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Bribes asked for Turkish Cypriot properties, MPs hear

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Interior Minister Nicos Nouris and Auditor General Odysseas Michaelildes at the House on Tuesday (Photo: Christos Theodorides)

Large scale bribes were requested from the Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service to promote applications, the House refugee committee heard on Tuesday as Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said an investigator will be appointed to look into those now in the possession of 16 officials at the service.

Speaking after the meeting, the head of the committee Nicos Kettiros said that one official had requested a bribe of €20,000 to promote an individual’s application, without having to go through the full process.

Kettiros added that another case heard at the session involved an individual who was denied a property they applied for only to find out it had been given to the relative of the then district administrator.

The bribery complaints were all given to the Auditor General and the attorney general’s office, representatives of which were also at the meeting.

Speaking after the meeting, Nouris promised action. “We do not want to blame people that do not have any involvement with what is being heard, there will be changes made to rationalise the process,” he said.

He added that next month a draft bill for the management of Turkish Cypriot properties will be submitted to parliament.

Nouris also said the entire Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service will be overhauled.

“Fundamental restructuring of this service is needed, because it is undeniable that people who remain for a long time in certain positions who manage such properties often become vulnerable,” he said.

However, civil servants currently working at the service were all employed from 1982 onwards, and many of the problematic properties were given out before they were hired.

Last week, the House refugee committee received a list of 27 people from the advisory committees on management of Turkish Cypriot properties and from the government services that will be sent to the audit office and the attorney-general’s office.

The 16 individuals are officers and staff currently at the service, while 11 names are people from the district advisory committees.

The names were submitted to the House Refugee Committee six months after committee president Kettiros had requested it from the interior minister.

Operating under the interior ministry, the Custodian of Turkish Cypriot properties is charged with ‘leasing’ these properties to refugees but has repeatedly been accused of mismanagement and favouritism. Complaints have included reports of cases where the best property had been leased to those with connections, and cases where the rent has been ridiculously low.

 

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