The heirs of the late Takis Epaminondas, a Limassol resident whose land was expropriated in 1961 by the Municipality of Limassol, are calling for the return of the land, based on a 2012 Supreme Court decision. The five plots of land, located in the Katholiki area, jointly make up 18.262 square metres and are currently used as a parking area and as the site for an open air Farmers Market that takes place every Saturday.
In its 2012 decision on the case of Epaminonda Takis Epaminonda and Others V. Municipality of Limassol, the Supreme Court told the Municipality to return the expropriated land to its owners. The reasoning behind the decision was that the land has not been used as the site for the construction of the main Municipal Farmers Market, which was the reason given for its expropriation.
The Municipality has not to the present complied with this decision, based on the argument that compensation has been given and that on site developments, such as the passage of the Garyllis Park from the plot, complicate matters.
The expropriation of the five plots of land took place in 1961 for the purpose of constructing a Municipal Farmers Market.
At the time, the land owners accepted £CY20,000 as compensation and the land was transferred to the Municipality.
By 1966 the project had not materialised and the owners of the land requested that it be returned to them.
Their claim was based on Article 23(4) of the Constitution, which states that in cases where expropriated land is not used for the purpose for which it was initially expropriated within three years, it must be returned to their owners.
At the time, the Municipality assured them that it would be used as the site for the Market and in 1967 gave them £CY4,500 as additional compensation.
According to the Municipality the acceptance of this additional compensation meant that the owners of the land essentially sold it to the Municipality, thus constituting a final settlement of the case.
The owners, however, insist that they had only accepted the money in order to remove their pending court claim, based on the belief that the land would be used as the site of the Municipal Farmers Market.
The Epaminonda heirs subsequently attempted to take the case to court in 1976 and in 1984, but the Court rejected the claim on both instances based on the argument that it was overdue.
The Municipal Farmers Market was finally created at a different location.
As a result, the Municipality returned all other expropriated land in the Katholiki area to its owners, but refused to return the plots in question to the heirs of Epaminonda. “This particular detail, astounded the Supreme Court- that the property of others in the area was returned, but not the property of the heirs of the Epaminonda estate.
This was also considered as a matter of unequal treatment,” Yiannakis Phedonos, lawyer of the heirs to the Epaminonda estate, told The Cyprus Weekly.
According to Phedonos, the Municipality of Limassol had also used two plots of the Epaminonda land as collateral to secure a loan from a local cooperative bank, while the case was still pending at the Supreme Court.
“The loan was secured in October 2011, while the Supreme Court hearing was set for January 2012. One wonders why the Municipality had not used other property as collateral and chose to use this land, given the timing,” said Phedonos.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to return the expropriated land to the family of Epaminonda, the latter have returned the monetary compensation that the Municipality had given them, while the Municipality has accepted to pay their legal expenses.
However, the Municipality has not transferred ownership of the land to the family claiming that it is now the site of the open air Farmers Market every Saturday, and that EU Structural Funds have been used to develop the Garyllis Park, which covers a part of the land in question.
According to Phedonos, the current state of affairs may lead to more litigation, as the family may request compensation in the range of €3 million for profits lost on account of the reported Municipal non-compliance.