By Jon Clarke and Walter Finch
LAWYERS have been joined by mortgage brokers and agents to slam a giant construction firm that has left up to 100 foreign buyers ‘likely tens of millions’ of euros out of pocket.
Urgent legal moves are taking place after all projects of the firm Otero ground to a halt on the Costa del Sol, the Olive Press can reveal.
Countless firms and hundreds of workers have pulled off the sites after Otero stopped fulfilling its payments on January 25.
Dozens of clients have called in lawyers demanding to know what has happened to their investments for luxury villas costing between €500,000 and €2 million.
One law firm, Martinez-Echevarria, confirmed it was representing ‘around 20 clients’ who had bought properties in Marbella, Estepona and Manilva.
“The majority are foreign, English, Dutch and Belgians, etc, but what links them is they have all paid a lot of money, up to €2m each,” lawyer Fermin Siguenza told the Olive Press.
He added his company was also representing a number of agents and contractors.
“We don’t know how much we will be able to recuperate or even if the clients are protected. It’s early days, but we are trying our best.”
Meanwhile, a Marbella-based mortgage broker Tancrede de Pola revealed he was helping four clients, who have lost out.
“They are royally screwed, especially as the unpaid contractors are taking everything moveable off the sites, including windows, and even kitchens.”
He continued: “I didn’t like the way Otero operated from the beginning and I tried to tell agents not to work with them due to their sharp practices.”
The Olive Press has spoken to workers from at least three companies removing their materials from one site, called Oceanic, in Manilva.
One employee of Fartech claimed that ‘well over a million euros’ is owed to firms at this site alone.
The Cadiz firm is owed ‘at least’ €150,000 for security equipment for the 24 homes, 20 of which have already been sold at between €1.3 and €1.8 million.
“It’s a massive hit for us,” explained the Argentinian, who gave his name as Mario. “But there are loads more suppliers and firms who have lost more than Fartech.
“Some are owed €500,000, others up to a million.”
He added: “It’s a total joke that they flattened this area, put up a few concrete shells and then it all collapsed on January 25 when cheques stopped cashing.
“We’ve heard rumours that the owners have fled to Venezuela, but nobody knows.”
The Olive Press has learnt that the company had first failed to pay its suppliers the previous month in December, just two months after the firm sponsored a giant glitzy charity bash for cancer research in Marbella.
A month later, in November, it boasted how it had won no less than eight awards at the Newbuild Awards Costa del Sol, including ‘Best Property Developer’. “We rocked,” a press release screamed above a picture of boss Ruben holding a gong.
A company Christmas message meanwhile insisted 2022 had been ‘full of successes, achievements and joys’, while on January 12 the company announced it had hired a new sales advisor, Nicholas Roberts.
This week, however, an employee working in the company’s office in Marbella confirmed that ‘all projects were stopped around 10 days ago’.
“It’s a real shame and we are trying hard to solve the problems, which are tough,” she said, passing over an email for the company lawyer, who has so far refused to comment.
An agent for its Oceanic development, Mario Ballesteros, was more forthcoming.
“I’m also in limbo and have only just found out myself having been on holiday,” he told the Olive Press. “While I’m not directly responsible I feel sad for all the buyers, but I may be out of a job too.”
He continued: “I don’t know exactly what happened but I have not seen the owner Ruben for months. I don’t know what will happen next.”
He confirmed that of the 20 buyers at the development, all of them were foreign. “Only four had not been sold.”
Manilva town hall meanwhile offered guarantees to companies affected by the defunct developments, understood to include Duquesa Valley, La Paloma and Don Amaro to enable them to finish the units.
A spokesman admitted there were ‘many victims’ but added it wanted to make the area ‘liveable’ for those who had bought.
He added the town hall would be working ‘side-by-side’ with the contractors to ‘minimise’ the problems caused by Otero’s collapse.
When pressed by the Olive Press over what level of support they would offer, the town hall replied that ‘it all depends on how events unfold’.