More than 150 buyers of an unfinished condominium project in Pattaya have filed a complaint against the developer with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) after a construction halt.
The group of 157 people, led by actress Panadda Wongphudee, filed the complaint with the DSI director-general on Tuesday.
They bought off-plan the condo units of the mixed-use Centara Grand Residence Pattaya project in the resort city at prices ranging from 2 million to 35 million baht per unit. They estimated the damage at 500 million baht.
Ms Panadda said she booked a 35-million-baht unit in 2012, convinced by the ads and perspective plans. The owner later offered her a price cut to 20 million baht for her unit in exchange for her to be the project's presenter. She accepted the offer and signed a contract.
Months later, she claimed the owner chatted with her online, made advances at her and asked her to go out with him at night.
"I think it's suspicious so I cancelled the presenter deal and asked for a return of the booking amount of 2.5 million baht," she said.
But the project owner returned to her only 1.8 million baht, saying that some of the money had been invested in a business in Singapore, the 2000 Miss Thailand said.
Actress Panadda Wongphudee is one of the complainants against a Pattaya developer on Tuesday. (Bangkok Post photo)
"I thought that was the end to it. I had no idea the company continued to use me as the presenter."
Convinced by her and the name of the project, which implies it was owned by a well-known SET-listed hotelier, several of the buyers agreed to buy the units, Ms Panadda said.
After five years, the construction made little progress, with only piles and some structures set up despite the September 2016 completion date specified in the contract, she said.
The group subsequently filed a complaint with the Consumer Protection Board and lodged a civil lawsuit against the project with the Pattaya court seeking damages equivalent to what they had paid for booking fees and down-payment instalments.
The court later ruled the project repay them but the owner tried to put the project under a debt rehabilitation plan, Ms Panadda said.
The move worried them, prompting them to seek help from the DSI, she added.
According to public records, The Centara Grand Residence is developed by Bazis Development Co Ltd, with registered capital of 50 million baht.
Gulf Development Thailand BV, Adisak Narueprempree, Sattahip Realty Co Ltd and Tulip Property Development Co are the shareholders.
Tulip is the developer of a waterfront project in Laem Bali High whose construction was banned by the Pattaya municipality.
Besides the condo, the project plans to operate a hotel on Jomtien Beach. The entire project covers 18.8 rai, comprising two buildings -- the 351-unit condo and the hotel, to be managed by the Central Plaza Hotel group after completion.
Ms Panadda also wrote on her Facebook on Monday the Centara group knew about the sales but denied any responsibility.
Ronnachit Mahattanapreut, senior vice-president for finance and Administration of Central Plaza Hotel Plc, which manages the Centara hotel brand, said on Tuesday the group had been contracted to manage the project's hotel after it was completed.
"We are not the owner of the project. If the project is not completed, the customers need to contact the real owner," he told the Bangkok Post. "Some customers misunderstand this but all we can do is to explain the facts."
The group later issued a statement to that effect, adding there was a disclaimer in all sales promotional materials for the condo part of the project from the start.
The disclaimer reads: "Centara Grand Residence Pattaya is being developed and sold by the Developer, Tulip Group (Bazis Development Co Ltd) and not by Central Plaza Hotel Plc or its affiliates (“Centara”). Centara has not confirmed the accuracy of any of the statement of representations made herein, and Centara is not part of or an agent for the developer and has not acted as a broker in connection with the sale of Centara Grand Residence Pattaya. Neither Central Plaza Hotel Plc nor its affiliates, employees or representatives make any warranties or representations in respect of the project."
Buying properties off-plan is a normal practice in Thailand. A developer usually requires a customer to pay a booking fee and a down payment in lump sum or instalments over a few years while the buyer applies for a bank loan and the property is being built.