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Call for BBC to investigate Cyprus property issues

A petition has been launched calling on BBC Panorama Current Affairs to investigate and report on the issues facing UK citizens who purchased off plan properties in the Republic of Cyprus.

sign bbc panorama petitionDURING the past decade thousands of Britons purchased off-plan properties in Cyprus but they were faced with numerous problems including:

a) Sales initiated in this country [UK] do not appear to be regulated by this country [UK];

b) Properties purchased remain in the name of the developer, and could potentially be re-possessed by the Bank that has financed the development; alternatively purchasers have been tied into loans, often in strong currencies that they have little hope of repaying;

c) In all appearances, Cyprus has the same standards as in the UK but what are accepted practices there would be totally unacceptable here and enforcement of serious breaches by Cypriot authorities is seriously lacking.

Due to these problems thousands of Britons have been ruined financially, many, unable to deal with the pressure, are suffering from ill health and a small number have committed suicide.  The British Government has paid lip service to the problem but so far has done little to remedy the situation.

Cyprus had been a British colony since 1878 and despite it gaining independence in 1960 it remains closely associated to Britain due to the British Sovereign Bases and the fact that many thousands of Britons live in Cyprus and visit Cyprus regularly.

Its strategic importance to Anglo-American interests may explain why the British Government has taken a very softly-softly approach with the Cypriot authorities to the detriment of Britons who have been badly caught and should have been protected by Cypriot, British and EU Regulations but there was a combined failure to protect them.

Any investigation will reveal a culture of mis-selling that has been allowed to be operated mostly by British sales agents working on behalf of Cypriot developers and banks, serious failures in the regulatory system in this country and apathy by the British authorities.

Many victims of these deceptions have made formal complaints to the Financial Conduct Authority, the Financial Ombudsman, Action Fraud, the Office of Fair Trading, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, their local MPs and MEPs, and numerous government ministers.  After many years of campaigning, the closest they have been to any action by politicians is the formation in 2012 of an All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus which, so far, appears to have little influence on the British and the Cypriot Governments.

In 2010, the BBC exposed some of these issues in the Inside Out and You and Yours programmes. Since then the situation has become much more urgent, problems are in greater need of investigation and publicity and the “what is happening out there” approach taken by these programmes could do with a Panorama investigation highlighting “what can happen to you in home ground” and how you will not be protected by the British Government.

We petition BBC Panorama to undertake a full and balanced investigative report, to expose the failure of the British authorities to protect the victims.

Those wishing to sign the on-line petition calling for a BBC Panorama investigation should visit Investigate the issues facing UK citizens who have purchased off plan properties in the Republic of Cyprus.

Readers' comments

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  • Pete says:

    I too was at the protests and have been a supporter of CPAG and Nigel for a number of years. I note troika are back in the country but fear all they’ll hear are more lies unless they listen to those affected by the dubious dealings of the banks and lawyers etc. I therefore maintain that any open and honest investigation will have a positive outcome; if nothing else it might identify the guilty parties.

  • Mirella Rugolotto says:

    I would definitely support this investigation. My husband and I purchased two properties in Cyprus. One was supposed to be built with a golf course, however the golf course never materialised and the apartment is finished with no chance of renting or selling it now.

  • Richard says:

    @Peter.

    You are right about apathy. But there are two things to consider here:

    1) Placard protests mean very little these days (sad to say – but true). Media, people and ESPECIALLY politicians are 100% case-hardened to placard protests. If you really want to see how effective they are – ask Connor and the folks at Earl’s Court if their committed pavement protest stopped a single person entering the property show. If just one person (or couple) turned around and went home that would be a victory. Did that happen?

    2) People are complex. Some are afraid, some don’t want to lose face (how many people on these forums use a real identity – CPAG is not bad for that – but many are full of “biscuit 69’s”)? Some like a moan, some are angry yet uncommitted, some are calm yet fully prepared to go 15 rounds. And – all these states people go in and out of depending on what’s going on elsewhere in their lives. Organising placard protest around that is tough.

    So – do I feel we’ve already lost? No. As Edison said – “I haven’t failed – I’ve just discovered ten thousand things that don’t work”.

