Bulgarian authorities have promised a formal investigation into allegations by British real estate investors who claim they have been conned out of their properties in the ski resort of Bansko.
The group of investors, who paid €6 million for their properties, staged a protest outside the block of apartments in the Four Seasons development after being denied access for two years. They have been caught up in a dispute after estate agency Rockarch which sold them the properties became the victim of a fraud.
The London based agency claims it has been defrauded by a Bulgarian business partner who apparently transferred ownership of some of the apartments to a Bulgarian company for a fraction of their real value.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, said that the deputy director of the Chief Directorate of the Criminal Police and the appellate prosecutor of Sofia, Vicho Vichev, would go to Blagoevgrad to examine the records and go on to Bansko if required.
Tsvetanov said that it is important to determine why, if the British people had legitimately purchased property in the resort they had been deprived of access for such a long time.
In the development of 107 apartments, a fitness centre, a spa and a restaurant, the some 78 apartments were bought by British investors and the rest were transferred in what they alleged was a ‘shady financial transaction’ to Bulgarian company Zekom which has the keys to the complex and has since refused access to the remaining owners.
The case highlights problems faced by overseas buyers in Bulgaria where a number of disputes center around the purchase of property and bribery and corruption still exists in the system. It is estimated that some 4,000 British property buyers are currently involved in disputes over property.
In Bansko around 2,300 apartments are owned by British people. Local officials are supportive as the ski resort relies on foreign visitors. The Foreign Office said that the British ambassador has met with Bulgarian officials to express concern about the problems experienced by some UK property owners.
A spokeswoman for the group of British owners, Sharon Hassall, said the development was completed in the summer of 2008 but they have since not been given the keys. Many of the owners bought the properties off plan in 2006 after seeing them advertised at property shows.