A number of staffers involved with the Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service may face criminal charges for acquiring property they were not entitled to, it emerged on Thursday.

The development comes almost ten years after the audit service and interior ministry received a report that a certain civil servant managing Turkish Cypriot properties acquired 1.8 million square metres of Turkish Cypriot agricultural land, and three Turkish Cypriot properties.

One is under his name, the second is written on his son’s name, the third on his daughter’s while the civil servant’s wife has Turkish Cypriot property that allows its use for business, the news report claims.

Now, the interior minister has sent a report of its own findings into the matter to the attorney general to explore the possibility of filing criminal charges.

A report to the audit service and interior ministry detailing the exploits was filed back in 2014. The auditor general took up the case and in his annual report published on December 15, 2016, highlighted that the only corrective measure the interior ministry took was to reduce how much land the civil servant had acquired. From 1.8 million square metres, down to 884,622.

The auditor general’s report however maintains that the individual is simply not eligible to Turkish Cypriot property whatsoever.

Allegations of abusing the system where Turkish Cypriot properties are concerned are not new, with Interior Minister Nicos Nouris himself last year admitting that some of those leasing Turkish Cypriot properties from the state were then illegally subletting them and profiteering.

After weeks of haggling, the audit service in November obtained the data from the interior ministry detailing the list of employees working at the ministry’s Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service, and those in advisory committees who have such properties.

According to Politis, out of 70 employees working at the Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service, 16 have Turkish Cypriot property. From the committees, 11 of them have Turkish Cypriot properties. The audit service is scrutinising all 27 of them.

In another case, the auditor general in 2017 reported to the attorney general that the Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service works under a culture which lacks transparency and without consequences.

This was based on an example where Greek Cypriot companies requested to swap their plots for two Turkish Cypriot plots in Asomatos, Limassol. Two female staffers opined positively on the matter – however it emerged their husbands were connected to the Greek Cypriot companies.

The audit service recommended disciplinary action however the interior ministry’s investigator ruled that the role of the two reporting officers was limited to procedural and processing matters. The audit service in 2017 called on the auditor general’s office to investigate the matter as a cover up.

Politis said no response was given until the attorney general’s resignation in 2020.