up to 70% of their value, if they can sell them, and loans that have swelled by 40%.  We consider that the Bank should have acted sooner.  Now they have to cover much heavier losses and there is little they can do about it.  They cannot take on all these borrowers.  There are thousands of borrowers and it could prove difficult for the Bank to recover the monies. Even if they get judgments against each and every one of them, if people do not have the money to pay, eventually the banks will have to accept the losses.  In any event, now that these borrowers know they can sue the banks in London, assuming they satisfy the legal criteria, their actions will have priority.  Hopefully, the banks, the developers and the borrowers can resolve this matter amicably and convert a no win situation to a win-win one.”

About Maxwell Alves Solicitors

Maxwell Alves specialises on Cyprus property matters. It 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.

Address: 75 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 3JY, United Kingdom

Web: www.maxwellalves.com

Contact: George Kounis

Email: g.kounis@maxwellalves.com

Readers' comments

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  • Gavin Jones says:

    Kufrahdog.

    Without doubt you’re making the right decision in pursuing justice but I’m also pleased to see that you’re under no illusions.

    The sentiments displayed by all of us on this thread are broadly speaking transmitting a universal message. Namely, that Cyprus is a rogue state with an unscrupulous ruling elite incorporating government, developers, lawyers and financial institutions. This ‘elite’ therefore condones criminality on a huge scale and I defy anyone to argue otherwise.

    As for almost all title deeds being issued by the end of 2014, I await the measures that the troika will be imposing when the Cypriot authorities fail to honour this agreement. Because fail they will. My only fear and expectation is that the troika will still hand over the lion’s share of the next tranche of bailout funds and deduct a relatively paltry amount for Cyprus’ non-compliance of its title deed obligation. Watch this space.

  • kufrahdog says:

    andyp, James JH Lockhart and Gavin Jones – thank you for your insights, advice and encouragements; Gavin, your last post ‘crossed’ with my last, and so I take this opportunity to reply.

    From what you have all said it would seem that the Disciplinary Board of Advocates is incapable of upholding complaints, even when they are supported by irrefutable evidence. To me this is a shocking state of affairs and represents yet another systemic failure of the Cypriot legal system, particularly when property and especially EU citizens, who are supposed to enjoy the benefits of harmonized rights, are involved.

    As a systemic failure I believe it is worth reporting to the British High Commissioner and the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus (see Cyprus Property News Magazine for 7 June 2013, so that outside pressure can be brought to bear on this disreputable EU member state to change its corrupt and despotic ways.

    While some people may regard this approach as a forlorn hope, I believe that those who are suffering with property issues should take every opportunity to present case histories of systemic abuse and failure through any available channel, and with the express purpose of bringing about the desired changes.

    Of course, the efforts I am suggesting cost time and money and, in some sad and unfortunate cases, the continuing maintenance of good health, happiness and even relationships. For many of us these resources are dwindling with advancing years and, as our time runs out, we may be, and I certainly am, asking ourselves serious life-changing questions, for which there are presently no obvious answers: a) ‘how and when can I take full and legal ownership of the property I have purchased?’; b) ‘will I be able to free my property of all its impediments so that I can bequeath it at full market value and with no strings attached?’; and c) ‘when and how can all these impediments on my property be lifted so that I can sell it at full market value and thus afford to relocate off the island?’.

    There is another aspect to consider, namely, the outcome of the MoU. While there is an expectation that by the end of 2014 all but 2000 title deeds will have been issued, no one has yet said how that will be squared away with the need to resolve the non-performing loans incurred by developers, which directly impact those like myself who purchased (unknowingly) problematic properties. All one can say with any certainty at this stage is that if the lenders call in the non-performing loans, people will be evicted from their homes and their properties subjected to forced sales, and that could include me.

    How the Cypriot government will address the legal and socio-economic issues arising from this scenario is anybody’s guess. But on past and present performance I wouldn’t mind betting that we could all be in for a rough, chaotic ride, with the Cypriot forces arraigned against us only too prepared to exploit our weaknesses.

    For all these reasons (and others) I believe that positive action by those who have been wronged is preferable to no action at all. KD.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    KD

    Glad to see your eyes are wide open in dealing with the Disciplinary Board. One of the problems you will find is to get a lawyer to “truly” represent you, If your case is against say a office holder of the Association then the CBA & AG will fight tooth and nail against you.

    As to the General Meeting of Advocates, The CBA is set-up with a weak leadership, the real power lies with the local Bar Association Committee who have the power and control over all there members by the association rules.

    Nearly all the good lawyers shun away from the the local committees (who are mainly rotton to the core)

    Indeed one certain President of the Bar has been named in the EU Parliament and has many complaints lodged with CBA HQ.

