Linda and David Orams
North Cyprus Orams
2 October 2007 - The Orams make a press release from their villa in Lapta
Linda and David Orams have recently visited their villa in North Cyprus. They have issued an impassioned plea for other British property owners to take the claims of dispossessed Greeks seriously and not assume that the matter will quietly fade from the scene. They summarised their understanding of the events to date and demonstrated their firm resolve in the face of a longstanding and sustained Greek orchestrated campaign of intimidation and harassment.
They stated "Although disguised as a legal dispute, the matter has turned into a propaganda battle with the aim of trying to stop ordinary people like us from coming to North Cyprus and buying a property for our retirement. This propaganda campaign has portrayed us as greedy, evil Britons who are intent on stealing Greek Cypriot property. They make no mention of the Cyprus Problem and the efforts of the TRNC to make progress towards resolving property disputes. While we were awaiting an appeal against the ruling of the Greek Cypriot Court, Mr Apostolides took the further step of registering the miscarriage of justice pronounced by the Greek Cypriot Court in the Courts of the UK. The Greek Cypriot Court's flawed judgment was then registered in the UK under EU co-operative legislation as a first step in their efforts to enforce an order against our assets in England. Additionally, in 2005, the Greek Cypriots began issuing arrest warrants against foreigners who they alleged had bought former Greek Cypriot properties in TRNC. Thankfully, the TRNC police have warned that they will arrest any Greek attempting to serve Greek Cypriot court summonses in TRNC."
The Orams also made reference to the Immovable Properties Commission which was set up in order to provide dispossessed Greek Cypriots with an internal procedure whereby they could prove the title to lost land and seek to reclaim it from the TRNC. This has had the effect of stalling the flood of Greek applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) who have now made it clear that all Greek claims should be initially processed by the TRNC Immovable Property Commission.
The statement made by Linda and David Orams was presented calmly and with dignity. Their empathy towards dispossessed Greek Cypriots is evident. They reiterated that they have acted in good faith throughout and followed the legal processes of the TRNC. They recommend to any dispossessed Greek Cypriot that they make an early application to the TRNC Property Commission.
Story Update on 20 June 2007
Meletis Apostolides was given leave to appeal against the adverse judgment of September 2006. The appeal hearing commenced in London on Monday 18 June 2007. There is no definitive outcome as the judge, Lord Phillips has referred several points to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Further details are at the page Orams vs Apostolide
Story Update on 9 September 2006
Mr Justice Jacks ruled in favour of Mr & Mrs Orams after the hearing in London during July 2006. The judgment was issued on 6 September 2006 and rules that the adverse judgment made by a Greek Republic of Cyprus Court could not be enforced in the UK. This means that there is no blemish on the Orams' character in the UK and that their home in Hove, near Brighton, is safe. It also sets a most important precedent for other UK owners or prospective owners of North Cyprus property.
The applicant, Mr Meletios Apostolides, was granted permission to appeal.
Mr Apostolides was ordered to pay 75% of the Orams' costs, which are in the region of £863,000, with an interim payment of £150,000.
The full text of the ruling is available as a pdf file. For readers who are old enough to remember Lady Chatterley's Lover, this is the 'full and unexpurgated version'. If you are not using Windows XP, you need to have a copy of Acrobat Reader to access it. However, readers should note that this is a long and complex document, primarily intended for members of the legal fraternity.
The Greek Cypriot side has expressed outrage at this verdict, which is no surprise. They are likely to appeal in the UK, and if and when this fails, they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. These actions will keep the case in the public eye. Cherie Blair, who has reportedly earned some £300,000 in fees to date on this case, will be well placed to handle the latter as her chambers specialise in EU law. In view of her husband's well publicised retirement plans, these additional fees will cover her weekly supermarket shopping bills for several years.
The Greek Cypriot side has already made several points, claiming that the British Court also ruled -
(1) the land in the so called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is 'within the Republic of Cyprus'.
(2) the Cyprus Courts have jurisdiction over all land situated in the Republic's territory
(3) Greek Cypriot owners of property in the Turkish-occupied area remain owners of their land, and that 'purchasers' of such land have the status of 'illegal occupiers'.
(4) laws of the TRNC cannot deprive owners of the title to the land, and
(5) persons who purport to buy or occupy land belonging to displaced Greek Cypriot owners (the true title-holders) are 'trespassers' and must be treated as such.
