Journalist Union helps NCFP reporter to report the truth

Since taking membership of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, in an attempt not be arrested so often, I receive varied and interesting mail from the Institute. One of the things I really enjoy receiving is The Journal, the magazine of the Chatered Institue of Journalists. It has articles and news items of interest to me. This latest copy was no exception but the news item of the greatest interest to me personally was right on the back page.

Fellow Institute member Campbell Thomas recently visited North Cyprus and visited the Afrika newspaper office in Lefkosa. We all remember reading of the attacks on the editor of Afrika newspaper and apparently Campbell saw first hand the bullet holes. These bullet holes serve as a constant reminder to Editor Sener Levent and all his staff just how dangerous it is reporting the truth here in North Cyprus. Levent is a brave man who practises the old maxim ‘publish and be damned’, however he is a lone voice in the paper-based newspaper industry here in North Cyprus. Despite two such attacks and death threats, Sener Levent continues his mission, to get the truth out there to the Turkish Cypriot people.

Campbell Thomas says he remembers from his own experiences how difficult it was reporting the news is in North Cyprus. Well Campbell, nothing has changed, indeed it may have gotten worse.

In an attempt to keep the public from knowing just what is happening in the property market, a Bank has threatened the largest newspaper under the Banking law of 2001 and most of the media seems to have heeded that threat too. This law was brought in by the then Government to discourage any rumours about the Banking sector that could undermine the Banking industry. The need for such a law was brought about a few Banks actually going to the wall at that time.

The use of this law now is an anathema. Builders and landowners have taken mortgages on the homes of foreigners and Turkish Cypriots after they have Contracted to buy them and paid for them. Banks have, in my opinion, colluded in this by granting the mortgages entirely without the consent or knowledge of the true owners. This is deemed legal in the TRNC whose antiquated laws and methods apparently allow it. Fraud is, we are told by the legal profession, is apparently a civil and not a criminal offence.

The most famous case at present is that of a group called ‘Kulaksiz 5’ named after the site they are on and not the number of people involved. The Bank took out a mortgage in November 2005 on this site, the amount borrowed 100,000 TL. By applying an interest rate of 250% the debt escalated quickly, during a” Repossession Hearing” in 2008; again this went ahead without the owner’s knowledge until it was too late to intervene. The interest rate was said to have since been reduced by the Court to 80% per quarter compound. The owners only became aware of the mortgage in early 2008, some three years after it had been taken out using their homes as security .

Despite legal action by the owners, the Bank, Akfinans Bank Limited, were allowed to publicly auction these homes and on the 6th June 2010 the Bank bought them for 2,077,000 TL. They have tried to con everyone into believing that the Bank are the victims and that they had to pay this huge amount of money to obtain the villas. They are also saying that as a Bank they have an obligation to their account holders to do so. Those amongst us with even half a brain can easily deduce that if you are both the buyer and the seller, the money that goes out of the back door of the bank, comes back in through the front door. The capital outlay to the Bank was only ever the amount of the original loan, 100,000 TL. The interest could have been 1000%, there was never any intention to pay and in my opinion the Bank never expected it to be paid.

The current situation is that Kulaksiz 5 live in a state of constant fear and intimidation. Two villas have already been broken into, locks changed and illegally repossessed. Even in the TRNC a legal Eviction Order is necessary. The Bank dispensed with this formality and during the commision of the first break in, drove a car at speed at the owner’s partner causing him to have to jump out of the way to avoid injury. Writs are now being served on other owners and Hearings in order to decide whether to grant the Bank Eviction Orders are taking place this month.

The Bank have spent a lot of money on the first villa they took without reference to legal procedures and have CCTV cameras sited strategically to monitor the movements of those residents who still live there. The family owners of the Bank arrive on Friday evening and leave on Sunday, thus week ending in the stolen villa. The residents are aged between 64 and 89 years old, some have nowhere else to live and very little money left. They invested their capital in a home in the sun, a place to live out the rest of their days in peace. Their savings dwindling from the cost of the legal action they are being forced to take. The odds of success in a TRNC seems slim to none. They do have a case against Turkey, lodged with the ECHR in Strasbourg.

If the evictions are sanctioned, there are 1400 plus more victims in the TRNC, with other Banks waiting to do exactly the same to them.

Campbell Thomas is correct, North Cyprus is not an easy place to report the news. I have been pseduo arrested twice, had my laptop confiscated on the 14th October 2010 and the prosecution service refuse to return it, even though one the four police officers who descended on my home and took it, promised it back within two weeks. Yes I am one of the Kulaksiz 5, yes my villa is the one the Bank weekend in, and yes I will continue to report the truth.

The final paragraph of the article in the Journal confirms that CIoJ President Norman Bartlett has written to the Turkish Ambassador in London seeking a thorough police investigation into the incident at the offices of Sener Levent here in North Cyprus. If my complaint to the police is any yardstick, I reported the break in and attempted vehicular attack on the 30th July 2010 and I am still awaiting the outcome.



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