BRITISH MPs and MEPs have expressed their shock and concern over the title deeds scandal in Cyprus, and some have already taken the issue up with the government and the EU.
“I find the accounts, which I have received of this chain of events scarcely credible,” said Nigel Farage MEP, the leader of the UK Independence Party and Co-President of the Independence/Democracy Group in the EU assembly.
In a letter to the Cyprus Justice Ministry, Farage added: “Is Cyprus a rogue-state beyond the fringes of civilisation? Does it have no laws, no impartial courts and no responsible government? How could this practice of retaining title-deeds, after the sale of a property, be condoned in a state, which pretends to be worthy of the name, and is not merely a bandit-stronghold?”
Farage said he had received so many complaints alleging “the same extraordinary practices,” described in so many different ways, that he felt obliged to write to the Ministry for their comments.
Farage’s response was one of several received following the launch of a lobbying campaign by British home buyers under the umbrella of the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG).
The campaign has reached all the way up to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the House of Lords, where the answer to a written question by Lord Jones of Cheltenham is pending reply.
The buyers are worried that the global credit crunch could affect developers in Cyprus, most of whom still hold the title deeds to the buyers’ homes. If a developer were to collapse, the banks would have legal right of foreclosure.
There are around 30,000 foreign buyers in this position, and another 70,000 or so Cypriots. CPAG wants a guarantee from the government similar to the one recently put in place for bank deposits.
Seeing no movement on the part of the government, Britons have taken their fight to the UK and the EU.
Replies to lobbying letters were received from several other MPs and MEPs, who said they had received many similar complaints from British buyers in Cyprus.
Struan Stevenson, MEP and Vice-President of the EPP-ED Group and Conservative Member for Scotland, said that event though it was not a ‘European matter’, “we are in the process of compiling a dossier of all the similar cases we have received as a warning to people about the pitfalls involved in setting up businesses or homes abroad.”
Stevenson said he had also written to DISY MEP Ioannis Kasoulides enquiring about a particular case. Kasoulides told him he had received almost identical letters from other British MEPs.
“He [Kasoulides] claims that no companies have faced risks of bankruptcy,” said Stevenson.
“He added that it is true that title deeds are issued with a delay of a couple of years and should be agreed in the selling contract. The delay is due to heavy bureaucracy in the Planning Bureau due to the issue approvals. He finishes that buyers should always be careful with what sort of contracts they agree with.”
Caroline Jackson MEP also said in a letter to one buyer that it was not a European matter.
“I think it is unlikely that there is any action that the European Commission can take to intervene in Cyprus,” Jackson’s letter said. “However, I understand that you are concerned and I would be happy to clarify the Commission’s position on this issue by tabling a written parliamentary question to the Commission on your behalf.”
Robert Kilroy-Silk, an independent MEP, said he also had received other letters and had written to the Cyprus High Commissioner in London. He was awaiting a response, he said.
Mark Prisk, MP in the House of Commons, said he had not been aware of the problems of property owners in Cyprus and had written to Britain’s Minister of State for Europe Caroline Flint asking her to respond as to what action was being taken to ensure that British property owners in Cyprus were not put at risk.
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