More than 4,000 Moroccans who paid for budget-friendly apartments at the Andalous Mohammedia real estate project, near Casablanca, are anxiously waiting to formalize their purchases and receive their keys. Several indicators, however, suggest that the project could be a large scam.
The company behind the project, Darom Immobilier, initially announced that all the apartments would be ready to accommodate their new residents by the end of 2019. They then postponed the date to September 2020 for undisclosed reasons.
As of November, the customers, who already made their payments, are still struggling to complete the administrative procedure linked to their purchases due to several legal obstacles. No customers received their keys yet.
The project promoter and its collaborating notary presented various excuses to justify the delays, including claims that public authorities and the tax administration are yet to issue some necessary documents.
While a large number of customers have already lost their patience and filed or are preparing to file legal complaints against the company and its associated notary, thousands are still unaware that they could have fallen victim to a large fraud scheme.
The Andalous Mohammedia project offers approximately 4,900 apartments for sale in total and, due to the project’s attractiveness on paper, customers wishing to become homeowners have already paid for the vast majority of the apartments.
Considering that the apartments’ starting price is MAD 250,000 ($27,425), the total amount of payments to Darom Immobilier possibly exceeds MAD 1.0 billion ($109.7 million).
One of the customers who already filed a legal complaint, S.M., approached Morocco World News to share his personal experience.
S.M. lodged a complaint against the notary who prepared the purchase contract linking him to Darom Immobilier’s manager, Moroccan millionnaire Abdelhadi Zouhair. However, he suspects that both the notary and the company are conspiring together in a fraudulent scheme.
The first red flag, according to the plaintiff, is that Darom Immobilier refused to accept any purchase contract prepared by a notary other than the one suspected of conspiracy.
“Despite Darom Immobilier insisting that we work with [K.B.], I did not suspect anything because [K.B.] is a very well known notary in Casablanca,” the complainant in the alleged real estate scam said.
Initially, all administrative procedures went well, recalled S.M., who wanted to purchase two commercial properties at the Andalous Mohammedia project to open a pharmacy.
His troubles, however, began when he applied for the authorization to open the pharmacy.
“When I applied, I was surprised to find out that I cannot receive an authorization because the properties were under foreclosure and I still do not have their legal ownership,” he said.
Because the properties are tied up as collateral for a bank loan, Darom Immobilier did not yet have the legal right to sell them.
Before formalizing any real estate purchases, notaries must request a document from sellers that prove the property is eligible for sale. However, according to the plaintiff, K.B. approved the purchase without making sure that the properties could be sold.
While the notary could have made a genuine error due to negligence, the complainant highly suspects a conspiracy between him and Darom Immobilier.
“Why would the company ask us to go prepare a contract with this notary specifically?” he asked, adding, “It’s illegal in the first place.”
Morocco World News attempted to contact the notary’s office for comment on several occasions. Three of our calls went unanswered, and the fourth could not connect to the office’s line.
The plaintiff is not the only one who suspects the real estate project near Casablanca to be the facade of a large scam.
“I personally know dozens of people who are currently preparing to file a collective legal complaint against Darom Immobilier,” he said.
On Facebook, customers who made payments nearly two years ago are starting to express their concerns. One group dedicated to the project’s customers is rife with complaints.
“Beware, this entire project is fraudulent,” said one post.
Meanwhile, dozens of customers are sharing offers to sell their right to the properties to other clients, in what seems like a desperate act to save themselves from the suspected scam.
After receiving several legal complaints about the issue, the Court of Appeal in Casablanca is set to soon launch an investigation.