    Maybe we need to befriend some Croatians. They mobilised themselves pretty well against Alpha Bank etc. Their government lobbied the E.U. They pulled a result.

    If there are any on the forum – please come forward and share your experience of what worked. Having visited Croatia – the memory of invasion, bloodshed and war is fresh in many people’s minds from the disintegration of peace in the region and facing up to invasion. It toughens people.

    In England – we haven’t been successfully invaded since 1066 – and (bizarrely) I find myself ending up agreeing with Dame Vivienne Westwood – it shows….

  • Ashok Bodhani says:

    I think Alfa Bank should take the blame for double financing the customer and the developer. To rectified this mess they should transfer the loan back to Euros at the borrowed amount and give some sort of discount.

  • Peter Davis says:

    Nigel,

    And feet to match.

    I was there at both demos, I spent days trying to drum up support, encouraging neighbours to attend, even offering free transport. In the end only two could be bothered.

    And yes you can see me in the photos at both locations. So out of 240,000 people that only left 239,800 who weren’t there. After 12 years I have my deeds but I’m a strong supporter of CPAG’s Denis O’Hare and yourself.

    It still remains that those affected by the scam will expect others to save them. The saying goes. “When it’s anybodies job, it’s nobody’s job.”

  • Gary says:

    Peter.. there are many people, myself included, who are impacted by this sorry mess who do not live permanently in Cyprus.

  • @Peter Davis – about 200 people attended the demonstration organised by CPAG at the municipal park in Peyia.

    You can read the article and watch the video report at Cyprus president avoids demonstrators.

    You must have enormous hands.

  • Peter Davis says:

    Richard,

    what you say is very true, and yet when CPAG organised picketing outside a bank and a public facility where Toff was attending, the numbers of pickets could be counted on two hands.

    Of the 120,000 people involved (240,000 if it was joint names) only a handful of people bothered, or were interested enough to become involved.

    The majority no doubt considered it was nothing to do with them, or it was someone else’s job to be there because “Them” didn’t want to become involved.

    Most are in denial or not interested enough to get to a venue to fight for their rights.

    True is we have already lost.

  • Richard says:

    @Alan Waring

    (“If you believe that many of the conspirators as individuals suffer from some degree of sociopathic and/or psychopathic disorder, then they are unlikely to be amenable to motivators such as bad publicity and political embarrassment that might persuade normal people to change or take action. The missing ingredient must be something that will so terrify the conspirators that they will rapidly change or act out of self-preservation if nothing else.”)

    This is correct. As a background to the magnitude of the under-lying problems – may I recommend “Inside Job” – link below:

    Inside Job (film)

    Armed with the knowledge of what we are all collectively up against will help us all to mediate a way out of it. There are too many people who still believe a western ‘democratically’ elected government is somehow in charge if things. I’m increasingly of the belief they aren’t in charge of anything at all. They have their agendas and actions set by the rich and powerful stakeholders who are invisible behind the scenes. If you are in doubt about this – ask yourself (just from a UK perspective) in recent decades – how much does David Cameron’s ‘modus operandii’ differ from that of Tony Blair? How much of his differed from those of John Major and Margaret Thatcher?

    The real threat to the security of these ‘front end administration and control syndicates’ is numbers. Roughly – there are 1% of them and 99% of everyone else. That’s why media organisations drip-feed what they do out to the 99% – every day – all day. That’s why whenever there is any unrest – they jump on it and use whatever methods possible to quell it really heavy handedly.

    I’m not advocating anarchy – but I am a huge fan of a joined up peaceful, quiet, purposeful, determined stand. Take this as an example. Last May – across the globe – an awful lot of people across the entire globe (estimates vary – but up to 2m people were involved) marched against Monsanto Corporation.

    On the world-wide protest day – there wasn’t a single arrest, a single smashed window or over-turned car set on fire – but NO news coverage was made of it. Nothing on the BBC (Bianca Jagger was the guest speaker in London), Fox, ABC, CNN, Channel 7, etc. Nothing at all – on ANY major TV news syndicate.

