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Alpha Bank Cyprus in callous court action (Update)

Alpha Bank Cyprus is trying to prevent the transfer of properties on the Anarita Sunrise 1 development built by the bankrupt developer Yiannis Liasides, who borrowed in the region of €3.7 million that his company failed to repay.

Alpha Bank Protest

Protest held in 2012 outside the Alpha Bank in London

WE HAVE received news that a number of notices have been issued to home buyers living on the the Anarita Sunrise 1 development in Paphos and another home buyer living close whose properties were built by bankrupt property developer Yiannis Liasides.

The plaintiff in the case is Alpha Bank Cyprus that granted loans amounting to somewhere in the region of €3.7 million to Liasides, which were never repaid.

Some weeks ago we heard that Alpha Bank Cyprus had been granted an interim court order blocking the transfer of properties on the Anarita Sunrise 1. It now appears that the Paphos District Court has ruled that that Alpha Bank Cyprus has a valid case and it will be heard at the Paphos District Court on 31st March.

We understand that the bank is asking the court to overturn the Land Registry’s decision to transfer the properties to their purchasers. It also contesting that the ‘trapped buyers’ law is unconstitutional and that the Land Registry is acting illegally. Title Deeds for the properties have been issued in the name of the liquidator and we believe that Liasides Anarita Sunrise 1 development is the only one that has been fully completed.

Although the bank is not asking the court to allow it to repossess the properties, such a request may follow if the court rules in the bank’s favour.

The court’s decision to issue notices makes a complete mockery of ‘trapped buyers’/’hidden mortgage’ law that is supposed to enable the transfer of properties regardless of whether the developer was insolvent, but it seems that the Alpha Bank Cyprus’ legal team may have found a loophole in the law?

Furthermore, the properties at Anarita Sunrise are ‘primary residences’ (not secondary of holiday homes) and a number of banks have given assurances that they would not repossess primary residences. One of the purchasers I spoke with earlier who received a notice confirmed that she had paid Liasides in full for her property and owes the company no money.

The Liasides ‘saga’ will be familiar to regular readers of Cyprus Property News.

In 2007 it emerged that that Yiannis Liasides had mortgages on the land on which his company was building and was in serious financial straits and the company ceased trading without repaying his debts leaving in his wake some 250 purchasers in 14 plots who bought properties from his company without their Title Deeds.

In 2011 Alpha Bank Cyprus filed applications at the Land Registry to auction eight of the fourteen plots of land that were owned by the company at Anarita, Pegeia, Mesa Chorio and Armou. At that time it was reported that Liasides made no mortgage payments since 2002 on a plot at Anarita – and since then the amount owed to the bank probably exceeded the value of both land and properties that he had built and sold to unsuspecting purchasers.

The Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG) assisted a number of Liasides clients lodge cases at the European Court of Human Rights against the Cyprus Government for not protecting their property rights and a question were raised in the European Commission.

In December 2011 an on-line petition was launched to stop the Alpha Bank’s applications. Over the next few weeks, the petition garnered 1,179 signatures and I was interviewed by Rosie Charalambous for the CyBC radio programme ‘Round and About’ about the problems surrounding Title Deeds and unpaid developers’ debts.

This callous act by Alpha Bank Cyprus, which is due to its own mismanagement, negligence and incompetence, is most probably motivated by money. Court cases against the bank are pending alleging that it mis-sold Swiss franc loans to many home buyers.

I suggest that anyone with an account at Alpha Bank Cyprus should take their business elsewhere.

Update 31st March

The case has been adjourned until 20th April.

Readers' comments

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  • Denton Mackrell says:

    Alpha Bank seems to be ‘trying it on’. For start, as far as I know, a district court has no power to issue a judgement on whether or not any action by any party is unconstitutional. Only the Supreme Court can do that. I am surprised that Paphos District Court allowed such an obvious ‘no ball’ to be brought before it. No doubt the defendants will demand that the whole case should be passed to the Supreme Court, given that two of the plaintiff’s three claims are matters of law (does the Land Registry have the power to issue deed release orders?) and constitution (is the ‘trapped buyers law’ constitutional?).

