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The long road to justice

Conor O’Dwyer speaks to the Sunday Mail about his 15-year battle with the Cyprus justice system, since he and his wife bought a property from Christoforos Karayiannas and Son Ltd.

Conor O'Dwyer's protest

Conor O’Dwyer talking to potential Cyprus property buyers at Earls Court

CONOR O’Dwyer is nothing if not tenacious. The British man has fought a 15-year battle with Cyprus’ justice system.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever be able to live in Cyprus, not after what’s happened to me,” Conor O’Dwyer told the Sunday Mail this week.

“It breaks my heart because this country was the one where me and my family chose to build the house of our dreams. How can I see a future here after what I had to go through?”

It is a sad but completely legitimate question posed by the British man who bought a property in the Famagusta district back in 2005. The dream ended in a bitter legal dispute when the developer resold his house to another British family at a higher price.

Into the mix came two assault cases brought against the developers when O’Dwyer fought his corner, insisting the house was his. The ensuing legal battles brought O’Dwyer face to face with Cyprus’ justice system whose wheels grind notoriously slowly. According to O’Dwyer, it is also stacked against foreigners.

Fifteen years after the fight for his house began, O’Dwyer this week appeared before the supreme court in Nicosia, which was finally hearing his appeal into the 2012 verdict of the case filed by developer company Christoforos Karayiannas and Son Ltd, who accused him of breach of contract and of defamation, after O’Dwyer called them “liars” on his blog, called “Beyond Contempt”.

“Before buying the house in 2005, my wife and I were doing really well in life,” O’Dwyer said.

“Cyprus has always been my and my family’s holiday destination, we came to the island many times and I even served time in the military here,”

Cyprus had joined the EU in 2004 and this, combined with the property boom at the time, persuaded the family to buy a house here.

“It was a great opportunity for us. Even if things weren’t going to work out, we could always sell it at a terrific price, considering the property boom at that time,” O’Dwyer says.

“We were cash buyers, we would have lived here with no mortgage and, according to the contract we signed at the time, I would have had my title deeds within three years. It was the ideal situation. I had no doubts that buying a house in a EU country would present no challenges.”

However, shortly after depositing the contract for the house at the land registry, O’Dwyer started to disagree with the developers over some alleged changes they had made to the plans, some of which he claimed breached the contract and others were misrepresentations at the point of sale.

At this stage, the property was midway through construction and he had already paid €113,000 to the developers.

That’s when O’Dwyer decided to start a blog and tell the story behind the problems he was facing. Within a week of starting the blog, he claims he was assaulted for the first time and decided to close it down.

“It was crazy, I never expected such a thing to happen. The website stayed down for a whole year after the incident.”

He pressed charges for the assault.

In February 2007, O’Dwyer then discovered that his house had been sold at a higher price to another British woman, who had already taken up residence in the now-completed house, despite his contract still in the land registry.

The higher price was reflective of the property boom at the time but his money was never returned.

O’Dwyer decided to re-open his blog, which triggered another serious incident in 2008.

“I was assaulted for the second time, and it was even worse than the first time. I had returned to Cyprus in January 2008 for meetings and to take photos of my house for the civil action.

“Christoforos Karayiannas and his son were alerted to my presence in the village and at the busy junction and in front of dozens of witnesses rammed my car and together with an employee, the three men assaulted me again.”

O’Dwyer was hospitalised for five days and pressed charges again.

Conor O'Dwyer recovering in hospital after savage beating

Conor O’Dwyer recovering in hospital after savage beating in 2008

After returning to the UK, in August 2008 O’Dwyer decided to camp outside the Cyprus High Commission in London for two months. Thus began his one-man battle to highlight what he came to believe were the perils awaiting foreigners buying property in Cyprus.

“I did that for two reasons. I wanted to get attention after I was assaulted for the second time and I wanted to warn people interested in buying property in Cyprus of the potential risks they might have faced.”

O’Dwyer eventually ended his protest in October 2008 on the promise that his court case would be heard in January 2009.

Conor O’Dwyer sleeping rough for justice outside the Cyprus High Commission in London

The developers walked free for the first assault after the prosecutor failed to call O’Dwyer to court and the case was discontinued in his absence.

The developers and their employee were then found guilty for the second assault, but were given a suspended sentence, after a two-year court battle.

The developers then sued O’Dwyer for breach of contract and defamation for what he had written on his blog.

O’Dwyer and his lawyers made a counterclaim for breach of contract.

In 2012, the Larnaca district court ruled that O’Dwyer had not breached any contract and that Karayiannas had unlawfully cancelled it and retained his money. It was also ruled that the house was sold again without his knowledge. However, the court failed to award him any damages.

Instead the court went on to fine O’Dwyer a national record for defamation of €50,000.

“I made 64 flights back and forth from UK to Cyprus to attend lower courts, an absurdity! I spent an absolute fortune. On top of that, it took two years to process my second assault case.”

O’Dwyer said there are striking similarities in the way his case was handled with false rape claim trial of the British woman in Ayia Napa at the end of 2019 which has received such criticism in the British press.

