DOZENS of Irish customers of MacAnthony Realty International (MRI), an overseas property company owned by Darragh MacAnthony, have said that furniture they bought for their apartments has not been delivered and that the company has refused to refund them.
The MRI clients, who bought apartments in Cape Verde, Morocco, Romania and Cyprus, say that furniture “packs” costing an average of €15,000 per apartment had still not been delivered months, in some cases years, after they were due. Some say they have been unable to let their properties as they remain unfurnished.
A number also allege that MRI failed to meet the obligations of a “lifetime’s after sales service” bought for up to €800 each. Under the agreement, MacAnthony should have “snagged” customers’ properties and found tenants.
Eoin Morgan from Clontarf bought a furniture pack for his two-bedroom apartment in Royal Seacrest in Paphos, Cyprus in 2007, paying a 50% deposit of €6,500. In September 2008, Morgan was told by MRI that the company supplying the furniture, Decora, had ceased trading. He was told that MRI would honour his agreement if he paid the remaining 50%.
Morgan paid the balance but when he was told that his furniture would not be ready until six to eight weeks after he signed for the property, he asked for a refund.
“I had lost all faith in MRI. The furniture was never delivered and MRI never provided a refund,” he said. “I eventually managed to source furniture privately and, luckily, as I had paid with my credit card, I managed to get a refund through the card company.”
John Andrews of Ballycarry, Northern Ireland, who paid €29,440 for two furniture packs for two MRI apartments in Vila Verde, Cape Verde, has yet to get his furniture, despite having paid for one unit before Christmas. He says the lifetime afters ales service had not been provided either.
“The apartments were delayed in construction for nearly a year,” Andrews said.
“I was given regular assurances that the furniture would be shipped and installed as promised. But in November, new terms and conditions were supplied relating to the furniture deal. I hired a Spanish lawyer to either get my furniture or a refund but neither has happened.”
When Andrews asked MRI to “snag” his apartment, he was referred to another company, Solutions Overseas, which told him it would cost another €900.
Desmond Curran from Santry, north Dublin, is still awaiting delivery of a furniture pack he bought for his apartment in Bucharest in February 2008 for €11,000. Curran said communication from MRI had ceased in the past six months.
“There’s no word about getting the furniture or the money back. I’m stuck in limbo. Do you just write it off? – it takes a long time to save €11,000 – and pay a new company to furnish it. I haven’t been able to afford to furnish it anew, while at the same time I’m paying utility bills,” he said.
Dominic Pickering, the chief executive of MRI, has denied some of the claims made by clients of his company. For example, he said that Andrews “has never confirmed to us that his property purchases in Cape Verde have been completed despite us requesting this numerous times since the middle of last year”. Andrews claims that he has attempted to contact MRI through his lawyer, but the company refuses to deal with his counsel.
Pickering said that Morgan got “a full refund of the money he had paid us”. Morgan denied this, claiming he got only 50% of his money back.
The MRI chief executive said that he had not been given enough time to investigate other clients’ complaints passed on by this newspaper. He recently issued a circular to clients saying that “a stream of furniture companies” that MRI had dealt with had fallen victim to the global recession.
“Some went out of business through bad luck, others through bad management,” he said. “However, it left MRI with a huge challenge, as we had paid these companies millions to supply clients with furniture.”
Pickering admitted MRI had problems with suppliers in Bulgaria, “but there were also sizeable challenges in Morocco, Cape Verde, Turkey, Cyprus, to name but a few”. He claimed “matters had been resolved” in Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Germany. “Solutions to the situation in Italy and Cyprus have been found and they will be completed in early 2010,” he said. “The outstanding countries are being tackled gradually with an immediate concentration on Bulgaria.”
Pickering also said that the company was “90% of the way through solving [the problems] having installed over 1,000 furniture packs in 2009 alone”.
A previous Sunday Times investigation found that MRI staff used hard-sell tactics and lies to sell second homes to Irish and British buyers. Some employees were also found to have oversold the investment potential of overseas properties. Customers were told their mortgages would be covered with “guaranteed rents”, which never materialised.