The Royal Bank of Scotland (Natwest UK) has given the Turkish Cypriot ‘finance ministry’ until September 15 to return its property in Kyrenia which includes the well-known Jasmine Court Hotel, media in the north reported on Wednesday.
According to an exclusive in Yeni Duzen newspaper, representatives of the Royal Bank of Scotland (Natwest UK), sent a warning letter on August 15 to the ‘real-estate market department’ under the ‘finance ministry’ giving a final deadline for the return of the property.
In November 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (Echr)accepted as a domestic remedy a 2010 application by the Royal Bank of Scotland to the north’s Immovable Property Commission (IPC), which had agreed to pay almost £23 million for the property consisting of 150 acres of land it had owned as a 50:50 shareholder in the Pharos Group prior to 1974. The property evaluation was based on pre-1974 values.
However, five years after the IPC set the compensation at £22,773,940, the money has not been paid to the legal owners with the excuse by the ‘TRNC’ that it “does not have the financial resources”.
According to Yeni Duzen, representatives of the bank have indicated that they will appeal to the Echr in the event that steps are not taken either to pay the compensation or return the property.
The application, which will be made under the fairly new ‘Magnitsky Act UK’, will pave the way, they added, according to the report, “for the trial in international courts of individuals who misuse their public power”.
“Separate lawsuits will be filed for the people involved in this process [The IPC], for those who have ratified it, and for those who signed it,” the report says.
The Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 authorises governments who signed up to it, including the US and the UK, to sanction foreign officials worldwide who are deemed to be human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering their respective countries.
In addition to this action, new legal proceedings will be initiated at the Echr against the IPC itself, the report said.
Yeni Duzen said the British government was taking action on the matter with the Turkish foreign ministry.
The paper said that on August 2, 2022, a meeting was held at the ‘presidential palace’ in the north with the participation of the ‘Turkish ambassador’ and with lawyers.
In this particular meeting, it was discussed returning the property rather than having to come up with the money, the report said.
It added that the British High Commission has been monitoring the bank’s application to the IPC since 2011.
Jasmine Court is not the only property on the land, much of which was also developed after 1974 and also has the Les Ambassadeurs Hotel and Casino and a large number of apartments and houses.
Yeni Duzen said the British property owner would settle for the site that contains the Jasmine Court – around 40 acres. This could not be verified.
According to Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis, the hotel, the Jasmine Court, reportedly the most luxurious hotel in the north was run by Omer Topal, aka ‘the king of casinos’. He had bought the hotel in the 1980s from Polly Peck tycoon Asil Nadir, a Turkish Cypriot who was a fugitive from British justice for decades after fleeing the UK in 1991. Topal died in 1996 and the IPC decision for compensation was passed to his daughter, according to the Havadis report.
She reportedly said she was ready to pay the family’s share of the compensation – half the amount – but the authorities in the north did not have the other half. On top of that, the report said, the British bank was reluctant to take money from the Topal family because the money came from casino earnings and it could not be transferred to the UK banking system.
To date, almost 6,500 Greek Cypriots have applied to the IPC and a total of £200 million sterling has been paid in compensation.