Vicky and Mr P’s story of being conned continues:
I have in fact skipped loads of chapters including the winter spent up in the village -22° and 30cm snow, blocked off from the world since our dirt track was snowed up, no money to buy coal or wood so holed up under the blankets in our room where we cooked, slept and lived. In the morning we had to get up and go out into the freezing cold with a spade to shift off the snow off the roof terraces because if you don’t and it melts it will infiltrate into the tufa stone, and when it freezes it will break the stone. But our neighbours were wonderful and sometime if we slept in we would hear the scraping of a spade over our heads as a neighbour did our roof for us. And everybody was proud to have their foreigners in their village and ones that didn’t go back to their country in the winter.
Another chapter that I forgot happened right at the beginning of our stay in the village. A neighbour had come to help up with something and we had made tea and whatever small talk our very limited Turkish permitted. We were alright with nouns and knew all the words for sheep, cow, donkey etc., but verbs were more complicated and we really only mastered the forms we heard every day like “gel” and “git”. Our neighbour left and told us he was going to get the cows in for the night. 5 minutes later his wife appeared on another terrace (in the village everybody gets up on their roof and shouts across to the neighbours, it’s great for hearing everybody’s news). She is a traditionally built lady probably around 90 kgs. We wanted to tell her that her husband had gone to fetch the cows. Mr P said “Git” and I said “Inek”. She disappeared off the terrace. Mr P and I looked at each other. I said “I think we’ve just said – shove off, fat cow”. It had us creased up, but she never spoke to us again after that!
None of this is actually strictly chronological since I have swept much of it under the carpet in order not to think about it any more and am only unearthing little bits at a time in an effort to purge. It is painful but it is doing me good (a bit like picking at a scab) so at the risk of boring you again here is another bit.
At the time we were buying a house (April 2008) things were very confusing since there had been a ministerial paper that had not been signed by all the right people by the right date and so all Tapus were blocked for foreign buyers. This was supposed only to be a suspension and that when the papers were signed the block would be lifted but it was impossible to get any firm information about where and when foreigners could buy in Turkey. Mehmet told us not to worry about what was happening in Ankara; this didn’t change anything for life in the village (On a side note, he was at least partly right. This week was our third residence permit renewal and the very first time that they asked for proof of finances from the bank. We opened a bank account without a residence permit and they immediately gave us a credit card with 5000 TL credit on it without blocking any money on an account. So up in the villages in the mountains life does tend to go on as it did hundreds of years ago.)
Anyway when the ban was finally lifted in July 2008 we started to get clearer information. What was quite clear was that foreigners are not allowed to buy property in a village i.e. where there is no Belediye. To have a Belediye you must have 2000 inhabitants and our village with 125 inhabitants was far from the mark. Reading around a bit we found that a Turkish limited company founded by 2 foreigners could buy property in areas forbidden to foreign buyers. So we set up a Turkish Limited company (by the way, really easy and quick – one day to the accountant, notary, bank and Chamber of Commerce, next day to pick up the papers and company stamp). So we were just waiting for the kadastro to come and survey the village and issue the tapus and we could transfer the village deeds from Mehmet’s name to our company. We asked the muktar to tell us when the tapus arrived and he promised to do so.
All this was before the mountain rockfall disaster. One day we learned that everybody had got their Tapus and the muktar hadn’t told us (I think he was getting his cut). When Emin (who was helping us overseeing our workers) was there we phoned Mehmet and asked him when we could go to the notary and transfer the tapus. The answer was short ” I don’t give tapus”. We told him in that case he should give us our money back “I don’t give money”. Emin was outraged and grabbed the phone and told him that he must give us our tapus. “I don’t give tapus” was the answer and he cut the call. We left it a couple of days and then I decided to call him. Mr P was being far too soft and since Mehmet had already told him he didn’t like me I thought it would be better if I took things to a more business-like level. I had been back to France for a week to set up a company there and had taken the opportunity to buy a pocket recorder (a little thingy you slip in your pocket and can record conversations with mini-cassettes). Very discrete except when the cassette gets to the end and it switches off with a mighty click and thud! So I called Mehmet and told him I was coming over to talk. Slipped the thingy in the pocket hoping it wouldn’t click and thud and set off with pounding heart.
