Irish authorities are aiding probe into French property ​​

CCPC has given details of 150 cases to French investigators

Nice on the Cote d’Azur in the Riviera was one of the areas where properties were marketed under the scheme, which has now been investigated for years

John Mulligan

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is continuing to provide “significant time and resources” to a probe into a property leaseback scheme in France that stung hundreds of Irish buyers.

Investigations have been going on for years and also involve French authorities. But the probe has been delayed by the Covid pandemic.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil this week that when a criminal investigation is completed in France, Irish authorities will then determine if there was any breach of consumer protection laws by Irish traders.

A scheme was launched in about 2005 in France that sought to promote the construction of developments in tourist regions to boost the supply of accommodation. The scheme was widely advertised in Ireland.

Properties were marketed in areas across France, at locations such as the Alps, Paris, Provence, the Cote d’Azur, Brittany and the south-west of the country.

The scheme included a significant Vat rebate for buyers, who as part of the deal then signed contract for up to 11 years to lease the property they bought to the development’s management company, which then rented them out. A set return was promised to buyers.

But the collapse of many management companies involved in the scheme left many owners without rent to cover the mortgages on their properties, they claimed.

Buyers in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere began to lobby Brussels and French authorities a number of years ago to raise issues with the schemes.

Mr Varadkar was asked this week by Independent TD Catherine Connolly for an update on what progress the CPCC has made. to date on the matter.

The Tánaiste said the investment scheme continues to be probed by France’s consumer watchdog, Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consummation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF).

“The CCPC received complaints from Irish property purchasers and provided an initial preliminary assessment to the DGCCRF for over 150 complainants,” he noted.

The sale documents from the Irish buyers have been transferred to the French authorities. “The CCPC has and continues to provide significant time and resources to this matter and to support the DGCCRF investigation,” he added.

“In order to protect the integrity of the investigation and comply with relevant French criminal procedural codes, the DGCCRF requested that the CCPC refrain from commenting or communicating on the investigation other than providing updates,” said Mr Varadkar.

“When DGCCRF has completed its investigation it will provide to the CCPC information on any potential concerns or infringements with respect to Irish agents identified during the course of their investigation.”

“At that point, the CCPC will assess the information provided by the DGCCRF in order to determine whether there was any breach of consumer protection legislation by Irish traders,” the Tánaiste said.

Mr Varadkar said that although the Covid crisis has impacted the investigation, the CCPC has been assured by French authorities that the matter is being progressed.

“The CCPC’s priority in relation to this matter is to continue to support the DGCCRF investigation and to ensure that compliance with the legal procedural requirements of the French criminal investigation process,” he said.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​