Although Downing Street has stated that Cherie Blair is acting in a personal capacity and her actions do not indicate UK government policy, Greek sources portray her as a wayward wife and advise her husband to exercise more control over her activities. Perhaps an occasional weekend spanking at Chequers would assist.
These early comments by Greek officials indicate the line of thinking. Although the current atmosphere in South Cyprus has elements of hysteria, the strength of their resolve to continue with this case should not be doubted.
Original article 6 September 2006
Cherie Blair represents the Orams in London
Linda and David Orams paid around £160,000 for a detached house in Lapta, North Cyprus, in 2003. A Citizen of the Greek Republic of Cyprus, Mr Meletis Apostolides, claims that he is the rightful owner of the land on which the villa is built.
Mrs Orams, 59, a retired museum assistant, and her husband David, 61, who used to work for South Eastern Electricity, are caught up in what is described as the ‘Cyprus problem'. When Cyprus was partitioned into North and South, then Greek Cypriots residing in the North fled to the South, and Turkish Cypriots residing in the South moved north. Property, land and possessions were abandoned by the fleeing refugees. Since 1974, both the Turkish Cypriot administration in the North and the Greek Cypriot administration in the South have devised policies as to how this property and land should be used.
The North Cyprus administration has issued TRNC title deeds in relation to previously occupied and owned Greek land. The authorities in South Cyprus have been more circumspect on this matter. It would appear that the Orams have been issued with TRNC title deeds.
On 27 October 2004, Mr Apostolides had papers served on Mrs Orams at her Lapta villa while her husband was away in the UK. The documents were written in Greek and Mrs Orams refused to sign for them. She eventually found someone who could translate the papers and she discovered that she had received a court summons from the Greek court of South Nicosia.
By the time she had arranged for the documents to be translated into English, the deadline for making a response to the court had passed. Judgment was issued in favour of the complainant, Mr Apostolides, by the Greek court. Mr & Mrs Orams were ordered to demolish the house in Lapta, return the land to the complainant and pay compensation.
In October 2005, the South Nicosia District Court registered the adverse judgment against the Orams with the British High Court in London. This was based on an EU agreement whereby convicted criminals in one EU state could not evade justice by fleeing to another EU country. As the Greek Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, they are able to resort to this arrangement between EU states. Mrs Orams appealed against the registration.
1. As the writ was originally served only on Mrs Orams, then any judgment, either in the Greek Republic of Cyprus, or in the UK, refers only to Mrs Orams and not her husband. As he is joint owner of the Lapta house, Mrs Orams would require his written permission prior to demolition of the premises.
2. An attempt was made to serve a writ on Mrs Orams outside of the Greek Republic of Cyprus. Such a writ would only be validly served if the complainant had sought and received permission to serve the writ from the North Cyprus authorities. No such permission was sought.
3. The judgment against Mrs Orams was made some 12 days after the dubious service of the writ. This provided very little time for the defendant to translate the document and organise a defence. It can be argued that Mrs Orams did not receive a fair trial.
4. While Mr & Mrs Orams could, if they so wished, demolish their house in Lapta, they could not hand the land to Mr Apostolides, the Greek claimant, as Greek Cypriots are not allowed to own land in North Cyprus without prior permission from the TRNC administration.
The case was heard in London at the end of July 2006.Mr Aydin Tuna, director of Wellington Estates Ltd was in court to listen to the proceedings.
Ms Cherie Booth, also known as Blair, represented the Orams. Ms Booth reminded the court that when the republic of Cyprus joined the EU, it signed and accepted Article 1 Protocol 10, which states “We (the Greek Republic of Cyprus) have no effective control over the North.” Considering Article 1 and the fact that the case is still at appeal stage, the UK and other EU states cannot interfere in the affairs of Northern Cyprus, she said. Referring to the difficulties Article 1 presented, she said, “If you don't have effective control over the North how can you implement laws.”
This is a powerful argument, as the Greek Cypriot administration, by its own admission, has no effective power to enforce a ruling made by a Greek court in Nicosia on a property in Lapta, which is some 25 miles away. Indeed, since the attempt to serve a writ on Mrs Oram's the TRNC authorities have made it clear that any repeat of this exercise will lead to the arrest of those persons attempting to serve an unauthorised writ.
Viewed from this perspective, the Greek Cypriot effort to register a Greek Republic of Cyprus court judgment in London lacks logic and could be considered mischievous. If a Greek court cannot enforce a judgement on a property some 25 miles away, how can a UK court be expected to fare better ?
