Interior Minister Nicos Nouris has confirmed to MPs that some of those leasing Turkish Cypriot properties from the state were then illegally subletting them and profiteering.

He detailed that since 2017 a total of 289 evictions from Turkish Cypriot properties have taken place due to various contract violations, mainly due to illegal subletting.

The issue is centred on the low rental fees charged by the Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service, part of the interior ministry, which means that illegally subletting these properties can return significant profits.

He explained that in such cases the properties are not immediately seized but a warning letter is issued instead, informing the lessee that they have 30 days to comply with the contract or face confiscation of the property. Essentially, those breaking the contract are given a second chance.

Politis reported on the details of the letter sent to MPs, further adding that there is no basis within the legislation for the state to chase down compensation from the illegally obtained income.

It also stated that the profits from subletting are not taxed as they are obtained through illegal means, while there is also difficulty in confirming a case of illegal subletting as obtaining the evidence to prove it is tricky.

Responding to MPs’ questions, Nouris said that in Limassol two cases have led to legal action being taken – with 50 evictions taking place in the district since 2017.

Paphos recorded the highest number of evictions at 175, with one case being taken to court.

Four leases pertaining to commercial properties were terminated in Larnaca – after they were found to be illegally rented out to others and were subsequently passed on to others who were eligible.

In Nicosia, no cases ended up in the courts, but 64 evictions took place concerning nine residential units and 55 commercial units.

It is understood that the low rental fees charged by the interior ministry is largely due to the often costly renovation works carried out by those leasing the properties, many of which had been derelict – in some cases since 1963-1964.

The latest details provided by the interior minister come amid a storm of controversy surrounding the overall handling of the properties, with the House refugee committee being told last week that large scale bribes were requested from officials to promote applications. Nouris said an investigator will be appointed to handle the allegations.

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.