CORRECTED: Briton convicted in Cyprus over property sales in north
Briton Gary John Robb was convicted by a Cyprus court on Tuesday after being extradited from London on charges related to the sale of Greek Cypriot-owned property in the Turkish-held north.
The Nicosia District Court handed down a 10-month jail sentence, nearly all of which he will have to serve after the authorities clarified that time during which he had already been held on remand in Britain and Cyprus would not count against it.
Robb had pleaded guilty to charges including unlawful possession and use of property registered to another person and obtaining money under false pretences.
The maximum prison sentence for such offences is two years but the court said it took into consideration the defendant's swift guilty plea, his remorse, apology and cooperation with police.
Police said it was the first case of its kind to be brought before a Cypriot court.
Robb, 48, was extradited under a European arrest warrant and escorted by Cypriot police officers from Britain on August 3 following his arrest in December 2010.
Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told AFP that the time Robb had spent in custody in Britain prior to his extradition would not count against his sentence.
Only the week between his extradition and a bail hearing on August 11 at which he had been unable to come up with a requested surety of 50,000 euros would count, Katsounotos added.
Robb was involved in a property development company in the north called AGA Development which aimed to build 335 luxury villas on Greek Cypriot land in the village of Klepini (Arapkoy in Turkish), near the port of Kyrenia.
Construction started in 2005 and Britons were among the buyers of the properties valued up to 170,000 euros.
Cyprus is keen to dissuade foreigners from buying property in the north where some title deeds belong to Greek Cypriots who were forced to abandon their homes during or after the Turkish invasion of 1974.
It has already secured a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights that title deeds owned by Greek Cypriots remain valid.
Last year, the British appeals court ordered British couple David and Linda Orams to return land in the north to its original Greek Cypriot owner and demanded that the villa on it be demolished.
It upheld an earlier landmark European Court of Justice decision that the property belonged to the Greek Cypriot.
Property rights are one of the most contentious issues in UN-backed talks on reunifying the island.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded in response to an Athens-inspired Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.
© 2011 AFP