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ALM Feature

Northern Cyprus tightens property sales rules amid influx of Russian money

Northern Cyprus seeks to tighten its laws on real estate purchases to foreigners amid allegations of Russian black money, Zionist plots and encouragement from Ankara.

NICOSIA/ISKELE, North Cyprus —  High-rise residential complexes with names of Greek gods or Roman rulers dominate Iskele, once a sleepy coastal town in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Iskele’s foreign residents make strange bedfellows: Iranians and Israelis not only live side by side but buy property from each other; Russians and Ukrainians rub elbows at a massive residential complex’s swimming pools. Local real estate offices have signs in Cyrillic, Arabic and Latin alphabets. So do the billboards that promise a Mediterranean Utopia for a price ranging between $70,000 studio with a view to $700,000 villas on the coastline.

A Russian real estate agent who asked for anonymity told Al-Monitor that business is booming, and more Russians and Russian speakers are settling in the TRNC, a small state recognized only by Turkey. On her website, which describes the pros and cons of seven different locations, she portrays Iskele — which Greek Cypriots call Trikomo — as “a village popular among expats and an important tourist destination.” She adds, “If you do not want a lot of Russian-speaking neighbors, this is not the place for you.”

But despite the billboards advertising an idyllic life, many Turkish Cypriot politicians believe that Iskele is less of an oasis of peaceful coexistence than a launderette for black money, particularly from Russia. 

“I am uneasy with all this capital of dubious origins coming to the north of the island,” Fikri Toros, a senior figure of the opposition and the former chair of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, told a small group of Turkish journalists, including Al-Monitor. 

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