    The majority of the 1950 plus members prefer silence or self denial at what is happening. So what you are dealing with is really a militant trade union who over the years controls many aspects of state and life on the island and feel they are above the law.

    And are determined to keep it that way.

    Good luck with your case and may you overcome.

  • andyp says:

    I totally agree with your position KD. I pursued my lawyer through the DBA as it was the right thing to do. She should not have been allowed to practice law and do the same thing to anyone else. She is still a practicing lawyer!

    No Cyprus lawyer has ever been struck off and the MAXIMUM fine by the DBA is 1000 euros. You can however appeal to the Supreme Court any decision of the DBA.

    Just be aware of what you are letting yourself in for and be sure of what you hope to get out of it before you start.

    Best of luck.

  • kufrahdog says:

    @ andyp and James JH Lockhart – thanks for your healthy dose of scepticism, which I share to a large degree. I also note that the duties and obligations of a lawyer as laid down by the Supreme Court in the Beaumont case have not yet been incorporated into the Code of Conduct Regulations 2002 for advocates (for which Nigel provided the link elsewhere in these comments). Does this mean that the general meeting of advocates at the CBA voted against the inclusion? If so, the omission beggars belief.

    I am not deterred from pursuing a case at the Disciplinary Board against the advocate or indeed subsequently in a court of law. On the contrary, I am confident that my moral and legal case is sound and that while the road ahead will be rocky, I will ultimately win my case.

    I have paid for my property in full. I do not own it because the advocate in question failed to perform the search that would have proved the encumbrances and the violations by the developer of the planning and building laws and regulations. I will not depart this mortal coil without making a strong effort to acquire legally what I have paid for and what is mine. The MoU outcome will not necessarily deliver to those who stand and wait. KD.

  • Gavin Jones says:

    Kufrahdog.

    I won’t name names to preserve their privacy but there are several people who have commented on this thread who’ve been on the end of scandalous decisions of the Disciplinary Board of Advocates despite having cast iron cases and ‘God on their side’.

    I too have been denied justice form the DBOA even when I had documentary evidence proving the negligence and fraud of the lawyer concerned. After over 12 months, the lawyer was exonerated and was deemed by the President of the Board, none other than the Attorney General, that the lawyer had made, and I quote, “common clerical errors”.

    In short, I’d paid out a not inconsiderable sum for ‘advice’ and suffered much self-inflicted angst only to see the lawyer get way with it and continue to practise.

    Unless you’ve lost a huge amount of money, you may have no choice but take the lawyer on. If you’re pursuing the case more out of a feeling of anger or wanting to exact justice, forget it. The Beaumont case to which andyp refers took well over 10 years to conclude and ultimately had to go to the Supreme Court as the Paphos district court found in favour of the lawyer. Surprise, surprise.

    You have been warned.

  • James JH Lockhart says:

    KD

    What Andyp is saying is true, It should be noted that the President of the Disciplinary Board is Petros Cleredes the AG.

    This person has stated on TV That he perverted the course of justice for a lawyer (his son) he has ruled that property fraud is a civil matter.

    He obtained a pardon for a well known lady lawyer jailed for driving offences and refused to give out the grounds for this action.

    He opposed Conor O’Dwyer Legal aid even though it had been granted by the courts on the grounds that it would mean you would have to give to all foreigners.

    I expect the CBA will treat your case in there usual fashion delay and with smoke & mirrors and refuse to give you a detailed explanation on there ruling.

    As Andyp has said the Board & CBA Leadership do not give a S*** about the supreme court or any other on the Island.

  • andyp says:

    I have to disagree KD.

    The rules are there and were backed up by The Supreme Court of Cyprus several years ago. Beaumont case.

    They, the lawyers and the disciplinary board, do not give a s**t about them.

  • kufrahdog says:

    @ Alan Waring – since reading your post dated 16 Aug at 1100 I have done some research on the web and compared the Cypriot code of practice for advocates with the equivalent at the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority in the UK. Even allowing for cultural and business differences it is obvious that the Cyprus Bar Association and its members have a long way to go, particularly in the field of property conveyancing. I therefore agree with your comments entirely.

    However, I have been wronged by the advocate who I engaged to help me purchase my property and so I intend to press my case of professional negligence against the advocate with the Disciplinary Board of the Cyprus Bar Association. The outcome will no doubt influence my decision whether to sue the advocate in court. It is all part and parcel of building up a case that, if necessary, I will take to the European Court if the Cyprus legal system is unable to deliver justice. I am getting on in years and do not want to find myself unable to cope with this situation in, say, ten years’ time – so its action now! KD.