    I am sure that Nigel is right about the whole cynical attitude of Alpha being about money – but not just recovering the developer’s debts from any convenient scapegoat as long as it is not the developer or his guarantors. It’s also about its standing, reputation and viability as a bank. Remember, there are all those hundreds of plaintiffs against Alpha Bank and others in class actions in the UK High Court. If Alpha Bank loses in these (even some of them), it could risk insolvency or at least suffer lasting damage. The payout and legal costs to some 500 plaintiffs could easily reach 1bn pounds. The relevant vectors are all negative for Alpha.

  • Pete says:

    Information regarding the recklessness of Alpha bank plus their lack of fiduciary responsibility has been made available to those Sunrise residents being summonsed. Only time will tell if the court will allow it to be heard. Or maybe an unbiased judge.

  • scruffy says:

    Surprise, surprise. Anyone know why? I’m very surprised that this case hasn’t reached the media. English speaking media anyway.

    (Editor’s comment: This is the English language media.)

  • Peter Davis says:

    No negligence by the bank then?

  • Scruffy says:

    Thanks Nigel

    Your article says that the property owners have been summoned to court. Why would they be summoned to court when the bank is seeking to prove that the LR is acting illegally or that the Law is unconstitutional?

    If the bank won who would appeal? The property owners or the LR or the government who, after all, introduced the law.

    I had assumed that in the circumstances where there was nowhere to transfer an encumbrance the LR had other options.

    I think the Law says the LR has the authority to “exempt, eliminate, transfer and cancel mortgages and/or other encumbrances depending on the case or certain conditions.

    I guess it is the “certain conditions” the bank seeks to exploit.

    So much for the Government’s assertion that the banks will have to “take the hit” for their own foolishness. Would you know whether the Troika are aware of this development?

    (Editor’s comment: I think you have an early draft of the article in your browser’s cache. View the article again and press Ctrl +F5 to get the later version.

    If the bank won I believe that the Govt would appeal the lower court’s decision to the Supreme Court. As I said earlier I’m sure the government’s legal services department would have ensured that the law was constitutional. I know that the notice consisted of around 100 pages which probably contain the bank’s arguments.

    I expect the troika are aware of the situation, but they cannot intervene in the judicial process.)

  • Scruffy says:

    Surely it is unlikely that such an important issue would be decided at District Court level. I’m sure this will immediately be referred to the Supreme Court.

    Also, the repercussions on the property market, at a time when it is showing signs of recovery, would be horrendous.

    Is there no more info on that particular site that has been targeted? E.g. Were they officially already under foreclosure.

    My property plot has been under foreclosure since 2011. Perhaps the loophole is that the foreclosures were never lifted. I was surprised, given that foreclosure is decided by a court, that I wouldn’t have to go to court at some stage to have the foreclosure removed.

    My lawyer has stated all along that the “Trapped Buyers Law” was full of grey areas. Unfortunately, looks like she may be right.

    (Editor’s comment: The developer went into liquidation some years ago so the company doesn’t own any unsold properties onto which the Land Registry can transfer the mortgage and other debts.

    Also, as the Title Deeds for these properties are ready for transfer to the purchasers if the transfers go ahead the bank will lose any hope of recovering its money.

    When the matter is heard in the Paphos Court the judge may decide to refer it to the Supreme Court – and if the Bank loses the case it may appeal the decision at the Supreme Court (assuming the judge in Paphos allows an appeal.)

  • LT says:

    This is terrible! If I’m not mistaken 8,000 people waited to apply for title deed. Has any trapped buyer gotten the deed yet?

    I heard that some people who refinanced their mortgage with Alpha Bank got the bank sign that they will not oppose their tittle deed if there is a loan on developer. Does anyone knows more about it? I’m with BoC and my developer was Kanika.

    By the way in my contract my developer is a guarantor. Could Bank legally come after me after repossessing the apartment?

    (Editor’s comment: Yes, a number of people who applied for their Title Deeds under the provisions of the ‘trapped buyer’ law have received them – see Title Deed applications exceed 8,000.

    I guess your developer acted as guarantor for your loan to purchase the apartment. Providing you maintain your loan repayments the bank shouldn’t repossess the property.)

  • Frank says:

    What news of Yiannis Liasides, himself, and his family? Is he living in poverty, brought about by his profligacy? In fact, has he suffered anything: perhaps dispossessed in the manner which threatens his victims?

    (Editor’s comment: I understand Yiannis Liasides spent some time in jail for non-payment of taxes – he isn’t living it up. If you search through the archives you’ll find that Denis O’Hare met with the family shortly after the company collapsed.)