    Why? Because these administrative functions don’t want to acknowledge the fact that ordinary people ‘get it’ and can put across their message coherently, robustly and without resorting to deploying violent force.

    We can.

    We must.

    We will.

    Because of enough of us do this – these ‘administrative’ functions will eventually become redundant and irrelevant.

    It just relies on us all to let go of fear – work out what we want – turn off much of that syndicated, filtered stuff oozing out of the TV and start thinking and acting for ourselves – and drive a result.

    That’s it – really.

  • andyp says:

    I am in favour of publicising the property frauds going on in Cyprus even if it does mean I may have trouble selling my, or rather my developer’s, house but don’t think this petition to Panorama is the answer.

    A petition to get the British government to come out of the closet, speak out, put pressure on the Cyprus and help victims might be better.

    @John Swift. Very true.

  • Stuart says:

    Even EU super-sceptic Bill Cash MP and his 2012 All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus appears to have had little, if any, influence, so far, on either the British or Cyprus government.

    There are, of course, diverse interests to cater for in this situation, some owners needing Title Deeds in order to legally secure their properties and stay while others need Title Deeds in order to sell up and get out as fast as possible.

    A BBC Panorama programme can put pressure on either the British or Cyprus government (or both) to take more of a keen interest in the plight of those lacking Title Deeds to their purchases but it can also effectively deter any risk-averse investor from even considering Cyprus as a destination of choice, thus rendering Cyprus a ‘no-buy zone’ and depressing its property market still further.

    To gauge the level of “keen interest” which the UK government is currently taking in Cyprus property issues, I can only refer readers to the first article listed under ‘RELATED CONTENT’ above.

  • John Swift says:

    Until 2008 you were vilified on a certain forum for daring to advise anyone not to buy without securing title deeds and virtually driven from certain forums that had a King Canute mentality.

    Some people have a lot to answer for, many would not be in the position that they now find themselves had the truth not been suppressed back then.

  • Alan Waring says:

    For the past 10 years, I have done my modest ‘bit’ to highlight the Cyprus Property Scandal in the media and support CPAG etc. I do believe that such publicity, including this latest petition for a BBC programme, is absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, as necessary as such publicity and chivvying at UK, Cyprus and EU governmental levels undoubtedly are, I regret that even taken together it is not sufficient to remove the evil and obtain redress for the victims. If it ever had been, we would not still be debating how to achieve it!

    As I noted on another CPN thread recently, publicity plus chivvying are necessary tactics but not a strategy for success for this particular problem. If you believe that many of the conspirators as individuals suffer from some degree of sociopathic and/or psychopathic disorder, then they are unlikely to be amenable to motivators such as bad publicity and political embarrassment that might persuade normal people to change or take action. The missing ingredient must be something that will so terrify the conspirators that they will rapidly change or act out of self-preservation if nothing else.

    I dearly wish that I could identify that missing ingredient but frustratingly I have been unable. I would urge everyone to turn their attention to this task. Maybe our spirit guide SoOJB has some suggestions??

  • jjames says:

    Even if it’s not exposed in the media again – Suzanna points out the pitfalls – it needs everyone to be on board to put still further pressure on the government. My fear is that those “in the know”, who read the news and digest it are often the ones (i.e. management committees)trying to persuade people to continue paying community charges etc. so that we at least have viable properties NOW.

    What happens in the future is of course unknown but to get people on board means telling it as it is to those who have thus far tried to bury their heads.

    In the end we have to bite the bullet and hope that, by trying to act together, we don’t scare some owners into giving up, leaving the rest of us with even greater financial commitment. The perpetrators of this injustice are relying on this dilemma – divide and conquer.

    I agree that media coverage may be risky – but some diplomatic galvanising into action of ALL owners affected needs to take place ASAP.

  • Steve.R says:

    Cowboy Builders Abroad are about to broadcast a program and part of it will highlight some these issues.

  • Richard says:

    @Susanna

    I don’t believe media attention will matter one iota to whether property in Cyprus sells or doesn’t. The ‘assets’ are at rock bottom there. Only a mentally sub-normal hermit living in a cave with no internet connection for the last 5 years could not know just what a crock the market is! The buyers (from all over the world) are parking cash (for various reasons) in rock-bottom Cyprus real-estate knowing eventually it’ll rise – and hoping their risk is hedged right. If there was absolutely NO future for real estate in Cyprus – why sign an agreement to develop it in the forces bases!?