  • Alan Waring says:

    @Kuhfradog. The CBA code is all ‘motherhood-and-apple-pie’ statements because, as andyp notes, there is virtually no enforcement. In addition, the code is of a general nature – nothing specific about immovable property transactions. There have been calls for the CBA to publish a code on the latter, setting out the expected procedural framework, the required actions of lawyers, what they must and must not do and the penalties for failing to comply.

    As I note in the chapter on Immovable Property Fraud in my recent book Corporate Risk and Governance (Gower, ISBN 9781409448365) page 150: “The supine attitude of the CBA and other relevant representative bodies in the property industry on these matters indicates that they do not want to clean up the bad practices for which, through inaction, they bear a major responsibility. They could and should have done it years ago”.

  • andyp says:

    @KD. If you need any help you can contact me through Nigel.

    The Code would be useful if it were ever enforced.

  • kufrahdog says:

    @ Nigel – re your post at 1234, thank you for the link to the Code of Conduct regulations for advocates. I am sure this will be useful to others.KD.

    @ andyp- re my post at 1156, kindly ignore.KD.

  • kufrahdog says:

    @ andyp – re your post at 11 Aug 13 @ 1145pm. Were you able to find out if lawyers who are members of the Cyprus Bar Association are obliged to follow a code of practice when handling property sales and purchases? Is such a thing laid down by the CBA? Are you able to say how I could acquire a copy of the code, assuming one exists? I am asking because I am reporting my lawyer to the Disciplinary Board for professional negligence. Any help would be most gratefully received. KD.

  • @kufrahdog – you can find Cyprus Bar Association’s Code of Conduct regulations by clicking here.

  • Andrew Needham says:

    Does anyone know what law firm in Cyprus Maxwell Alves is using?

    The other groups I’ve spoken to are using different law firms in Nicosia.

  • sj says:

    @Tony
    What group are you with as I’m thinking of joining. I have the same CHF mortgage problems. Thank you.

  • Richard says:

    I believe I used the expression “win-win” a long time ago on this forum – in describing the necessary steps to architect a viable solution.

    Then I started researching the problem much higher up the food chain. The higher you go – you more you realise ‘win-win’ involves a lot more people than just the banks.

    It’s good to form pressure on one point – but for those of us caught up in the crisis (and it’s more of a crisis for us than for them) pressure will most likely need to be applied across a broad range of points.

    Nothing this big is ever simple. Breaking one point will start to unravel the mess – but be prepared for the fact that there will be more interconnected interests being vested here than appear on the surface – all of which will have very determined lobby groups seeking to preserve their corner of ‘business as usual’.

  • Martyn says:

    A significant “step in the right direction” but should be regarded as a pathetic opening offer. Well done Maxwell Alves for getting it this far. Consolidated, bold action needs now to be taken as swiftly as possible against this unscrupulous Bank. It’s merrily been making very good profit out of the unfortunates who fell, innocently it seems, into this dangerous and ill- explained, mis-sold trap. The bank it seems has now finally admitted some of the charges against it – but should now be made to pay fully for the damage – and emotional and financial suffering – that so many of their misinformed, mis-led customers have been, and still are, experiencing. Make Alpha Bank and its Agents/Advisers a major example of the suffering that sloppy procedures and advice, not to mention the absence it seems of any ‘regulation’ or ‘governance’, has caused’ to its customers. Massive damage has already been done, now Alpha Bank should be seen to fully recompense those it has badly advised/ deceived – no matter what damage this does to its profitability or its Balance Sheets,

  • Pete says:

    Our group is in a similar position with Alpha bank except that we didn’t have any loans with them. Someone else did and despite never repaying any of them, further loans were granted, even when it was known the company were in trouble. But that hasn’t stopped Alpha bank applying to Paphos Land Registry to sell our homes. The liquidator said we should consider getting a loan (from Alpha bank?) to repay a loan to Alpha bank that we never had in the first place. But how would we pay Alpha bank for the loan we took out to repay them? We’d still have to sell our homes.
    Time Alpha bank Paphos were investigated by the liquidator AND the police.

  • andyp says:

    When I eventually got my ex lawyer before the Disciplinary Board I was constantly asked, before the case started, what did I actually want?

    They could not understand that I simply wanted justice and her to be barred from practising law.

    An offer to negotiate is taken as a sign of weakness in my experience and you will get nothing if you do.

    If you have been truly wronged 100% or nothing.

  • Nathan says:

    No…..

  • tony says:

    This is a good start but not good enough.
    Due to having a chf mortgage I like many have lost 40% on the mortgage. The money the bank has made off the chf must be enormous. I am part of a group going up against the alpha bank and I hope they don’t except 20%

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