England footballers Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are among hundreds of Britons who face losing millions of pounds after investing in a holiday villa project in Morocco.
They and other star players, including Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and football pundit Gary Neville, ploughed money into the £200million project believing they would now have the keys to stylish beachside homes – but nothing has been built at the site for four years.
What they were assured would be a luxury resort featuring 1,342 properties, three golf courses and a sports complex is today an abandoned building site. Investors fear there is little prospect of it ever being completed.
And to the embarrassment of the players, many British investors were won over by promotional work they did in return for discounted properties at Le Jardin de Fleur in Saidia.
Trevor Cockrell, 55, a semi-retired textile importer from Bolton, faces losing his deposit on a two-bedroom apartment at the resort in Morocco’s Berkane region.
He said: ‘A lot of investors are going to be disappointed. At first, everything was fine – we were given flashy promotional material about footballers investing and we thought if they were part of it, it must be a good idea.
‘But now we’ve accepted it will not get off the ground. It’s all right for the footballers because it is just a drop in the ocean for them, but this is going to hit many others hard. Nothing has happened at the site for years.’
In 2006, developers Property Logic collected €60million (about £40million at the time) in deposits from investors who each paid at least €30,000 (£20,000) on properties worth up to £1million.
Almost all of the 480 buyers are British, and include at least 25 footballers. The stars invested in an exclusive area of the resort called Le Village des Amis.
By 2007 the company had completed basic works but, despite promises it would be finished by 2010, work stopped in 2009 after the funding parties went bankrupt and the developer has since struggled to find finance.
Suzanne Campbell, a design consultant from London, who runs an internet forum for the disgruntled British investors, said: ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen.
‘Some members of the forum have gone ahead with legal action and we may consider lobbying the Moroccan government for help. I should have been out there three years ago.’
Manchester United defender Ferdinand, who appears in a sales brochure photo alongside Neville and Terry, paid deposits on a three-bedroom townhouse and three villas worth a total of £2million.
He is quoted in the brochure as saying: ‘I plan to have a holiday once or twice a year here with the family. When I saw the plans I liked the fact there were plenty of quality shops, restaurants and cafes nearby. I was also impressed it’s a gated community with good security.’
Sean Cusack, a director at Property Logic, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We appreciate the development should have been ready years ago but no one was able to predict the financial crisis.
‘Some investors have become tetchy and at the moment we haven’t been able to find financiers. However, we are in discussions and are hopeful the people who still want their apartments will get them.
‘The footballers have been patient. They know we’re not responsible for the recession.’
Read more: UK Daily Mail