I'm broke, says businessman who denies pocketing deposits
A BUSINESSMAN being sued for millions of euro in "missing" foreign property deposits has claimed he is completely broke and there is little point in disgruntled clients pursuing him for the cash.
Karl Morris (47), the managing director of Simple Overseas Properties (SOP), told the Irish Independent he was "technically bankrupt".
Dozens of former clients have gone to the courts claiming Mr Morris pocketed deposits they paid for apartments at two resorts in Tangiers, Morocco, at the height of the foreign property boom.
Alarm bells first started ringing for investors when SOP closed its offices in Ireland last year and customers were unable to contact Mr Morris or other company representatives.
Dubliner Mr Morris, a former professional deep sea diver, denies stealing the funds and claims he passed all of them on to construction companies building the holiday apartment complexes.
However, several former SOP clients have travelled to the offices of the building firms in Tangiers only to be told no record of their purchases exist.
Two groups of investors are now pushing ahead with bids to recoup a total of €2.5m from Mr Morris through separate lawsuits in Ireland and Spain.
The deposits were paid towards apartments at two seaside complexes, Asilah Marina Golf and the Asilah Beach Resort, which SOP began promoting in 2006.
Some 39 former clients are suing over €1m in "missing" deposits in Dublin's High Court.
A further 31 Irish clients say they are suing for €1.5m in a court in Spain, although Mr Morris claims the sum involved is much lower.
In a phone interview from Marbella, Spain, where he now lives, Mr Morris told the Irish Independent the cases against him were "all bullshit, lies and untruths".
"I was a middleman. The money was transferred directly across to the developers."
However, representatives of one of the building firms involved, Asilah Invest, told the Irish Independent Mr Morris was never involved with them.
"Karl Morris has no relationship with our company," said spokeswoman Fatima Mbarki.
"He tried to sell apartments without any contract with our company. There was never any agreement between us."
Mr Morris disputes this and says he plans to defend himself in the lawsuits and will produce evidence that the deposit cash was transferred.
However, a number of investors spoken to by the Irish Independent say he made the same promise to them in the past and has yet to produce any documentary proof.
Mr Morris was previously successfully sued in the High Court in Dublin over a Spanish property deal which went sour.
But he was unable to pay a €368,000 debt from the case and his two homes in Ireland, an apartment in Dublin and a house in west Cork, have been seized.
Mr Morris said the case had "ruined him" and denied claims he had salted away millions of euro in properties worldwide.
Mr Morris also admitted travelling to South Africa recently to do consultancy work for a Dubai property company, claiming he was "still well-regarded" in business circles.
However, he still insisted: "I have lost all my money.
"I am technically bankrupt, but I am trying to keep things going," he said
Mr Morris said he had not filed for bankruptcy as he was fighting his own legal battle against a construction company in Almeria, Spain, and was seeking between €3m and €3.5m for the non-completion of properties.
"If I bankrupt myself that case will fall," he said.