There is the complicating matter of the political and legal status of North Cyprus. The Greek Republic of Cyprus essentially claim that, as the internationally recognised government of Cyprus and member of the EU, they represent the whole island of Cyprus. At the same time, they admit that they do no have effective control of the North. In reality, they have no control whatsoever over North Cyprus, as their failure to enforce the judgment of a Greek court against the Orams demonstrates. The UK, and therefore Cherie Blair, does not officially recognise the TRNC, yet there is informal and tacit recognition of a political entity separate from the Greek Republic of Cyprus. A similar situation is the UK's stance on Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, insofar as Taiwan is not officially recognised but is a major trading partner of the US and UK.
A court can only rule on a matter with falls within its own jurisdiction. For example, it would be pointless for a UK court to consider a complaint by a UK citizen against a property developer in, say, Poland. The complaint should be heard in Poland, which is now an EU member. However, if the case were heard in Poland and the complaint was successful, then the UK complainant could seek to register the judgment in the UK as part of EU reciprocity agreements. The reason for this could be if the property developer has no assets or funds in Poland, but may have other projects and/or transferred funds in the UK. However, if a Polish court made a ruling about a property matter in neighbouring Ukraine, which is not part of the EU, and then tried to register that judgment in the UK, the UK court would refuse to register the judgment. Pursuing this analogy, the question is whether the Orams house is more akin to a property in Poland, or the Ukraine. The answer is that it lies somewhere between these two examples, and hence the cloud of legal uncertainty.
This points to a hidden agenda in this matter. The Greek complainant is aware that the Orams have a house in Hove, in addition to the disputed property in Lapta. Should the complainant be successful in registering the Greek court's judgment in London, and should Mrs Orams fail to comply with the demolition order in a reasonable period of time, then the next stage of litigation will be an application for the UK court to seize Mrs Orams assets in the UK. However, the fact that the claimant may be successful in registering the Greek Republic of Cyprus judgment in the UK is no guarantee that he will be entitled to a further ruling which expropriates a UK property. A UK court could simply state that it has no power to enforce a judgment made by a Greek Republic of Cyprus court in the territory of North Cyprus.
It would have helped the Orams if Cherie Blair could have stated that the TRNC is a separate political entity from the Greek Republic of Cyprus. This is the current situation, and the possibility of reunification of the island appears remote to many commentators. However, she persistently stopped short of making such a statement and the claimant's barrister played on this perceived weakness. In this context, her political connections may have impeded rather than assisted the Orams' position.
If the complainant, supported by the Greek Republic of Cyprus, is successful in both these matters, then there could be severe implications for British buyers of North Cyprus property in that their UK home could be placed at risk. This threat is the main object of the legal proceedings, and while the matter remains unresolved, the North Cyprus property market will remain quiet. From this perspective, the Greek intention will be to prolong the case as long as possible as part of the long standing strategy to thwart economic development in the North.
Mr Justice Jack has stated that he is considering the issues and will endeavour to make a ruling on the case before September 2006. It is highly unlikely that the claimant will succeed, due to the legal flaws in his argument. However, the judge will possibly wish to signal recognition of the reciprocal arrangements between the UK and a fellow EU member state, the Greek Republic of Cyprus. Such arrangements are normally limited to criminal matters relating to drugs smuggling, terrorism etc where the seizure of assets based on the proceeds of crime is considered legitimate. Clearly, the Orams case does not fall into this category.
A further legal consideration is that of 'public policy'. This means that the UK court can consider the implications of the case within a broader framework. It has been argued that this case is part of the broader problem of the division of Cyprus into two separate political entities and that a court ruling on a single instance of the 'Cyprus Problem' is unhelpful and possibly prejudicial to a comprehensive political solution. In addition, there are a substantial number of properties in North Cyprus owned by British families. A likely outcome is that Mr Justice Jack will refer the Greek claimant to the TRNC Properties Commission, which is now operational, with a possible option to return to London should he fail to receive a remedy in North Cyprus.
While this uncertainty continues, we would recommend that any purchaser takes one of the following precautions. Firstly, Wellington offers a facility whereby properties can be held in trust by ourselves for the benefit of a UK citizen. This scheme was originally devised to assist Inheritance Tax Planning but will also safeguard purchasers against any possible Orams style litigation. This service is normally free of charge. Secondly, there are several embryonic insurance schemes being offered, and Wellington is currently in negotiations with a global US based insurance company. Insurance schemes will have annual premium payments.
Copyright - Leslie Hardy, 4 September 2006