NEWS

Prime real estate and dubious sales

Illegal sales of state-owned forest areas to the extent of 62.08 hectares in Aixoni Glyfada have created a stir recently following a decision to convict the two buyers and notary (following a nine-year inquiry) and to sentence to jail two notaries, a merchant, a taxi driver and a lawyer. It was a striking example of state-owned-land grabbing. Private individuals, lawyers and notaries were all involved in illegal activity, selling the land to each other and to third parties with fake documents. Sold four times The piece of land in question was sold four times. Each time the size of the plot differed but the location was the same. In 1997, 89-year-old A. Vassileiou (now deceased) sold 62.08 hectares inherited from E. Kyriazopoulou-Vaou to two Cypriots, K. Georgiou (merchant and a permanent resident of London) and John Constantinidis (lawyer and a permanent resident of London). The will, the document from the Forestry Commission stating that the land was not a forest area and the certificate from the tax authority that the inheritance tax had been paid were all bogus. A long investigation revealed that the land initially sold by Vaou belonged to the state. The contract was drafted by notary Despina Sechioti on the basis of a plan produced by attorney Dimitris Paraskevopoulos, who has since been sentenced to a term in prison. This lawyer, who signed the contract, bought the land from Vassileiou in a sale agreement made in the year 2000 (the surface area then stated was 27.60 hectares). Between 1997 and 2007, Paraskevopoulos signed over 50 contracts and sale agreements for plots of land in the Aixoni area. The taxi driver Theodoros Dousaitis, recently sentenced to imprisonment, was present as a witness during the signing of the contract. In 2001, Vassileiou demanded the property back from Georgiou and Constandinidis, claiming that it belonged to him. Why did he want it back? Maybe because he had sold it or given it to somebody else, such as his driver Dousaitis, who told the prosecutor that Vassileiou had given him eight plots of land totaling 8,000 square meters as a gift. He also said he had been authorized by Vassileiou to sell 44,000 square meters of land on his behalf. He additionally bought plots of land from his boss, which he then sold. In a sale agreement drafted by the notary Sechioti in 1997, he and Paraskevopoulos jointly bought three plots of land in Glyfada. The size of one of the plots was increased from 877 to 960 square meters according to notary Dimitris Mitrelis, who it seems forged Vaou’s will. In 2003, a lawyer from Argos laid claim to a plot of 276 hectares as Vaou’s heir. The suspicion of the authorities was aroused when Georgiou and Constantinidis went to court in order to have their title deeds recognized. A thorough investigation revealed the extent of the fraud, not only concerning the one plot of land but the entire area. The court ruling on December 22, 2006, demanding that the 62.08 hectares of forestland be returned to the state is an important victory over a powerful network of interests that ensures fake documents used in the illegal transfer of land remain stashed away in a drawer. The problem has yet to be solved though, as 1,100 hectares of state-owned forestland in Glyfada are in danger of falling prey to greedy land-grabbers. Karapanos estate In 1830, Glyfada was a dense pine forest that belonged to the state. In 1920, 3,600 hectares illegally became part of the Karapanos estate. The whole of Glyfada today (1,200 hectares) has grown out of this estate. For six years, the ownership status of the area was studied by the Mixed Advisory Council (comprising the Forest Ownership Review Council and the State Land Advisory Council) which ruled on December 11, 2000, that the Karapanos estate was state-owned forestland. It advised the state to go to court to claim its property rights but to date the ministers concerned have refused to sign the council’s report findings.