Arrest of Turkish Cypriot lawyer shakes up sales of Greek Cypriot properties in north

The arrest of a Turkish Cypriot lawyer in Italy over exploitation of dispossessed Greek Cypriot property in the northern part of Cyprus has sent a shockwave through the society.

There is widespread panic that the development will affect the locomotive property sector as investors will likely no longer feel that the north is a safe place to invest, as well as threaten other individuals – especially investors, lawyers, contractors, developers and realtors involved in the sale or purchase of Greek Cypriot properties.

“New Threat for the Real Estate Sector,” “Crisis Around the Corner,” “This Could Spell the End for the Sector,” “This Will Cost Us Dearly,” “Investors Not Safe,” were some of the newspaper headlines following the arrest early January.

Legal counsel Akan Kursat was apprehended in Italy based on a 2007 European arrest warrant issued by the Republic of Cyprus for fraud and exploitation of properties without approval of their rightful owner when he was legal counsel to development company AGA Development owned by British con man Gary Robb. Kursat, who remains under arrest, has objected to the Republic of Cyprus’ request for his extradition. The court will convene on February 6 to assess what happens next.

It is the first time a Turkish Cypriot bearing Cypriot citizenship will be tried for exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties in the north. Kursat is married to deputy speaker of the Turkish Cypriot assembly Fazilet Ozdenefe of the left-wing Republican Turkish Party CTP.

There are reports that at least four other lawyers have outstanding arrest warrants. There also are unconfirmed reports of a file being prepared by the Republic of Cyprus with complaints from Greek Cypriots over developments on their properties in the north. Unconfirmed posts on social media by a user claiming to be close to President Nikos Christodoulides about arrest warrants having been issued against 95 people in the north is feeding fuel to the fire.

feature esra property for sale in kyrenia

Property for sale in kyrenia

“Now everyone…is on a knife’s edge,” wrote prominent journalist Cenk Mutluyakali. “Everyone will be worried when going to Europe or crossing to the south. We are trapped.”

“The sleeping giant has woken up,” wrote another journalist Rasih Resat. “Nobody is safe.”

‘Ruthless’ sales

Observers agree that the move to try a Turkish Cypriot lawyer for exploitation of Greek Cypriot property is more of an attempt by the Republic of Cyprus to avert the “ruthless” property sales in the north than anything else.

Back in December, Greek Cypriot officials had indicated that legal measures were being examined to deal with the sale of Greek Cypriot properties in the north and explained these will act as deterrents to the “usurpation”.

While legal expert Latif Aran acknowledges that more arrest warrants could be issued, he expresses doubt these will be against Turkish Cypriot dispossessed owners, who are currently using Greek Cypriot properties.

“But we have to acknowledge that the property sales have long become ruthless,” he adds. “The north has turned into a concrete jungle.”

feature esra akan kursat

Akan Kursat

Senior researcher Mete Hatay of PRIO Cyprus Centre, who has done extensive studies on the property issue, underlines that there are problems with the property regime in the Republic of Cyprus too, since Turkish Cypriots are not allowed to return to or get compensated for the properties they left in the south before a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem is found.

They are not treating the dispossessed Turkish Cypriots justly either. “Therefore, they will not go after a Turkish Cypriot displaced person,” says Hatay. “They are after the shameless exploitation of properties in the north… We have greedily erected buildings on every plot of land with undue haste. We have created a huge sector on a slippery ground with a looter spirit.”

“Greek Cypriot properties are being purchased, sold, marketed in an uncontrolled, vulgar, greedy way,” says journalist Mutluyakali.

Sixty-five to 80 per cent – depending on which side you ask – of the privately owned land in the northern part of Cyprus belongs to Greek Cypriots. It is estimated that Turkish Cypriots left behind some 400 thousand donums of land in

the south while Greek Cypriots left behind some 1.5 million donums in the north in 1974.


There has been a boom in the property sector in the north as sales especially to foreigners skyrocketed in recent years.

Many of the properties are being bought by lawyers on behalf of foreigners or by Turkish Cypriot companies with “silent foreign partners”. These sales are not registered in the official figures. Turkish Cypriot officials have themselves suggested that many properties being sold are not controlled or checked.

Economist Mertkan Hamit estimates, looking at the construction projects and prices, that the property sales roughly generate an annual one billion dollars. This is almost one third of the gross domestic product of the northern part of Cyprus.


President Hasan Sungur of the Cyprus Turkish Realtors Association scrambled to calm the fears in statements to the daily Kibris earlier this week. He downplayed the arrest of the lawyer and accused the media of creating panic among investors.

“The case of Akan Kursat will not affect the foreign investors,” Sungur said. “What really will affect them are the media reports… We are shooting ourselves in the foot… There are no risks, no danger whatsoever,” in investing in property in the north. “It is wrong to report that things will escalate. Let’s not kill the sector by such media reports. Let’s put an end to this panic.”

feature esra hasan sungur

Hasan Sungur

However, Cafer Gurcafer, president of the Contractors Association, in statements to the same daily, did acknowledge that European investors may be discouraged.

The development seems to have already affected the property sector. Daily Yeni Bakis reported this week that the value of Turkish Cypriot-owned properties in the north has increased 100 per cent as investors are shying away from buying Greek Cypriot-owned properties following the arrest.

Questioning the property regime

The arrest led to the questioning of the property regime in the northern part of Cyprus, whereby Greek Cypriot properties are being exploited with impunity.

Turkish Cypriot authorities not only gave right of usage but in time also issued ‘title deeds’ to displaced Turkish Cypriots as well as any other users of Greek Cypriot properties. Nepotism, favouritism and political interests played a role in the way Greek Cypriot properties were distributed. The number of Greek Cypriot properties developed and/or sold under a new “ownership” multiplied creating a

problematic situation in terms of international law. In various rulings, the European Court of Human Rights has recognised the displaced Greek Cypriots as the legal owners of the properties they left in the north and said that their property rights are being violated.

The Immovable Property Commission, established in the 2000s to resolve property issues locally in an attempt to bring the property regime more in line with international law, hit a financial dead end.

Many editorials and columns appeared over the past week in Turkish Cypriot dailies of a wide political spectrum, concluding that the property regime, created by not just by right-wing but also left-wing parties over the years, has hit a wall.

“This is the consequence of this whole system,” journalist Ulas Baris wrote. “The system, which has enabled looting… issuing title deeds for Greek Cypriot properties for years.”

“Skyscrapers rose on ‘stolen’ lands,” wrote journalist Hasan Kahvecioglu. “Did we expect Greek Cypriots to just watch this overt ‘looting’, which was not prevented but, on the contrary, encouraged?”

“This is the crash of the false, fake, makeshift order they created,” said journalist Mutluyakali. “You cannot create a state on somebody else’s land! … They will come after you… There is no more peace of mind in this fake heaven.”