A court decision ordering the demolition of a villa built by British couple Linda and David Orams on Greek Cypriot property in Lapithos in the north still applies, the landowner’s lawyer said on Wednesday.
According to reports, Turkish Cypriot authorities have bought the Orams’ home, which was built on Greek Cypriot property and which they were forced to vacate nine years ago after the landowner sued. The villa should have been demolished under various court rulings bur the authorities in the north have not complied.
Turkish Cypriot newspaper Cyprus Today, the English-language arm of daily Kibris, said the villa would be turned into an elderly home or an orphanage. It reported that the title transfer of the property to the Turkish Cypriot authorities in early 2019 was legal, according to the couple’s lawyer. The villa and land were purchased for £160,000 by the ‘treasury department’.
But according to Constantis Candounas, the lawyer for landowner Meletis Apostolides, the court decision against the Orams for the demolition of the villa continues to apply.
Candounas told the Cyprus News Agency that it was up to his client to take any legal action.
Apostolides told CNA that the move by the Turkish Cypriot authorities was aimed at giving a boost to the real-estate sector in the north and to encourage prospective buyers.
“It is a way to bring the so-called ‘TRNC’ back to the spotlight by reassuring foreigners interested in buying property in the occupied areas,” Apostolides said. He said he has not yet decided on the possibility of legal action against the Orams.
The Orams built the house in 2002. Apostolides later sued at the Nicosia courts and won but the judgment could not be enforced in the north.
Apostolides then took the case in the UK where in September 2006, the High Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Orams. He then appealed to the British Court of Appeal which referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The ECJ ruled in favour of Apostolides and the case was returned to the Court of Appeal in England which in January 2010 unanimously upheld the ruling of the ECJ holding that the ruling of the Cypriot court should be applied in the UK.
The ECJ had ruled that the decision by a court of the Republic of Cyprus must be recognised and enforced by the other member states, even if it concerns land in the north of the island.
The case has been described as a landmark test case as it set a precedent for other Greek Cypriot refugees to bring similar actions to court.
In October 2006, the Cyprus criminal code was amended to provide that buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without the permission of the owner (the person whose ownership is registered with the Republic of Cyprus Land Registry, including Greek Cypriots displaced from northern Cyprus in 1974) was a criminal offence with a maximum prison sentence of seven years. However, the law was not retroactive and could not apply in the Orams case.
The Orams paid real-estate tax to the ‘municipality of Lapithos and all the other taxes they owed apart from €468 for unpaid water and street-light bills for the villa, according to Cyprus Today.
The ‘mayor of Lapithos, Moustafa Aktouk told the paper that even though the Orams did not occupy the property for the past nine years, the taxes should be paid before a licence could be issued for change of use.