200 thousand defrauded real estate investors: when they disappear as a class

According to official data, there are now about 3 thousand long-term residential buildings in Russia. Almost 200 thousand defrauded real estate investors invested their money in them. But experts believe there could be many more.

People left without money and housing are in a desperate situation. They have reason to believe that the state did not protect their interests. And the authorities understand this and want to solve the problem of defrauded real estate investors as soon as possible. At least Vladimir Putin gave a clear order to the government to complete all long-term construction projects by 2023.

But the implementation of this task will require considerable resources – financial and labor. Irina DROZDOVA, who fights for the rights of defrauded equity holders, told MK how feasible it is.

– How did you get into this story?

– I was asked by my acquaintances to attend a meeting of equity holders of one residential complex. By this time, this residential complex had been unfinished for several years, and the developer was declared bankrupt. At the meeting, equity holders were offered to end the bankruptcy of the developer and vote for an amicable agreement with him. In return, the developer vowed to complete the construction of the complex, without giving any guarantees other than empty promises. It was obvious that no one was going to complete the construction of the residential complex, and the developer needed an amicable agreement just to get out of the bankruptcy procedure, and then to withdraw the remaining assets.

– And what, there were those who continued to believe him?

– Yes, people were simply brainwashed. They were convinced, for example, that no state would bail them, and a settlement agreement was their last chance. By the way, these ideas were broadcast by explicit “sent Cossacks”, some of whom presented themselves as investors who would give money for the completion of the construction, and the other part was from among the same co-investors.

– And what is their interest?

– Monetary. They also tried to outbid me more than once. At first, there were attempts to discredit in the eyes of equity holders, when they did not succeed, they were invited to “cooperate”.

– Just a return to the 90s …

– For the developer, it was a game of all-in. Imagine, he spent a million rubles only on notarial powers of attorney for voters!

– Why were they needed?

– 800 equity holders are registered in a residential complex of 8 houses. All of them had to vote either for the settlement agreement or against. The developer managed to convince several equity holders of the need for such a vote, some of them sincerely believed, while others were frankly bought. To collect a quorum, they began to convince the rest of the equity holders that they did not have to attend the meeting, waste their time, that they could simply issue a notarized power of attorney on their behalf to a representative from each house. Which, as a result of this operation, would have voted for an amicable agreement with the developer. The scheme is fraudulent, but from a legal point of view, there is nothing to complain about.

– And what, no one controlled the actions of the developer? Why did he manipulate the equity holders so freely?

– In fact, this is a widespread practice. According to the law, if someone files for bankruptcy of a developer, the judge first introduces a bankruptcy procedure for a year, appoints a liquidator, and during this procedure the parties can enter into an amicable agreement and terminate the bankruptcy. But the developer, as I already said, was not at all going to fulfill obligations to the equity holders, as evidenced by the fact that, as an investor, he presented to the equity holders a one-day firm with an authorized capital of … 10 thousand rubles.

– How did you know that the developer is not going to complete the construction of the residential complex?

– All this information was easily read in the very text of the settlement agreement. But our people are mostly legally illiterate and extremely gullible. They inattentively read documents and prefer to take scammers at their word. A separate meeting was organized for the equity holders of each house, and a whole performance was played at each in order to fool people, there were mummers, for example, one woman in the image of an Orthodox (long skirt, kerchief on her head) called everyone to peace and goodness and convinced that the developer is nice, he will not offend them. There were also men and women who, as if on cue, clapped to “their” speakers and gagged “strangers.” Everything that happened was very reminiscent of a gathering of participants in the “MMM” or some sectarians. They took away the microphone from the opponents of the agreement, ran after them around the stage …

– What did the equity holders vote for as a result?

– We managed to convince them to vote against the amicable agreement and turn to the state for help. Because in fact, the new company, to which the developer was going to transfer the rights to complete the residential complex, did not take any obligations to them and did not give any guarantees.

– A cunning swindler fooling gullible equity holders with the full connivance of the authorities, law enforcement and supervisory authorities?

– Unfortunately, this is a fairly typical picture. Now the cases of defrauded real estate investors have been united in several problem housing estates, and the situation is approximately the same everywhere. Because the developer has money, while the equity holders have nothing. The developer can promise the liquidator a percentage of the cost of the residential complex, and he will do whatever he asks him to do. Will attract experts who will make any opinion on the technical condition of the house that is beneficial for the developer, and will evaluate it “as it should”. In this case, the construction company promised the bankruptcy administrator 7% of the value of unfulfilled obligations to equity holders, and this is no less than 200 million rubles, it is clear that for that kind of money he went to great lengths, persuading everyone to sign an amicable agreement with the developer and the one-day firm.

– How did the events develop further?

– In our country, a federal Fund for the Protection of the Rights of Citizens – Participants of Shared Construction has been created, which implements a state program. In addition, in the regions such funds are being created that will directly complete the construction of housing, that is, they will be the developers themselves. But to get budget funding, you need to make a lot of effort.

“In recent years, many construction companies have gone bankrupt, thousands of people have been left without money and housing, there are 3,000 long-term construction projects and 200,000 defrauded equity holders throughout the country. What do you think is the reason?

