THE PROPRIETORS of luxury condominiums in the Algarve have been thrown into panic following a spate of incidents involving a group of gypsies and a lucrative scam – activities that are resulting in developers being swindled out of thousands of euros. The problem is that, although it is a con, the scheme is entirely legal.
The strategy is simple but very effective. Túlia, well spoken with deep blue eyes, appears interested in purchasing an expensive apartment. A Contrato-Promessa de Compra e Venda, a preliminary sales contract, is signed upon receipt of a cash deposit. However, with the legal document safely in her possession, Túlia then introduces her family.
Dirty and dressed in rags, they cause several scenes such as the children discarding all their clothes and jumping into the communal pool, spreading dogs mess and various other displays of anti-social behaviour and disrespectful conduct.
In one particularly shocking incident, knives were displayed and the sound of gunshots could be heard. The seller or developer involved then finds it necessary to cancel the contract, a move that, by law, obliges them to refund the buyer with double the deposited amount.
Well known developments such as the Marina de Albufeira, Mourapraia and Terraços do Pinhal in Vilamoura are just some of the condominiums that have been targeted so far, as well as several in Armação de Pêra, Lagos and Albufeira. All have been duped and found themselves legally bound to pay between 15,000 and 45,000 euros. It is feared the con artists are also operating in Lisbon.
Some business owners claim to have also been subjected to threats of physical violence, however, one victim commented: “It isn’t worth presenting a complaint because this only causes more problems.” The developers believe that someone with a legal background could be behind this scam.
Captain António Matias of Albufeira GNR confirmed that the police have been informed of several incidents relating to the gypsies’ scam and warns: “It is necessary for promoters and developers in the real estate sector to be very vigilant.” The problem, he explains, is that the contract is legal and it is only possible for the authorities to intervene when there are threats of violence or behaviour which threatens the peace.