House near Snake Island sold to Turkish businessman after grandson received it from Denktash
The house on the Kyrenia seafront overlooking Snake Island, which the late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash left to his grandson Rauf, was sold to a wealthy Turk this week while its Greek Cypriot are still waiting for compensation from the IPC.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the buyer was Rauf junior’s business partner Burak Baslilar, who, according to the Bugun Kibris website, plans to demolish the house and build a luxury home for his family. There was no mention of the price he paid for the house, which is in a Turkish military zone, but Rauf junior’s father, Serdar, confirmed the sale had gone ahead.
The house, which Rauf Denktash had made his home after the Turkish invasion, was owned by Paris Potoudis, who had built it in the early 1960s and it was used by his family until 1974. Ownership passed on to his two daughters, Marina and Celia, who had applied to the north’s Immovable Property Commission (IPC) for compensation or restitution but have endured endless delays with no decision reached so far.
Marina, now Christofides, wrote about the house in an article published in the Sunday Mail in December 2016, to promote her book The Traitors Club, which has a whole chapter devoted to the house and her memories associated with living there.
“In April 2003 when the checkpoints were opened, many Greek Cypriots surged across to the other side to visit the homes they had lost thirty years previously,” she wrote.
“My sister Celia and I were amongst them, but unlike almost everyone else, we were denied access to our home by the sea near Snake Island in Kyrenia. A barricade blocked the road leading up to it and a sentry stood in our way. We weren’t surprised. We knew this was because our house was in a military zone and had been taken over by none other than the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash himself.
“The only way we could see the house was with binoculars from St Hilarion castle. From there we could make out the tree our mother had planted and lovingly protected from the strong Kyrenia westerlies.
“Snake Island, where we used to anchor and swim, had acquired a harbour, becoming a depot for the Turkish army. On Google Earth we could even see the pool we used to spend hours in.
Shaped like an irregular polygon, it was the result of the inebriated scribbling on a paper napkin by a famous architect, who our father ambushed at a cocktail party (he asked him to “design me a pool”) in the ’60s.
“As the years passed and there didn’t seem to be any willingness among the political leadership on either side to solve the Cyprus problem and sort out the property issue, we decided to take things into our own hands and applied to the newly established Immovable Property Commission in the north for restitution or, failing that, compensation.
“We heard nothing for a long time, despite going through all kinds of hassles in preparing our application, such as figuring out the procedure involved, getting a decent valuation for the house, and avoiding being taken advantage of by unscrupulous lawyers”.
They have still to hear from the IPC which has reportedly used legal technicalities to avoid making a decision, but in the meantime, they managed to visit their house, with Serdar as their guide.
The possibility of visiting the house arose again arose after a chance encounter Christofides had at the Buyuk Han with Denktash’s son, Serdar.
“He told me that his father had agreed to the visit and we set a date. At the time Denktash senior was in hospital, so my sister and I and our respective families had the bitter-sweet experience of being shown around our beloved house by Serdar,” she wrote.
In The Traitors’ Club, Christofides recounted that her father built the house despite the strong objections of her mother. “He bought a piece of land he liked by the sea, browsed Italian architectural magazines and, with his engineering background, designed the house himself and hired a contractor to build it.” When it was finished his wife agreed to visit and fell in love with it.
In the late 60s, the house’s peculiarly-shaped swimming pool was used as the setting for a scene of the British horror classic Blood Suckers, also known as Doctors Wear Scarlet, starring Patrick Macnee (Steed from The Avengers). American actress Raquel Welch, who recently passed away, also visited and wanted to rent the house when she was filming The Beloved in Cyprus.
A little before the invasion a wealthy Arab offered a million Cyprus pounds – an astronomical amount back then – to buy the house but it was not for sale. In the end it was taken over by Rauf Denktash, who paid nothing for it.
Christofides explained in the book: “Now the house has become the spoils of war. Two years after the war Mr Denktash chose our house as his summer residence, part of the reallocation of property to rehouse the Turkish Cypriots who moved to the north in the weeks and months after the ceasefire. They were given the empty houses the Greek Cypriots had abandoned on a points system based on the value of property they had left behind in the south.”
As Turkish Cypriot leader, Denktash took one of the best properties without having the points to justify it. Christofides wrote, “Denktash got ours in exchange for just a field with a couple of olive trees in his home town of Paphos, an inequity that irked many Turkish Cypriots, who would bring this up whenever elections loomed.”
The ‘property points’ with which Denktash obtained the Potoudis house was brought up by his son Serdar, when asked, earlier this week about the sale to Baslilar, by Bugun Kibris.
“Does not everyone sell their houses,” said Serdar, pointing out that the house did not belong to the ‘state’ but was obtained through “property points of an equal value” during the 1970s and ’80s. A title deed was issued to his father, Serdar said.
Not only had the late Rauf Denktash taken possession of a Greek Cypriot property on prime real estate for nothing, he passed it on to his grandson who will make millions from its sale. The legal owners, meanwhile, are still waiting to hear from the IPC.
The Traitors’ Club by Marina Christofides is available in leading bookshops and Amazon