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2,810 foreign nationals bought real estate in the north last year

Unfulfilled dream purchasing a property

Last year the ‘cabinet’ in the north granted permits for the purchase of real estate to 2,810 foreign nationals, while during the first three months of 2023 alone about 1,000 such permits were issued, media reports said on Monday.

The Press and Information Office – which daily tracks the Turkish Cypriot media – cited a report by the Yeni Duzen newspaper, according to which far more properties are being bought in the north by local companies with “silent foreign partners” than what official records show for such transactions.

The paper said 90 per cent of permits in 2022, and 80 per cent of permits so far this year, were granted to foreign nationals who are citizens of Turkey. The rest were granted mostly to Israelis, Russians and Iranians.

Under the north’s law, foreigners wishing to buy immovable property must get approval from the ‘cabinet’. The controlling share(51 per cent) of companies investing in real estate must belong to a citizen of the north. In addition, another law stipulates that 100 per cent of a contractor undertaking building must be in the name of a citizen of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.

The paper quoted a Turkish Cypriot realtor, who said that foreign multinationals usually establish companies “just for show.”

These methods were “discovered” by certain companies based in Israel, during the time of the Annan plan in 2004, and were later picked up by corporations headquartered in the United Kingdom.

“But the majority are in the Israeli market. This method, which had been forgotten for a while, is now ticking back up again,” the same realtor said.

He said property investments mostly occur in the areas of Ayios Amvrosios, Akanthou, Kazivera and Trikomo.

The same newspaper went on to quote Cafer Gurcafer, head of the building contractors association in the north. Gurcafer said contractors engaging in such activity were “local” in name only. Normally, if even 1 per cent of a contracting company belongs to foreign nationals, the company cannot carry out projects.

According to Gurcafer, the construction sector is vital to the north’s economy, employing more than 100,000 people.

Should this activity grind to a halt, “we will all die of hunger,” he added.

Also speaking to Yeni Duzen, the north’s ‘interior minister Ziya Ozturkler confirmed having received reports about such suspect transactions. He said the police could investigate the matter.

Another Turkish Cypriot newspaper, Kibris Postasi, published a similar story about the sales of immovable property to foreign nationals.

It quoted a prominent businessman, who said they were alarmed not so much by the sales of apartments, but the sales of land.

“Israelis buy up our properties with a title deed. The sales are done through companies. And the owners of the companies are our brothers, who have served as [government] ministers and who are still in politics. As for the companies and the 51 per cent local partner, that’s just for show,” the businessman added.

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