When I got there I brought out my “negotiating in the market place – manager’s course” part 1) piece. “Look Mehmet you have a problem, we have a problem, let’s find a way out”. I told him we thought it was sad that our friendship had withered away, that Mr P was very sad at the way things had turned out, that we could see that his friends has turned away from him, his family never came up to the hotel and we would see him at night watching television on his own. He told me that yes, we had made such problems for him that he couldn’t even go to the coffee shop without people spitting in the street as he passed, that his wife might leave him and go back to her family in Kayseri and that his daughter had come back crying from school since the parents of her friends had told their children not to play with her because her father would soon be in prison. That really hit home since we had never wanted his children to be involved in this. For a split second I felt really awful and thought about the fuss we’d been kicking up (we’d been to see the Kaymakam, the Vali, the Jandarma and had been alerting all around that this guy was running a permanent tapu scam up in his village. Everybody had told us to get a lawyer and take him to court). So for a split milli-second I am almost feeling sorry for Mehmet and then I realise how manipulative he is and what a perfect actor. I told him that his problems were of his own making and that there was a perfectly simple solution to put an end to all this, give us the tapus. Ok, he said, I will give you the tapus. I am hoping that the thingy in my pocket is recording this. But on one condition. You give 10,000 euros extra. “What?” Yes, it is like a fine because you made all these problems for me. I will give it to the mosque or a hospital or you can choose a charity but you must pay the fine. He is all over smiles now and I have already worked out he will never hand over those tapus and will continue with “a little bit money for me” forever. But I ask him “If we give you the money, how can we be sure that you will give us the tapus. Will you sign something?” A long pause and then a reluctant yes. I pull out a piece of paper and a pen and start writing. In English of course. He reads and writes his Turkish version underneath and signs and I leave with my precious piece of paper. When I get back I find that the recording is unusable and fluffy as I had kept clutching it through my pocket in case it set off with its click and thud but the paper stated that he had already taken x euros for the sale of the house and that he wanted 10,000 euros more. For a court case it would be useful.
Anyway after we had the disaster and then the jewellery shop so we were not really thinking about the tapus until the day he stopped us on the car park and asked for his 10,000 euros. Mr P exploded “Do you think we would be going to work selling trinkets if we had 10 000 euros?” Mehmet answered “Get a loan from the bank, that’s what they are there for”. I grabbed Mr P’s arm before his fist landed on Mehmet’s nose “Drive off, drive off now, he is just wating for that, he’s just goading you. He’ll call the jandarma and hope that we get deported and then he keeps the house, the money and the tapus”. Reluctantly, Mr P drove off and that was the day we swore to wipe the smug smile from Mehmet’s face.
We contacted the French guy who had “bought” the house next door to Mehmet’s. For 6 years he had come every summer on holiday, he thought Mehmet was a great friend, their children played together etc etc. He had sent the money to Mehmet to buy the house and suddenly no news and when pressed Mehmet claimed he never received any money even when presented the receipt of the bank wire. The French guy had packed up his things, wife and children and never looked back. We asked if he would join us in pressing charges and he was quite clear, he never wanted to hear about Mehmet, Cappadocia or Turkey ever again. He had lost money but more importantly he had lost illusions about friendship.
We couldn’t find any contact information about the 2 other families to whom he had sold to the same house so we decided to go on on our own. First thing was finding an English-speaking lawyer. We had consulted a couple in Urgup but nobody spoke a word of English and I felt it was important. The British Embassy site listed some in Ankara. We sent emails to 6 of them explaining our situation and asking about fees. 4 did not even bother to reply. One of them replied in pidgin English that I couldn’t understand and one replied asking for a down-payment immediately of his travelling fees from Ankara since he would have to come at least 40 times. Ha, very ha. So project on standby until a friend told us of her friend who had just won his tapu case and passed on the address of his lawyer. So to cut a long story short (which as you may have noticed I’m no good at) we started up proceedings. When we saw the fees that the lawyer was asking for (nearly 10,000 euros) we knew that we were going to have to find better than the jewellery shop job but we decided that we would find the money somehow. For us it was not as much a question of getting the money back (by then the rockfall had happened and we wanted out) but that he should be named and shamed and exposed as a fraudster. We wanted to protect any other unsuspecting victims and somehow avenge some of his other Turkish victims who hadn’t been able to afford to take him to court. We wanted Turkish justice to say loud and clear that this is not right, it is not good for Cappadocia nor for Turkey’s image. So off we rode on our white horse “With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand, For God and for valour he rode through the land”. (On another totally un-Christian side of me, I wanted Mehmet to suffer like we had suffered, to cry at night like I had cried, to worry and stress like we had worried).
(just a couple more installments after this…)