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12 April 2024

Gulf investors plan legal action against errant Indian builder

By VM Sathish

A number of non-resident Indians in the Gulf, especially the UAE, are worried that a villa project in India in which they had invested five years ago, will remain a pipedream.

Three to five years after making full payment for the villas, the investors claim they are yet to see the villas come up near the Guruvayoor temple in Trichur district of the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Many NRIs had flocked to invest in the 350-villa project announced by a Kerala-based builder.

The aggrieved NRI investors are now planning to take legal action against the builder and a meeting of the villa investors is being convened.

The builder’s website lists various projects and tells aggrieved investors that their problems will be addressed at meetings scheduled at various places.

“We are planning an investors’ meeting at Trichur. We think this meeting will help clear investors’ doubts about the progress of our projects. This meeting has been necessitated by the misconceptions formed in the mind of some of our customers as a result of some adverse information. We request you to participate in the customers’ meet. We plan to conduct our next customers’ meet in Dubai,” the builder’s website said.

A letter posted at the company’s website said a member of the builder’s family is ready to extend financial support to complete the project.

Sharafudeen, an investor, said about 500 people from the Gulf have lost their money in the project, and that about a hundred of them are contemplating taking joint legal action against the builder.

“The builder visited the UAE and other Gulf countries with a big publicity campaign led by a top Kerala film actress. They proposed to build luxury villas close to the well-known Guruvayoor temple. Those who did not want to live in the villas were promised a steady rental income from the large number of visitors to the temple town. Now, we can’t trace the celebrities or the people who promoted for the villa project. We have lost Rs3 million each.”

The villas were scheduled to be delivered one year after the money was paid. Some of the investors have received notices from the district collector of Trichur, alerting them that the land on which the villas was proposed to be built, is owned by the government and the buildings that have or may come up on the land would be demolished.

Says Sudhakaran, a UAE expatriate who had invested in the project: “I was attracted to the villa project because it is located close to the Guruvayoor temple. The Trichur-based builder was advertising through cinema celebrities that owning a villa close to the temple would be an ideal investment. They offered a return of Rs25,000 per month as rental income from the villa. I have paid Rs3.5 million in two instalments for a 3,000 square feet villa. After making the full payment in 2008, the company gave me Rs25,000 per month as rental income for ten months. Since then, however, I have not got anything.”

Many people like Sudhakaran have lost money in the villa project. “Since I live in Dubai, I could not verify the company’s occasional claims that the villas are about to be completed. It appears the builders were paying rental income to some investors to lure more people into the villa project,” he said.

“The builder claims construction was delayed because of shortage of workers from West Bengal and non-availability of construction material,” he added.

The company’s website gives the deadlines for completing the villa project as December 2011, April 2012, September 2012 and December 2012.

Investors say none of these deadlines were met and that they remain in the dark about the future of their investment.

Brochures about the villa project that were distributed among potential investors said: “The number of pilgrims visiting the Guruvayoor temple is estimated at about 35 million per year.  Thousands of weddings are held at this temple every year. Since accommodation facilities for visitors are still quite limited, the concept of ‘service villa’ was born. ‘Earn while you own a house’ can be a reality.”

 “Another objective of the project is the promotion of tourism. The idea is to be an active partner in the government’s efforts to exploit the tourism potential of the state. Seating for as many as 5,000 people and four wedding halls, which have the capacity to conduct a total of 24 weddings in a single day, are available. Facilities for hosting wedding feasts and receptions are also being set up. Milk and vegetables for such feasts will be supplied from the company’s farms,” the promotional material said.

However, NRI investors feel cheated as the promised delivery of villas has not taken place and the villas are proposed to be built on land not owned by the builder. Another reason the project is in trouble is because it is located close to an archaeological site, said a source which represented the builder’s interest in Dubai.

The builder could not be contacted for his comments, but his representative said they will come back to Emirates 24|7 with his comments.

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)