    The REAL issue is exposing and seeking redress for those of us who got conned in the first place – for conned we did – big time. I’m absolutely 100% resolute on that one – no matter how many prosecuting QC’s might interrogate the counter-position on that one in the future.

    That’s why we want transparency, justice and redress. ‘Government’ if you look up the definition of the term – should be able to provide that – but for some reason it appears (only known to them behind closed doors) the combined R.o.C UK governments are side-stepping that responsibility – which is (as many of us agree) – utterly and completely unacceptable.

    We are all therefore faced with only one course of action – to highlight it – and keep highlighting it – over and over and over and over again till we flush out the truth.

    Batten down the hatches – it’s going to be a long night….

  • Tarcy says:

    Suzanne, all you have done is ‘pass the buck’ . We need publicity and lots of it. Those wishing to sell want it all hushed up so they can find some unsuspecting, naive, ill informed bargain hunter and then get the hell out. I do understand about cutting your losses but some of us want to get what we’ve paid for. We have to stand up and be counted, we have to be loud, we have to support one another and fight for our rights. This is an EU country and its high time the EU remembered that too.

  • Colin Brightwell says:

    Bill Cash is the MP spearheading raising awareness of this issue in the House of Commons.

  • Mike says:

    Richard in his reply to Gary has it spot on; no if’s no but’s. If our representatives wish to remain fit for purpose then they must be made to sit up and listen and do the job for which they were elected.

    With all due respect I confess I find Suzanna’s view very much the same as that of self serving politicians – sadly. I do have my title deeds but if highlighting the plight of those less fortunate than I decreases my chance of selling then so be it, there is more to life than selfishness and self interest, at least the property will still be there. We are talking of the bigger picture and wide reaching implications here if our politicians are not reminded of why they are in Parliament.

  • Peter Davis says:

    @Richard

    The EU has now given expats the rights to vote in EU elections and stand as MEP’s for Cyprus. Expats can also stand as Muktar where as before these positions were reserved for Cypriots.

    Maybe if expats apply to stand as MEP’s (Cyprus has six) we can change the system from within? In industry pressure groups buy shares in companies to ask questions at the AGM’s that are usually ignored by big businesses.

    Unfortunately application for the 2014 elections were closed on 6th January, but maybe next time?

  • Pete says:

    I absolutely agree with Richard; MPs from all parties seem to have forgotten they are public servants not masters. Maybe it’s time for them to be reminded of that.

  • Suzanna says:

    Oh Dear! Of course I agree that this whole sordid mess should be resolved and with the help of the British Government who have not protected us at all but doing it this way by the Media is certainly not going to help all those people trying to sell!!

    We bought off plan in 2003 and took possession in 2005 and to date still no sign of the Title Deeds due to numerous irregularities by the Developer.

    Fortunately for us we managed to sell just before Xmas without Title Deeds (with a Bank Waiver) and thank goodness we did as if these issues had been highlighted on TV we most certainly would not have sold so who do you protect? The ones who have already bought or those thinking of buying??

  • Richard says:

    @Gary – all I can say is there are more citizens than politicians.

    We should all be asking WHY our ‘government’ have ‘no interest’ in getting involved. Take no waffle, take no platitudes, take no whitewash from any of them. Push on them and keep pushing.

    They are the ‘elected’ government of this country.

    If they have no interest in serving (yes – key word – SERVING) the people of this country – then they should leave their jobs and turn the Houses of Parliament into a museum – it’s clearly of no use to any of us.

  • delboy says:

    This is the program done by the BBC – Cyprus Property Victims BBC Inside Out October 2011

  • Gary says:

    I recently received confirmation from my MP that both George Osborne and William Hague have no interest in getting involved to assist UK Nationals.

    Anything that we can do to raise the profile in the UK is essential – please sign the petition and forward to all your family and friends caught up in this sorry mess.

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