Conor & Michaela O'Dwyer with ITV film crew outside the Cyprus High Commission in London today

Conor & Michaela O’Dwyer with ITV film crew outside the Cyprus High Commission in London

“Firstly, the length of both trials was excruciating. Neither of the two cases needed that much time to be processed, it’s unacceptable.

“Secondly, I can see that in both cases there was a clear victimisation of foreigners, I think it’s a sadly common practice in Cyprus.

“I was the victim of a crime and, somehow, I ended up having to appeal to the supreme court and defend myself. At the same time, the people who assaulted me were found guilty, but were both handed suspended sentences. How is this justice?”

O’Dwyer’s lawyer Giannos Georgiades claims his client’s case could eventually prove to be useful for the Cypriot justice system.

“I am firmly convinced Conor is doing a favour to our country,” he told the Sunday Mail.

“It motivates us to stand up to those people who give a bad name to our country. It makes us fight for what’s right.

“Conor came here to pursue his dreams, because he loves this country. He did not come here to fight. It’s not him who is making Cyprus look bad.

“Every person who comes here should be treated with respect and have the utmost trust in our justice system. We have the right to protect those who come and invest in our country, just like Conor was planning to do.”

So does O’Dwyer feel he will finally receive justice at the Supreme Court?

“I hope that they will rule in a way that will allow me to close this horrible chapter of my life. If not, I am fully prepared to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.”

He insisted his battle is not just for the benefit of foreigners.

“I want to make things better for everyone in Cyprus, a country that I love, but where, unfortunately, I will never be able to live.”

Readers' comments

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  • Barbara Devonshire-Ward says:

    I wish him every success. He has spent so much money, and it must have taken its toll on him and his family – this is time spent he can never get back and he has highlighted a problem that so many suffer in Cyprus.

    The system is seriously flawed and must be addressed. All people who buy a property and use a lawyer should be safe and should get their deeds immediately as we do in the UK.

    In his case his house was resold even though it should have been protected from such action having been lodged in his name. Others move into their property but spend years trying to get their deeds. It is just wrong. I got mine after 10 years and three lawyers and far too much money! Good Luck

  • Disappointed says:

    Same with me, deeds for my property issued in 2011, have spent 9 years and thousands in legal fees to try and get them transferred into my name. But since they have been used as security for the developers tax bill, the developer is holding on to them.

    Ed: Have you applied for the Title Deed?

  • Caroline dalby says:

    Mr O,Dwyer I pray you get justice , I have, and still am fighting the injustice with developers and corrupt legal system , I continue like you to see and fight for justice, since 2007 I Continue and just hope my nightmare ends. Like you it costs, not just money but personally to , good luck and I pray for a positive outcome for us all .

  • Conor has been fighting a huge battle for justice . And with such dignity. We must support him so that the system can change for all. We can’t leave him on his own in this. He’s suffered such breaches in human rights it’s shocking.

    There will be change if Conor is not the only one fighting.

  • Viennese says:

    (Peter Davis) Myself Austrian had to endure a malice practice in Paphos which lasted for more than 20 years to obtain the title deed for a fully paid cottage. Same tricky scheme of organised corruption-developer-bank-lawer,.

    But I experienced a bitter taste of the rotten Cyprus legal system, the EU is not an example of doing better.

  • Richard says:

    Conor’s a pioneering spirit for us all, and anyone who has suffered injustice in Cyprus should acknowledge his courage in pushing on with his campaign. The toll on his family must have been colossal, but his children have had the best education that money cannot buy.

    Sadly, corruption is everywhere – not just in Cyprus. It just so happens that Cyprus is more blatant about failing to respond to tackling it.

    If corruption were the toxins in a body – Cyprus is the ugly pimple on the nose arising from it.

  • Costas aFortune says:

    Well done to this gentleman for exposing Cyprus for what it is ! It’s a disgrace that the judges can get away with what they do and the UK government just ignore instead of helping. Now let’s get into the news about the property scams in Paphos with Alpha Bank , Alpha Panareti local Greek lawyers and a certifying official that lied on official documents ( there’s plenty of proof). The bbc named it a £500 million property scheme on their Inside out program ( which can be found on You Tube BBC inside out Cyprus property scheme). This island was once loved by Brits but now thousands have vowed never to step foot on this Island of nightmares ever again. Remember Cyprus “ Don’t Bit The Hand That Feeds You”!

  • Sorry. Iam launching a similar fight with the Pambos Napa hotel where the rape happened. They employ foreign students as seasonal staff promising high salaries then dont pay them!! At all!!!

  • Peter Davis says:

    Unfortunately Cyprus has moved on to the 21st Century but its legal system, lawyers, courts and acceptable truths have remained rooted in the past.

    I fail to understand how the EU accept such a scheme running from one of its members? Conor is not alone, he’s one of the victims that is perfectly acceptable in a corrupt republic in South America.

  • Belinda salthouse says:

    Unfortunate Conor isn’t the only one who has to go through this s*** there are many others including myself this corruption has to stop and before I’m one foot in the grave I will make sure Justice happens to me as well

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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