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23 January 2010 - Dome Hotel Cyprus Tourists to be Sued by Greek Cypriots

Following the success of Constantis Coundanas in persuading the UK Court of Appeal to register the judgment of the Greek Republic of Cyprus court in favour of Meletis Apostolides and against Linda and David Orams, which was announced on 19 January, the next targets on the Greek Cypriot hit list are now announced.

Mr Coundanas has stated that he has received instructions from the Greek Cypriot owners of the Dome Hotel, which is on the seafront in the centre of Kyrenia. The alleged owners have instructed him to sue for trespass some 60 EU tourists who stayed at the hotel during 2009.

He claims to have the names, dates of stay, home addresses and details of where documents can be served on the 60 unsuspecting tourists, although he does not disclose how this confidential information came into his hands.

The process would be essentially the same as that employed in the pursuit of Linda and David Orams.

1. Claims against the 60 EU tourists would be made in a court in South Nicosia. The Court would issue summons, written in Greek, and these would be handed to Constantis Coundanas.

2. These summons would then be served on the defendants, probably at their home addresses in the UK, Germany etc. There is apparently no obligation to explain to the recipient of the summons the content of the Greek document.

3. The defendant then has some 10 days to make an appearance at the South Nicosia court and notify the court that he/she wishes to file a defense against the action

4. If the defendant does not make an appearance within 10 days, then the claimant can apply for a default judgment, which is what happened in the Orams case.

5. Armed with the judgment, Mr Coundanas can apply to the courts in the EU jurisdiction where the tourist resides and request registration of the judgment, and then enforcement of the judgment if the tourist does not comply with the ruling.

In the Orams case, the content of the Greek Cypriot court ruling was draconian, but in the proposed tourism cases it will be less alarming. We presume that the tourists will be sued for trespass, and that this will incur a financial penalty. Precisely how the financial penalty will be calculated is, as yet, unclear. However, it is unlikely to exceed the cost of the accommodation at the Dome.

Comment

1. The actual ownership of the Dome Hotel is the subject of speculation in the Turkish Cypriot press. While it is well known that the hotel used to belong to Greek Cypriots, prior to 1974, it is currently being administered by EVKAF, the Turkish religious and cultural foundation. EVKAF is the custodian of several notable properties abandoned by Greek Cypriots.

However, it is rumoured that the TRNC Prime Minister, Ferdi Sabit Soyer, has agreed to sell the hotel to a German company called BEGAS, and at a very low price. Mr Soyer has stated that the German company was poised to invest some £2m GBP, on a joint venture basis. It is also rumoured that the attractive terms offered to the Germans are based on an understanding that they will use their political influence in the EU to the benefit of the TRNC. No evidence has been offered to support his accusation.

2 . We have stated on another website that the Greek Cypriots may become intoxicated with their success in the Orams case. It is certainly true that, ever since 1974, the Greek Cypriots have never found a tangible way of punishing and publicly shaming foreigners who patronise the TRNC as they have recently done in the Orams case. Having created havoc and possibly terror among EU owners of TRNC property, the Greek Cypriots now wish to ruin the already fragile TRNC tourist industry. The publicity which these 60 cases will attract could sound the death knell of the North Cyprus hotel trade.

3. While it is likely that a Greek Cypriot court will accept the claims and issue a summons and subsequently a default judgment, it should be noted that even the Greek Cypriot press is questioning the wisdom of this move. EU courts in several jurisdictions, notably the UK, will be bombarded with applications for registration of judgments. In addition, as over 1,000 Greek Cypriots have taken pains to make applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and this is a difficult process, it is likely that many thousands will line up to lodge trespass claims against tourists or land / property trespassers with relative ease in a Greek Cypriot court..

4. While these claims may be successful, under current EU law, the Greek Cypriots may wish to pause and ponder on the effects of this strategy. It will certainly perpetuate the avalanche of publicity which will deter UK and EU citizens from buying properly , or even visiting, the TRNC. However, it will not solve the Cyprus Problem, that is, the separation of the island. Neither will the legal claims facilitate the return of lost property or land in the North to the heirs of dispossessed Greek Cypriots. We have suggested elsewhere that not even Mr Meletis Apostolides is likely to get his land back from the Orams. Although North Cyprus was won by the Turkish army, it will take more than an army of Greek Cypriot lawyers to reverse that victory. A political solution or signs of political progress towards a solution is long overdue.

5. In terms of the interminable and inconclusive negotiations between Presidents Christofias and Talat, it is likely that the Orams case will prove unhelpful. There are many voices in the Greek Republic of Cyprus who believe that the Orams case, and presumably the envisaged case against the EU tourists who stayed at the Dome, will browbeat the Turkish Cypriots at the negotiating table. We do not take this view. Enthusiasm for the EU in both the TRNC and Turkey is waning, and the Orams outcome has aroused anger rather than fear.

Leslie Hardy - copyright - 23 January 2010

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