By Nathan Morley Published on January 21, 2011
HOMEBUYER Conor O’Dwyer was left devastated yesterday after losing his private criminal prosecution against a land developer in a case which could have far-reaching implications for the property sector in Cyprus.
The long awaited verdict has cleared Paralimni based Karayannas Developers of any wrongdoing – whilst delivering a bitter blow for O’Dwyer after years of legal wrangling over a disputed villa in Frenaros.
Despite the state refusing to press charges citing lack of evidence, O’Dwyer pushed on with the action after a court found there was a prima facie case.
O’Dwyer, 40, tried to establish criminal activity claiming his contract was cancelled by Karayannas – pointing to the fact that the disputed four-bedroom villa was already rubber stamped in his name at the Land Registry.
To make matters worse, O’Dwyer alleged that the villa was later resold without his knowledge, resulting in him not only losing the property but also £100,000 of installments he had paid to the developer.
“My worst fears have come true,” O’Dwyer told the Cyprus Mail after the court hearing yesterday, “What this means is that a developer can keep your money and never deliver your house, then if they want they can re-sell it. Our contract is in the Land Registry and someone else is in our house, it’s that simple.”
In a surprise move, the judge presiding over the Famagusta district court in Larnaca also ordered that O’Dwyer foot all the legal bills, which he estimates could amount to tens of thousands of pounds.
O’Dwyer initiated the legal action two years ago citing section 303A of the penal code – the action made the case significant, as 303A has never been used in such a prosecution.
Article 303A states that: “Any person who, with intent to defraud, deals in immovable property belonging to another is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”
Lawyer Yiannos Georgiaides, acting for O’Dwyer, confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that an appeal against the ruling will be launched, whilst also insisting that there had been a clear error of law.
Georgiaides pointed to existing Supreme Court legislation which he said states that as soon as a contract is filed by a buyer with the Land Registry, the buyer is the legal owner of the property.
“We will appeal against the decision of the judge in this private prosecution because we believe it is against existing Cyprus law and could give the wrong messages to investors from abroad that in Cyprus their rights are not protected by buying property even if they file the contract of sale with the land registry.”
Georgiaides added that investors must be assured that the law in Cyprus is safeguarding their rights.
“The judgments of the Supreme Court are binding on the lower courts since in Cyprus we follow the English common law system,” he said.
Supporters of O’Dwyer maintain that the case has national significance and could have severe adverse effects on the property market.
However the lawyer for Karayannas Developers, Efthimios Flourentzou told the Cyprus Mail that he was delighted with the outcome and the key points of the case had been laid bare during the hearing.
“I was convinced about the outcome, substantial elements of the charges brought simply could not be proved – justice is done,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
Karayannas Developers have continually denied any wrongdoing and accused O’Dwyer of attempting to extort a more expensive house from them – a charge that O’Dwyer flatly denies.
The ongoing saga has taken a series of twists and turns over the past five years, including O’Dwyer staging demonstrations outside the Cyprus High Commission in London, sleeping outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia and publishing his entire story online and on the video site You Tube.
Last year the developer, his son and an associate were all convicted of actual bodily harm against O’Dwyer and given suspended sentences after they rammed his rental car at a busy junction near the disputed house, then subjected him to a savage beating.
In a separate twist, the state filed charges against O’Dwyer last year – following a complaint from the developer over a personal website he created documenting the entire house purchasing saga.
O’Dwyer is a self employed importer of giftware and his wife Michaela is a management accountant. Their intention when purchasing the property was to live in Cyprus and start a new business.
The case has been closely followed by expatriate communities on the island, where as many as 30,000 Britons are now thought to own property.
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