IT IS MY unhappy duty to point out that, in all of the discussions and bally-hoo about the Title Deeds problems in Cyprus, there is one glaring omission for which I can only blame the press, the presumed guardians of the people’s rights.
I should explain that more than 10 years ago my wife and I were in at the beginning of Denis O’Hare’s Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG) whose investigations did so much to expose the rottenness of the real estate business in this country.
Much of the blame for the present state of affairs has rightly fallen on crooked developers and their accomplices in the banks. But in this vast field scarcely a word can be heard of the nefarious dealings of the fourth participant, the virtually invisible conveyancing lawyer whose perfidy has earned them as a group their designation as one of the largest, if not the very largest, criminal classes in Cyprus.
Case after case investigated by the Cyprus Property Action Group revealed that the real culprit in the transaction was the buyer’s lawyer, whom the typical British buyer had characteristically trusted to look after his or her interests, including title searches to ensure that the property was free of encumbrances. Without the lawyer’s witting or unwitting collusion, a large part or most of these mortgage problems would have been avoided as, had the buyer become aware of these obstacles, he or she would simply not have bought the property. CPAG also found that many lawyers had secretly represented both sides in the transaction or had even “gone over” to the other side later on.
The simple fact is that the prudent foreign would-be buyer almost invariably hires a lawyer to represent his or her interests and is only too frequently deceived and cheated by this fourth element in the transaction.
It is further pointed out that this is no secret. Everyone knows that “legal ethics” in Cyprus is a rather bad joke. But why has the problem so rarely been included or even mentioned in the course of all the publicity that has been given to the subject? In the whole vast area of property matters hardly a single whisper of legal chicanery can be heard.
One can only conclude that the legal profession, which provides the majority of MPs, is one whose faults and sins simply cannot ever be discussed or even raised. For this to be possible, one can only blame the newspapers that are clearly reluctant to report on these issues and fear even to talk about them.
Please prove me wrong by printing this letter.
John Knowles, Peyia
CPAG report ‘Cyprus Property Pitfalls – a time for Action!‘ commissioned by the Cyprus Finance Minister in late 2007, delivered in January 2008 – and ignored by the Catastophias AKEL government.