Cyprus Mail

Eight-day remand for suspected Paphos property scammer (Updated)

A 43-year-old man was remanded by the Paphos court on Sunday for eight days on suspicion of trying to sell property fraudulently to a Chinese investor.

The suspect is facing charges of criminal conspiracy, extorting money under false pretences, and money laundering, the alleged crimes having been committed between June 7 and July 27 in Paphos. An arrest warrant has also been issued for a second person.

Police asked for an eight-day remand in order to take more than 30 more statements and for the lifting of banking secrecy and data communications of both the suspect and the wanted person.

The judge noted that several of the statements would have to be taken in Mandarin, which would be done with the aid of an interpreter, which, he agreed made the process more time-consuming, and so agreed to the remand period.

Defence counsel objected, saying the statements could be taken in two to three days.

The court heard that the initial complaint was made by a woman aged 25 from China who is a permanent resident of Cyprus. In February this year when she was in the village of Nata to look at some pieces of land she was interested in buying, police investigators said, she was approached by a stranger who offered to put her in contact with a friend who had plots of land for sale.

She accepted the proposal and gave the man her mobile phone number.

In late February and early March, the suspect phoned her and introduced himself as a real-estate agent and they made an appointment in Yeroskipou.

The second man who is wanted in the case, was at the meeting, the court heard, and was introduced as the suspect’s partner.

The pair then showed the Chinese investor a number of plots and buildings they said were for sale. These included an apartment complex in Yeroskipou and agricultural land in Koilinia and Anarita, property of the wanted man, of which the investor bought four pieces.

At the end of May, the suspect and the fugitive also showed her, her husband and father-in-law, a five-bedroom house in Chlorakas in which the Chinese woman and her family expressed an interest.

She was told the price was 1.3 million euros but the duo suggested they could get the owner to knock the price down to 800,000 euros but that they Chinese investor should not try negotiating herself as there was a risk the owner would increase the price if they learned the buyer was a foreign investor.

Two days later the suspect visited the complainant’s home and asked for and was given 60,000 euros in 500 euro notes, saying he would give the money as a deposit to the owner of the sale property in order to help secure a better deal.

Investigators told the court that negotiations continued, according to the complainant, in an effort to reduce the price. On June 19, the suspect visited her again telling her that the owner had accepted the offer of 800,000 euros provided she hand over another 140,000 in cash in addition to the 60,000 already paid. However, she was not presented with any contract.

The scam came to light on Wednesday when the Chinese woman reported the case to police after she found out the owner of the property had no knowledge that it was being sold.

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