By Constantinos Psillides
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos pledged before the parliamentary watchdog committee on Tuesday to put an end to the mismanagement of Turkish Cypriot properties, adding that people “have to understand that they are not owners.”
Appearing before the committee to answer matters pertaining to his ministry included in the annual Auditor-general’s report, Hasikos said some of the refugees given Turkish Cypriot properties were abusing the right.
“We need to put an end to this. People are treating properties like they own it and use it for commercial purposes or even subletting it for a profit without having the right to do so,” said Hasikos, adding that in some cases people were given management of Turkish Cypriot properties without even being refugees.
Giving control of Turkish Cypriot properties for a token amount was a means of compensating refugees from the 1974 Turkish invasion.
“Some of the people we found might not even have property in the occupied areas, or they have a considerably more expensive property compared to what they had before the war,” the minister noted.
Hasikos said the ministry was in the middle of redistributing Turkish Cypriot properties, “so as we are fair while we are in the middle of a financial crisis.”
But with the crisis, people are even falling back on the token rent. According to the minister, the state is owed €6.2 million.
“We are trying to collect that money. We are trying to contact the owners to settle their debts and also allow for a flexible payment scheme,” he said.
Hasikos was also asked to answer for the thousands of landowners registered with the land registry department under a non-existent identification number.
The minister said the total number of such identities registered was 300,000, around 60 of which were Turkish Cypriots.
“This was a practice followed by the land registry decades ago, when many people were not issued identity cards. In order for the system to work they were registered under a non-existent, or made-up identity number,” he explained.
Hasikos added that most were later re-registered under a valid identity number while the property that remained under the non-existent identity numbers was now either registered with the Church or other foundations.