– Each problematic construction site has its own sad story, many construction companies went bankrupt due to the crisis. Someone started to build at random, without a full package of permits, they hoped that they would be able to negotiate with officials about connecting communications, but in reality this did not work out, and the construction site had to be frozen. And sometimes the developer turns out to be a real scammer.

– How is it in your case?

– Everything is trite: a loan agreement was concluded with a certain Cypriot company at fabulous interest rates, funds were collected from equity holders and transferred to repay the loan. From the point of view of the law, there is nothing illegal here. At the same time, this is a well-known scheme for withdrawing funds offshore. As a result, housing construction stopped, although apartments continued to be sold, the company did not pay taxes, and a billion-dollar debt was formed for it. At the same time, for a very long time, no one raised any noise. The developer had to fill out and send to Stroynadzor a special report every quarter, which reflected how much money he collected from the sale of apartments and how much he spent on construction. It is not difficult to track where he spent the money of the equity holders.

– Did he get away with everything?

– In the end, the tax authorities became interested in this company, they transferred all the materials on the company to the UK, and there they opened a criminal case on the deliberate bankruptcy of the developer’s parent company.

– The defrauded real estate investors, probably, could also apply to the police or the prosecutor’s office?

– As a rule, at the request of equity holders, criminal cases are not initiated against developers: firstly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not want to do this, a very large amount of work. Secondly, there are no such “bloodthirsty” equity holders to bring the matter to the end. After all, people want to get an apartment, and not put a developer in jail.

– You said that the bankruptcy administrator, who is appointed by the court for the period of the developer’s bankruptcy, also does not always protect the interests of equity holders.

– There are a lot of questions about the work of bankruptcy commissioners working, for example, in the capital region. For some reason, many of them came from the regions. They behave extremely impudently, if not brazenly. Up to the point that the lists of defrauded real estate investors for receiving apartments in buildings under construction include their own or the right people.

– How did you find out that the developer promised the bankruptcy administrator a fabulous fee in the event of a settlement agreement?

– It was written in the text of the settlement agreement itself.

– Didn’t even this fact lead the equity holders, who were justifying the developer, to the idea that they were simply being deceived?

– There were, of course, sane people who understood what was happening. But there were also those who believed in the developer, defended him and even accused me of slandering him. In general, our LCD is like the whole country in miniature, with all the political battles and disagreements.

– How can real estate investors influence the liquidator if they see that he is acting to their detriment?

– Bankruptcy commissioners, like lawyers, are responsible for their activities, they are obliged to insure their liability and be a member of a self-regulatory organization (SRO). They are formally controlled by Rosreestr. But, in my opinion, there is virtually no control. And, of course, it is necessary to toughen the responsibility for their actions. And the equity holders unite and look for their defender, read the laws.

When the next bankruptcy case of a construction company comes to the arbitration court, the judge appoints an independent manager, but then the developer often goes to him, and they agree to act together. And this is not a secret for a long time.

– Some kind of chaos, why are they behaving so impudently?

– The bankruptcy commissioner, if he has already been appointed by a judge, is very difficult to replace, they have their own lobby, and if one of them is removed, the process of transferring the house takes even longer.

– From everything that you tell, one gets the impression that no one really cares about the problems of equity holders. Is the rescue of drowning people the work of the drowning themselves?

– At least officials do not show much sympathy for them. I often heard in the offices: equity holders are to blame, they are investors, which means they had to take into account all the risks.

– But how did banks give mortgages for apartments in houses, the construction of which is then frozen? Are they, too, in cahoots with the developers?

– The bank does not care what you take out a loan for. He will not be particularly careful to check how reliable your developer is. After all, it is not he who borrows money from the bank, but you. The bank will carefully check your solvency.

– You say that a criminal case against the developer of that residential complex has now been instituted?

– Yes, but only after the company’s tax debt amounted to a billion rubles.

– Do you think the situation in shared housing will change after the transition to so-called escrow accounts?

– In theory, it should change. Now the money of equity holders goes to a special account in the bank (escrow account), the developer will not receive it until the house is rented out. Today, a developer has two ways to attract funds from equity holders: either through an escrow account, or to another account, but with mandatory contributions to a compensation fund to protect the rights of equity holders.

Previously, they had an alternative: either pay premiums or insure their property. But instead, many bought phony insurance. In general, there have been and still are many such loopholes. Our people have a very flexible mind, but, unfortunately, all this know-how is often aimed at how to cheat their neighbor.

– The government plans to solve the problem of defrauded equity holders by 2023, to complete the construction of all problem objects at the expense of the budget. Do you think this is real?

– The completion of all residential buildings, according to preliminary estimates, requires 800 billion rubles from the budget. But when they begin to carry out a technical examination of frozen construction projects, it turns out that much more money is needed.

– Where will the state get so much money from?

– The money is from the budget, so consider it we, law-abiding taxpayers, will pay again for what has already been paid by defrauded equity holders once.

– And how much time and effort will it take for defrauded equity holders to get into this state program?

– It took us a year and a half. But we were very energetic. If someone wants to go our way, they will also have to knock their heels into the blood in order to get things off the ground. No other way.

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