Miss Thailand 2000 Panadda "Boom" Wongphudee is leading a group of 157 people so upset over five years of construction delays that they filed a complaint with the DSI against the Centara Grand Residence Pattaya.
The suit says that the 157 had bought and paid for units in the project, but it was still unfinished, with work apparently halted.
Ms Pannada's actions forced Central Plaza Hotel Plc, owners of the Centara brand, to back away from the project, claiming the company has a licensing agreement but no involvement in the unfinished construction project.
The Australian educated "Boom", who has been an actress and businesswomen since her year as Miss Thailand, filed the complaint Tuesday with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) against the developer of the mixed-use Centara Grand Residence Pattaya project after the company called a halt to construction at what many in Pattaya call an eyesore.
- Earlier report: Pattaya condo buyers seek DSI help
The suit names Tulip Group (Bazis Development Co). The firm has been advertising an "iconic" Centara Grand Residence at Jomtien, and selling units since at least 2012.
Ms Pannada said she was convinced to buy a condo unit for 20 million baht because of this architect's drawing.
Tulip Group is a Pattaya-based firm with Israeli roots. The CEO and founder is Kobi Elbaz.
It introduced Centara Grand Residence in September, 2012, as a condominium project on 10 rai in Pattaya's Na Jomtien area. Mr Elbaz said that when completed in 2014, it would comprise 283 condominium units worth 6.4 billion baht and 200 hotel rooms operated by the Central Plaza Hotel Group's Centara chain. It still has not been finished.
Mr Elbaz claimed after a project pre-launch in December, 2011, that the group sold 55 units worth 550 million baht. Some 80% went to Thai buyers, followed by Russians and Americans.
Central Plaza Hotel Plc, which manages the Centara hotel brand, said immediately after the suit was filed that the company has only a licensing agreement with the Tulip Group to use the Centara Grand brand for the project and had been contracted to manage the hotel after it was completed.
The group denied any involvement in building or selling units in the Jomtien project.
"The company is not the owner of the project and is not involved with the sales management side," it said.
The company says a clear disclaimer appears in all promotional materials for the condo part of the project which says "Centara Grand Residence, Pattaya is being developed and sold by the developer, Tulip Group (Bazis Development Co) and not by Central Plaza Hotel Plc or its affiliates.
"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," the disclaimer says.
The company said it regretted the situation and sympathised with buyers. News the project is in trouble emerged only recently, observers said. The developer could not be reached for comment.
The group of buyers said they bought units off-plan at prices ranging from 2 million to 35 million baht per unit. They estimated the damages they had suffered at 500 million baht.
Boom said she booked a 35-million-baht unit in 2012, convinced by the ads and condo plans.
The owner offered her a price cut to 20 million baht for her unit in exchange for her acting as the project's presenter. She accepted the offer and signed a contract.
Months later, she said the owner chatted with her online, made advances to her and asked her to go out with him at night. "I thought it was suspicious so I cancelled the presenter deal and asked for a return of the deposit of 2.5 million baht," she said.
But the project owner returned only 1.8 million baht, saying some of the money had been invested in a business in Singapore, Ms Panadda said.