Briton convicted in Cyprus over property sales in north

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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.

But Robb walked free after being handed down a 10-month sentence which equalled the time he had already served on remand in Britain and Cyprus.

The Nicosia District Court sentenced Robb after he 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.

He 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

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