Expats left with nothing after upscale Pattaya condo project goes bust

Published:  16 Oct at 6 PM
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Over a hundred expat and Thai investors are still waiting for their money after the luxury Centara Grand Residence project was declared bankrupt.

Basil Development Co’s advertorial for the high-rise condo development ensnared over 100 buyers by focusing on upscale living, resulting in all of them buying off-plan. Several months ago, all building work was stopped as the construction company’s massive debts emerged, with reports of over 911 million baht owing to suppliers. Court orders on behalf of the purchasers were issued, but the company is now requesting more time to repay both deposits and instalment payments already received. Last week, Thai investors angry at the delays held a protest at the deserted site, waving banners and calling for local media to assist in getting their money back.

Total debts incurred by the developers are estimated to have reached an all-time high in a city where property scams are not uncommon. Last May, Pattaya Waterfront, another luxury condo development, also declared bankruptcy after registering for debt restructuring in excess of two billion baht with Thailand’s Central Bankruptcy Court. Developers Bali Hai Co.Ltd were in joint partnership with investment group Red Sea and Thailand’s Tulip Group, with some 70 per cent of units sold off-plan at the time of the bankruptcy. Some 262 investors are thought to have lost their deposits on condos selling at between 200,000 and 246,000 per square metre.

Perhaps the most devastating property scam in Pattaya was that of Harlequin Property Thailand, involving condominium developments in Pattaya which resulted in inexperienced expats losing huge sums. The CEO of Harlequin’s Thailand is now infamous for selling apartments in the Emerald Palace development twice – once to mostly retired expats and again to a Thai bank in exchange for a 70 million baht loan.

At the same time, Harlequin Thailand’s parent company was busily pulling the same stunt in the Caribbean, with total losses by expat investors reaching at least £300 million. Harlequin’s British boss David Ames is now charged with fraud relating to his Caribbean operations but few, if any, expats in both locations have received their money back. The moral of the story is simple – never, ever, buy a Thai property off-plan.
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