The government of the Republic of Cyprus is bringing a case in Cyprus against an individual for the illegal development of property on what is considered as Greek Cypriot land in North Cyprus.
Mr Gary Robb is completing a prison sentence for drug dealing in the UK and will shortly be extradited to Cyprus to face accusations of developing and trading in Greek Cypriot owned land in the north. This has been confirmed by the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Extradition will take place after 31 July 2011, when Mr Robb will be due for release on parole from a UK prison.
Mr Garry Robb who is now 48, absconded to North Cyprus after being released on bail for drug dealing in the UK in 1996. After 13 years of evading British justice by living in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), Robb was sentenced to five years when arrested and extradited by the TRNC administration in January 2009.
During his stay in North Cyprus, Mr Robb acquired citizenship of the TRNC and established Aga Developments, a property development company. It is thought that some 420 Britons paid money to Aga Developments and Unwins Estate Agency for the purchase of villas in the Kyrenia area of North Cyprus. The main development was in Amaranta Valley at Arapkoy. This is some 5 miles east of Kyrenia and accessed via the mountain road over the Besparmak range.
The unfinished development achieved notoriety when Gary Robb ceased construction in September 2005 and dissapeared from the TRNC. He surfaced in Thailand and stated that he intended to start another construction company to facilitate reconstruction after the tsunami. His sojourn in Thailand was cut short when he unsuccessfully tried to transfer some GBP 1.5m from a UK bank account, which had been frozen by the UK authorities.
Mr Robb then negotiated a deal with the TRNC adminstration whereby he would be allowed to return to North Cyprus and complete the Amaranta Valley project. For a variety of reasons, not all of which can be blamed on Gary Robb, work never restarted on the project and some 300 properties have been left unfinished and open to the vagaries of the weather since 2005.
It should be noted that Mr Robb is to be extradited to the Greek Republic of Cyprus and not the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. The charges brought against him are based on the allegation that he built on and sold property on land not belonging to him, but land which had been abandoned by Greek Cypriots during the intercommunal strife which culminated in the partition of the island in 1974.
As some 60% of the land in North Cyprus was occupied by Greek Cypriots prior to 1974, it is not unusual for TRNC Estate Agents to sell land previously owned or occupied by Greek Cypriots. Mr Robb and Aga Developments were not acting differently from almost all the builders in the TRNC who have developed property on Greek Cypriot land. Most of the abandoned land has the benefit of TRNC Title Deeds, which are underwritten by the TRNC adminstration. In addition, the TRNC has established an Immovable Property Commission to deal with land and property claims by dispossessed Greek Cypriots. This body has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.
It is unclear why Gary Robb failed to appeal against the application from the Greek Republic of Cyprus in the UK courts. What is clear is that he is likely to face a show trial in the Republic of Cyprus.
No matter what the outcome of the extradition and trial of Mr Robb may be in the Republic of Cyprus, it will not facilitate compensation or return of land to the heirs of the Greek Cypriots who abandoned their land in North Cyprus around 1974. For this reason, it can be described as a show trial.
Equally significant, the proposed trial will not assist the large number of British customers who paid money to Unwins Estate Agency, Gary Robb and Aga Developments Ltd. Indeed, the financial irregularities in the use of funds supplied by UK customers will not be an issue in the Republic of Cyprus trial. There is little sympathy for the UK customers of Gary Robb in the Republic of Cyprus press, indeed, the reports of Mr Robb’s alleged offences in North Cyprus and the misery he has caused to elderley British customers receive modest publicity.