WASHINGTON (CN) - A class of British homeowners claims in court that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and HSBC Holdings created "a fraudulent property scheme of biblical proportions" that cost people their life's savings by selling them stolen vacation and retirement properties in Northern Cyprus.
Four dozen plaintiffs filed a federal RICO class action against the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), HSBC Holdings and HSBC Bank USA.
The plaintiffs say that though the TRNC purports itself to be a government, it operates illegally in the Republic of Cyprus through the "brute force" of 40,000 Turkish troops.
"The pattern of racketeering activity engaged in by defendants involves a scheme to fraudulently create a pretense of a legitimate recognized government with sovereign powers such as the ability to own and issue title, create corporations, exercise eminent domain, to commit fraud upon the public and foreign investors while, at every turn, seeking to further the illegal enterprise to avoid justice," the class claims.
They say the TRNC "brutally displaced civilians" from their homes in 1974, a fact that the organization conceals, and sold the displaced people's properties to the plaintiffs.
According to the complaint, HSBC helped the rogue Turkish force in its racket, which included website operators, Realtors, real estate agents and attorneys.
"HSBC chose to operate in the TRNC illegal enterprise with the TRNC knowing that it was or likely violating the rights of others and/or that the underlying property transaction involving the plaintiffs and members of the class were based on fraudulent or defective title," the plaintiffs claim.
They say that the TRNC "could not exist without the infusion of capital from an international banking and money laundering system like HSBC."
The class claims the defective title scheme has defrauded foreign investors of billions of dollars.
Recently, a federal judge threw out claims against the TRNC filed by pop singer Julio Iglesias, who'd claimed he was duped into agreeing to perform an illegal concert in Cyprus by a military organization.
The plaintiffs want the TRNC and HSBC to pay them compensatory and punitive damages for multiple counts of fraud and racketeering. They also want an injunction preventing the TRNC from doing business as North Cyprus or the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, and from falsely marketing and advertising properties.
The class is represented by Athan Tsimpedes.