Businessman Nicos Shacolas has filed a libel suit against Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos over accusations he voiced last week regarding the apparent mismanagement of Turkish Cypriot properties in Paphos and elsewhere.
Shacolas and his Limni Resorts and Golf Courses Plc was among those named by the outspoken mayor as being in possession of Turkish Cypriot land without being eligible.
More or less recounting the findings of an auditor-general report, Phedonos said Shacolas had been given 230 donums of Turkish Cypriot land next to his golf project in the area of Limni, near Polis, for which he paid €2,085 per year when according to the use, he should have been paying €66,482. The Shacolas company said this figure was used arbitrarily and misleadingly by the Paphos mayor and did not reflect the true situation.
He said the company was not eligible to be given Turkish Cypriot land.
Since the war and the displacement of populations 43 years ago, all Turkish Cypriot property where the owner is not resident is administered by the state as guardian, collecting low rents, mainly from Greek Cypriot refugees who are deemed as eligible beneficiaries because they lost their own land from the Turkish occupation.
In a written statement on Tuesday, the company condemned Phedonos’ “insulting claims” which it planned to bring to justice. The company and Shacolas will lodge a libel suit against the mayor, it added.
“Such comments and references of a populist nature, aiming at self-promotion, discourage progressive entrepreneurs and companies from making investments that bolster the country’s economy and afford employment to thousands of our compatriots,” the statement said. It has also damaged the company’s reputation on social media, it said, to which Phedonos responded they had the right to sue.
But he told Cybc he did not make the allegations lightly. “I know what I say publicly,” he said. “If this has caused any comments on Facebook, then contact Facebook, or ban social networks to stop people from commenting.”
The company said Phedonos had gone a step further and made unacceptable comments about Shacolas, suggesting the businessman had backstage dealings with political parties.
According to the Shacolas company, the Limni Resorts and Golf Courses had completely transparent dealings with the Guardian.
It said the attorney-general’s office considered the dealings to be lawful and the work to be beneficial and to serve the public interest.
Specifically, it said that in the proposal of the minister of the interior to the Council of Ministers dated October 14, 2009, according to the law, the Guardian is allowed to take actions in certain cases in which degraded properties could be transformed to the benefit of the owner or in the public interest, and that in this case the exchange was legitimate.
“The rentals were uninhabited by refugees for over 38 years because they are almost entirely barren, rocky and non-cultivated,” the company said.
“These items were leased to our company for the purpose of using, as stated in the lease agreement, as a green/park space,” it said, adding that there would be no income from the land. It was to be cleaned of waste and wild vegetation for fire prevention at a cost to the company of €3,500 a year.
There were three lease contracts for three Turkish Cypriot plots, one dated 2012, one 2014 and the third, 2016. The first was “barren and inaccessible with sloping topography” untapped since 1974 and without anyone else asking for its use. The third area was leased under similar conditions, and the second had some cultivation. None have been sublet, Shacolas said but said parts would probably be used for temporary storage. “There will not be any construction, nor will they be part of the development,” it added.
“Just for reference, Mr Nicos Shacolas and the Shacolas Group have infinitely larger real estate properties in the occupied areas of Nicosia, Famagusta, Kyrenia, Karavas, Dikomos and elsewhere, for which they have initiated an action against Turkey,” the company added. “For the deprivation of these properties, he himself and his companies have not requested nor enjoyed any benefit from the Republic of Cyprus.”