On 27 September 2011, the 48 year old British property developer, Gary Robb received a 10-month jail sentence for “serious offences” in relation to the exploitation of Greek Cypriot property in North Cyprus.
Mr Robb,a former fugitive has been jailed for illegally selling more than a million pounds worth of property while on the run in North Cyprus from the Cleveland police in UK.
Ex-boss of Stockton’s Colosseum nightclub, Gary John Robb, was convicted on charges he helped fraudulently sell dozens of luxury villas built illegally on land in the north of the island.
A value of GBP1.2m was put on the long-running fraud.
Nicosia District Court ruled that Robb has to serve his jail sentence for the 11 charges of appropriating the land, in Nicosia Central Prison, where he was led after the court proceedings concluded.
The sentences on all charges, which include development and sale of property belonging to the Republic of Cyprus and to Greek Cypriots without their consent, will run concurrently.
In passing sentence, the Court said it took into consideration the time Robb had spent in detention “according to article 26 of the EU Council framework decision 2002/584/JHA” as well as the mitigating circumstances relating to the case, such as his admission of guilt, apologies and family circumstances.
The Court described the offences committed as serious, though the sentence could have been greater, as the law provides for a two-year jail sentence and a hefty fine for such offences.
The start date for Robb’s sentence was set as August 3, 2011 , when he was extradited to Cyprus by Britain, where he was serving a drugs-related sentence.
Robb was one of the managers of a Turkish Cypriot development company, called “AGA Development Ltd” which aimed to build 335 luxury residences in the village of Klepini or Arapkoy, in the northern Kyrenia District.
Construction began in January 2005 and by the end of April around 85 per cent of the residencies had been sold for between GBP70,000 to 120,000 . The project was never completed.
According to data from the Kyrenia District Lands Office, the affected surface area is 273,800 square metres, with 261,589 square metres belonging to Greek Cypriots, 7,550 square meters to Turkish Cypriots and the remaining 4,661 square meters being state property.
This is not the first time foreign nationals have been taken to court in relation to appropriation offences. Many foreigners, in particular British nationals, have bought property illegelly in occupied Cyprus.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has, on many occasions, issued advice to its nationals to be aware of transactions involving the sale or purchase of land or immovable property in occupied Cyprus.
Among the victims were Scottish couple John and Velma Ward who purchased a villa for GBP87,500 from AGA in 2004.
“We paid our hard-earned cash in instalments as required,” said Mr Ward.
“We even took a second mortgage on our house in Scotland, assuming that it would only be for a year, then sell up.”
“Like most of the other victims we have lost all we have worked for. We gave Gary Robb GBP87,500 all for nothing.”
British police think that about 400 Britons collectively lost over 35 million British pounds in deals with AGA Development.
There are several interesting aspects to this case.
Firstly, it appears that Gary Robb did not contest the extradition request from the Greek Cypriot administration. This is surprising because several of the charges would not have trigered automatic extradition. The only charges which would have been uncontentious relate to crimes which are recognised in both jurisdictions. In this case, the Greek Republic of Cyprus and the UK.
The general crime of fraud would grant automtic extradition but the offence of dealing in land abandoned by dispossessed Greek Cypriots would not. While it would appear that Mr Robb may have committed a fraud in taking deposits from UK purchasers of off plan properties in North Cyprus, this was not the species of fraud for which he was convicted by the Greek Cypriot Court of South Nicosia.
Secondly, Mr Robb admitted the full range of 11 charges brought against him and sought leniency from the Greek Cypriot Court based on his co-operation and the state of his health. This is surprising because it is generally accepted that the land at Arapkoy in North Cyprus had the benefit of Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) title deeds.
It would appear that Gary Robb, who was released on bail in the Republic of Cyprus, after being extradited, found it advantageous to affirm his guilt rather than mount a defence, based on a claim of autonomy of the TRNC as a separate political and legal jurisdiction.
Thirdly, many observers expected the Greek Cypriot administration to transform the trial into an international media event. Such an event would reinforce the status of the Greek Cypriot administration as the sole and legitimate government of the entire island of Cyprus; it would draw attention to the continuing issue of dispossessed persons; and also deter potential international buyers of North Cyprus property.