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Investors left high and dry as builder vanishes into thin air

‘10 Tower’ project launched with fanfare in 2008 leaves scores empty handed

Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ XPRESS
Only paper, no money: Mainak Maity and Albert Baretto invested in the project during the boom, but have lost hope of recovering their money

DUBAI: Two Indians who invested in a fancy real estate project five years ago fear they may never see their money again as the builder has vanished and the property is not even listed with Rera.

“I had heard so much about developers running away with all the money and promise, but I never imagined that I would be part of it one day,” said Mainak Maity who’s given up hope of recovering even a fraction of his Dh170,000 plus investment.

In July 2008 he and his former banking colleague Albert Baretto together paid developers Dh204,725 towards 10 per cent booking fees for two one-bedroom units in a ‘soon-to-be-built’ project in Jumeirah Village Circle announced the same year.

The two units were worth Dh1.026 million (1,080 square feet) and Dh1.021 million (1,075 square feet).

Years on, the project ‘10 Tower’ is yet to see the light of the day even as the company building it, PND Investments ltd., remains ‘untraceable’.

When XPRESS called RERA, they said the property was not listed with them and advised the investors to consult the Dubai Lands Department with the original documents.

“We did that but it wasn’t of much use simply because we were not the only ones affected. There were worse cases of realtors running away with investors’ money and the officials were a bit all over, I guess,” recollects Maity, who now runs an East Indian specialty restaurant in Sharjah.

His friend Baretto says, “After the future of the project appeared in doubt, the company (PND) appointed a customer relationship manager to redress our grievances and look after refunds, payments and cheques. For some time the officer even stayed in touch with us, but we realised it was all an eyewash when he stopped responding to our calls and emails before vanishing into thin air.

“That set off alarm bells and we got in touch with a lawyer who with the help of Dubai Police managed to call Milan Brokers through whom we made the transaction, but it was of no avail. He told us the developers had actually run away and there was nothing they or anyone could do,” said the 38-year old wealth manager at an Abu Dhabi-based bank. The duo then set out to trace their money on their own.

“We had a friend at Habib Bank AG Zurich where the escrow account for the project was set up. From him we found out that there was only about Dh200,000 left in the account. This was around December, 2010. Surely not enough to feed every refund,” said Maity.

When XPRESS checked with the private bank this week, it came to light the account no longer exists.

A fellow investor who bought nine units for Dh3.6 million in the tower told XPRESS: “I even went to the court who ordered the company to repay all my money, but who’s listening? “And where’s the money?” asked the Libyan who did not wish to be named.

“I have lost all hope [of recovering the money],” says Barreto. “So many years have passed and there is not much else we can do.”



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