  • embapaphos says:

    Totally totally wrong but even bank staff I know admit that nowadays (or days gone by) just take out massive loans from a bank, back them with plots of land as collateral, don’t finish or even start the projects you promise, go into liquidation and just live off your ill-gotten gains, ultimately leeching off the innocent deposits holders whose money is being lent out in the first place.

    Lets hope that there is radical change to both the banks practices, and the whole process of purchasing property in Cyprus as was being suggested a while back in accordance with troika, no clean deed no sale, simple.

  • Scruffy says:

    Hi Nigel

    You say that the CPAG assisted Laisides clients to take their case to the ECHR regarding protection of property rights. What was the outcome?

    This is so disappointing. It seems that we are all back at square one. I assume that the Minister of the Interior is aware of this development.

    Has no-one been able to find out the possible loophole? I can’t imagine that the bank would go ahead with this unless extremely confident of winning.

    Only yesterday, we had the LR around our site measuring up all the properties. I assumed as part of the procedure leading to issuing of deeds.

    Now I read this. Fool me. I should have known better.

    (Editor’s comment: I can’t recall the outcome of the case that was taken to the ECHR, but I’m fairly sure it failed.

    I know it’s easy for me to say but the law is relatively new and untested – such challenges are to be expected.

    Yes, if the LR surveyors visited yesterday to measure up your development this would be part of the process in issuing the deeds.)

  • Tearing my hair out says:

    If anyone ever needed convincing that the European Union parliament is a bunch of the dodgiest characters there to selectively apply the law (to the few – by screwing the many) then this is the example of all time.

    I really do feel now it’s time to mobilise into action. Usury and extortion have become the two guiding principles for these monsters and it’s time for a peasant’s revolt.

  • Pete says:

    In reply to Steve R, that €13.7 million is on top of the many millions he took from clients which begs the questions; why did he need the loans and why did the bank not take their repayment from the money he took from clients? The whole episode smacks of a great deal of underhand dealing with the bank’s collusion at a high level.

  • steve r says:

    How many times have the buyers in Cyprus been led up the garden path only to find the gate at the end is locked. The banks seem to be a law unto them self. They always win their cases by dragging everything out over many years until they have sufficiently beat up the opposition and then go in for the final kill.

    Nobody will beat the banks and the EU seem reluctant to get involved. The laws in most cases are a joke and give false hopes to the buyers. How many 100’s of thousands of euro have been paid to Cypriot lawyers only to find that the very laws that were put in place have massive holes in them. The lawmakers make the rules and the judges overrule them. And the hoards of buyers still keep coming. A businessman who borrows €13.2 million and never makes a repayment in over 10 years should be thrown in jail

  • Garry Crisp says:

    I note the article suggests that customers of Alpha Bank Cyprus should take their business elsewhere, please can I suggest that you also avoid National Bank of Greece (Cyprus) particularly with regard to their treatment of customers with Swiss franc loans.

  • A Smith says:

    I have done most of the ‘leg work’ for taking my case (illegal practices and negligence by a bank). I have the claim form and am printing off various information, and see that the CPG is helping against Alpha Bank.

    Is there someone who can give me further guidance, therefore, on this.

    Thank you.

    (Editor’s comment: If you plan on taking your case to court you will need a decent lawyer to read through your evidence and prepare a case.)

  • Mike says:

    Oh so predictable and I suggest it is not just one Judge not up to date, too many state employees up to the very top seem to be totally unaware of current and up to date rulings, laws, codes of practise and guidance.

    It’s as if we are determined and do everything we can to stay living in the age prior to EU membership and have no need to apply current legislation or guidance. Hence the often used excuse of “but this is Cyprus”.

  • John says:

    Surely its time the EU Parliament acted against the Cyprus banks and made them act fairly!

    The scandal of the Swiss Franc mortgages should be addressed at EU.

  • Pete says:

    If only the Attorney General’s office would respond to emails they’d have access to a lot of evidence in this case.

  • Aggis Demetriou says:

    Perhaps it’s just one of many judges who are not up to date

  • Gary says:

    It would be interesting to get the view of the Troika on this one. I understand the final payment has been made to Cyprus but the conditions were clear. Cyprus still has to meet the conditions of the bail out programme. Parliament should be challenging this action by the Alpha bank?

    (Editor’s comment: We’ll have to wait and see what the Paphos Court decides. It may be referred to the Supreme Court for a ruling.)

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