A luxury development abandoned by its fugitive promoter just before completion a decade ago has been in legal limbo and occupied by squatters ever since. That will soon change.
Joaquín Moreno, owner of a development company called Brava Park, started building nine luxury villas valued at €1.8m each in the Balco de Balis urbanisation of Sant Vicenç de Montalt, on the Catalan Maresme coast, back in 2003. The Costa Maresme and Sant Vicenç de Montalt are just north of Barcelona and increasingly popular with foreign buyers who want to live on the coast near a city like Barcelona.
But by 2008 Moreno was on the run from the Spanish police, suspected of being a drug lord, and his whereabouts are still unknown to the authorities. If Moreno shows up in Spain he will be arrested, tried, and probably sent to prison, so it’s unlikely he is going to make any claims over this broken development on the Maresme coast.
Building work was 95% finished when Moreno fled Spain. He stopped paying the bills, after which squatters – including the development’s security guard owed unpaid wages – moved in.
Moreno’s trouble with the police, and the Spanish real estate crash, arrived around the same time. Brava Park defaulted on its developer mortgage, ownership of which bounced around during Spain’s traumatic bank restructuring after boom turned to bust, and ended up the hands of the Sareb (Spain’s so-called ‘Bad Bank’).
With Moreno in hiding, Brava Park insolvent, and the banks in chaos, the development spent years in legal limbo occupied by Gypsy families and other squatters. Well-healed local residents complained to the town hall about the situation, but the local authorities were powerless to evict the squatters, reports the Spanish press.
It has taken almost ten years for the development to be repossessed, the squatters evicted, and the asset put up for auction, which is expected to take place before the end of August. The drug lord owner makes this case more complicated than most, but it still goes to show how long it can take to sort out problems like this in Spain. And all the while neighbours are unhappy, town halls receive less taxes, and capital is tied up unproductively. Nobody benefits, except perhaps squatters.