Naomi Mehmet & Partners Law Firm

The High Administrative Court Upholds the Decision of the IPC to Add the TRNC Religious Foundation as a Party to the ‘Lordos’ Case

On 28th February 2014, the TRNC’s High Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in an Application submitted to the IPC by Andreas Lordos Estates to allow the Department for Religious Affairs, as the Trustee of a Turkish Religious Foundation, to be added as a party to the Application. In the Application, Andreas Lordos Estates claims to be the registered freehold owner of 2 hotels in the closed area of the Maras (Varosha) in Famagusta and demands compensation for the loss of these properties. However, the Turkish Religious Foundation (Abdullah Pasa Foundation) claims to be the rightful owner of these properties. The IPC had made a decision to allow the Foundation to be added as an interested party to the Application and Andreas Lordos Estates then appealed this decision in the High Administrative Court. After hearing arguments from both sides, the High Administrative Court upheld the decision of the IPC.
The area of the Maras was, during the 1970s, the most popular tourist destination in Cyprus and one of the most popular in the world. In 1974 when war broke out, the area was abandoned by its inhabitants and the area is now a military zone controlled by the Turkish Army with access restricted to military personnel and the United Nations. Since then, the area has been the subject of bitter exchanges between the two sides with Greek Cypriots demanding the return of the area which they believe to be rightfully theirs.
The claim by the Abdullah Pasa Foundation of being the rightful owner of the properties goes back to Ottoman times. During Ottoman times, the Maras area belonged to Turkish Religious Foundations known as ‘Evkaf’. In 1907, the British Colonial Administration passed a law (similar to the concept of adverse possession in English law) which stipulated that where an immovable property was used continuously and without dispute by a person for a period of 10 years, that person could apply to become the registered freehold owner of that immovable property. In this way, during British rule, the area of the Maras was registered in the name of the Greek Cypriots occupying the area. The Foundation claims, however, that this law contradicted another law in force at the time which stated that property owned by the religious foundations was to be owned in perpetuity and that, therefore, immovable property belonging to a Turkish Religious Foundation could not be acquired by adverse possession in this way. The Foundation claims that the transfer of ownership to the Greek Cypriot occupants of these properties by the British was illegal and that, therefore, the Foundation remains the rightful owners of these properties.
The High Administrative Court did not consider the issue of the ownership of the properties and did not give judgment on this point. The appeal by Andreas Lordos Estates against the decision of the IPC was rejected on a technicality - the Appeal had not been filed within the relevant time period – and so the High Administrative Court deemed it unnecessary to look into the issue of whether or not the Foundation should be added into the Application as a party and whether there are any legal obstacles preventing this.