Court orders couple to vacate Cyprus villa
THE EUROPEAN Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday issued a landmark judgment which could prompt a flurry of legal cases by Greek Cypriot refugees against foreigners who invested in property in northern Cyprus.
The ECJ upheld the verdict of a court in Cyprus, an EU member, that a British couple, Linda and David Orams, should demolish a villa they built on land owned by Meletis Apostolides. He is one of 181,000 Greek Cypriots forced to flee the north following the Turkish occupation in 1974. The Orams were also ordered to vacate the land located in the picturesque village of Lapithos and pay rent for the time they lived in the house.
Although unable to enforce this judgment due to the de facto partition of the island, Mr Apostolides sought compensation through the seizure of property owned by the Orams in Britain.
The ECJ reversed a decision of the court of appeal of England and Wales which decided the Orams, who had invested £160,000 (€122,000) in the villa, could keep the house and ordered Mr Apostolides to pay damages and costs.
Cherie Booth, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, served on the Orams’ defence team. According to the Turkish Cypriot press, she was paid with a dud cheque.
An ECJ statement held that the suspension of EU law in the area outside the control of the Cyprus republic and the inability of the Cyprus court to enforce its judgments did not “preclude the recognition and enforcement of those judgments in another member state”. The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey.
Mr Apostolides’s lawyer, Constantis Candounas, said the next step would be to get the ECJ ruling enforced in the UK. “The Orams have property worth about half a million pounds registered in their name,” he said, which could be used to pay compensation.
While the ECJ judgment is likely to encourage Greek Cypriots to raise cases against the 22,000 foreigners, mainly British, who bought property in northern Cyprus, Mr Candounas said the process was difficult and expensive. Nevertheless, the ruling is likely to slow the north’s building boom.
The ECJ ruling puts pressure on the Turkish side to show flexibility in negotiations to reunify the island. In the absence of a deal, Greek Cypriots can be expected to seek redress through the courts.