More than 100 Northern Ireland property investors have allegedly lost up to €10m after paying deposits for dream Spanish holiday homes that do not exist.
The prospective holiday home owners paid a deposit of around £85,000 each to secure off-the-plan apartments in a proposed development called Estepona Beach and Country Club, 30km west of Marbella.
It was to be a dream investment in a beautiful Spanish holiday spot, with promoters claiming that the British Tennis Federation was to invest and that Disney World was planning to build a |resort in the area.
The land, however, still belonged to its original owner and the complex was never built.
It is thought that 110 people from Northern Ireland have been caught up in the alleged scam having paid deposits in 2005 and 2006 via a British real estate company called Ocean View Properties. To date the investors have not been able to recover any of the cash they handed over for their holiday home
An investigation is now ongoing into Ocean View Properties, based in Birmingham, which was the British representative for Spanish company Sun Golf Desarrollos Immobiliarios SL.
Ocean View Properties was |formally dissolved in March last year when investigators and liquidators were brought in to try and recoup some of the losses for its creditors.
No charges have been brought, but the official receiver public interest unit in Manchester has until March 2011 to decide whether or not they will launch a civil case.
An annual report by chartered accountants Grant Thornton, liquidators in the Ocean View case, said they understand that Sun Golf never secured planning |permission to commence the construction of the Estepona development and they have “seen no evidence that either planning permission was granted or that construction of the development had commenced”.
The report added that from |a review of Ocean View’s books |and records, the company “collected approximately £34m |from investors in respect of the |development”.
A lawyer representing the Ulster investors caught up in the deal told the Belfast Telegraph that legal action is currently under way against the directors of Sun Golf and that consideration is being given to the possibility of taking legal action against the directors of Ocean View, who were in charge of the down payments.
Antonio Flores, from the Spanish law firm Lawbird in Marbella, said: “This (the legal action) |will depend largely on the reach |of the jurisdiction of Spanish courts since these directors, and their company (Ocean View), is based abroad.”
Mr Flores described the case as “a scam of massive proportions” and added: “At this point it is difficult to ascertain the chances of success.”
It is understood a number of the local investors caught up in the property deal are planning to request a meeting with the First Minister Peter Robinson to see if there is anything the Executive can do to assist their case.