A GROUP of small Irish investors who bought into a dream property scheme in Dubai now fear that as much as €20m of their money could be lost.
The Concerned Dubai Sports City Investors Group, which hopes to recruit hundreds of members, bought off-plan apartments through the now defunct Larionovo property agents. They are worried that as much as €20m -- cash many hoped would fund their retirements -- is caught up in Dubai.
The group is building up a war chest to help fund a campaign to retrieve their deposits.
Since Ennis-based Larionovo went bust last year, investors in the scheme, believed to number as many as 1,000, have had trouble trying to find out what has happened to their money.
The investors, described as sales people, doctors and farmers, have paid as much as €200,000 each -- many from their SSIAs -- but do not know whether their money is still there or at what stage the developments, originally supposed to finish in 2008, are at now.
The investors bought into the Sports City scheme, part of a massive 2 billion sq ft mixed theme park, which developers said would "dwarf Disneyworld". It promised golf courses, indoor and outdoor stadia, various academies -- including a Manchester United soccer academy -- as well as swimming pools, health spas and many other facilities.
A meeting of the group last week in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin heard that they have no idea if building work has even started on some apartments, such is the difficulty in getting information from developers. Some recently received letters telling them the project had been put "on hold".
However, they fear the developments have been cancelled and believe the term "on hold" is being used to avoid refunding them.
The group has 180 people on its email list and believes hundreds more who invested in the scheme are not yet aware of the action group. It is hoping for €200 from each investor to establish a fund supporting a legal effort in both Ireland and Dubai. Over €7,000 has so far been collected.
The group first became concerned when Larionovo went bust last November. The company's liquidator, Grant Thornton, says it is providing as many answers as it can.
"The best we can do is point them in the direction of the guys they did the deal with and ask them what is happening," said liquidator Paul McCann. "The sales people are gone."
Before Larionovo went bankrupt, it merged with a Dubai-registered company Profile, and traded as Profile Ireland. A section on the Profile website, which is designed to give updates on four of the specific developments, is now down.
Profile says it does not own the properties and only managed them. It maintained it was a management company and its deals with developers may have expired. "It is therefore the responsibility of the developers and owners of the projects to report updates of construction and the relevant information that customers are entitled to in order that they can discuss their investment."
Anyone interested in the group is advised to contact spokesperson Simon Palmer on 01 2103520. The group is also online at www.tinyurl.ie/dubai/.