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Land deal turn sour for Kykkos.


Elias Hazou

THE MONASTERY of Kykkos has secured a court injunction blocking the sale of a plot of land in Nicosia that was offered to the Greek government more than 10 years ago.

In 1998 the monastery -- one of the wealthiest dioceses in Cyprus -- struck a deal with the Greek government, under which the former would donate four acres on condition that an embassy was built at the location.

However the acreage was deemed not to be large enough, because the Greek government also planned to build the ambassador's residence on the same site. An agreement was therefore made where the monastery would donate the original four acres and sell four more acres for e1/4500,000.

The land in question sits in prime real estate across the Kykkos Metochi, near the Russian and US embassies.

But the agreement stipulated that, if the purpose of the donation -- building an embassy -- was not fulfilled in 10 years' time, then the Greek government would return the land and the monastery would pay back the e1/4500,000 plus interest.

Things apparently went sour two months ago when Greece's ministry of finance decided to put the plot up for sale and issued a call for tenders, with a submission deadline of March 19.

In early March Kykkos monastery moved legally to block the sale, which it said was in breach of its agreement with the Greek government. On March 12 the monastery secured an injunction from Nicosia district court.

The next court hearing is reportedly scheduled for today, where lawyers representing the Greek government will seek to annul the injunction.

A number of Cypriot developers bid for the land. One of the companies belonged to the Loutsios family, in-laws of the President, who have been in the news of late after it transpired that they moved millions of euros abroad shortly before the Eurogroup meeting that decided a haircut on bank deposits.

In response to those reports, the family issued a statement explaining that the money -- some e1/46.5m -- was transferred to an account in a London bank for the purpose of concluding a land deal with the Greek government. It turns out this is the same land.

The Loutsios family had also said that if their bid was not successful, they would repatriate the money back to Cyprus and suffer the haircut on deposits of over e1/4100,000.

That was intended to dispel any notion that the cash was moved abroad for any reason other than for the land deal.

It seems that the Loutsios family will now have to make good on their promise: earlier this week the relevant body in Greece decided to award the tender to another company, Tofarco Limited, one of the largest land developers in Cyprus, for e1/48.3m.

However the actual sale cannot proceed unless the injunction in Cyprus is lifted.

Tofarco, the successful bidder, declined any comment yesterday.

Costas Velaris, the lawyer for Kykkos monastery, told Phileleftheros that the 1998 deal was brokered by the then President of the Hellenic Republic Costis Stefanopoulos and former Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos. During a visit to Cyprus that year, Stefanopoulos had broached the subject of the Greek embassy here acquiring self-owned premises. Nikiforos, then Abbot of Kykkos, agreed to help out by offering the land.

Velaris told the paper that in 2009 the Kykkos monastery queried the Greek government as to its intentions, and were assured the embassy would be erected at the site but at a later date.

Should the monastery succeed in thwarting the sale of the plot by the Greek government, it would then be able to sell the land itself, particularly now that there are suitors.

Nikiforos, then Abbot of Kykkos, agreed to help out at the time by offering the land

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Apr 5, 2013
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