‘Burnt By The Sun’ – Episode 2
Episode 2 of #BurntByTheSun, due to be broadcast on April 6th now appears on RTE1 in Ireland on Monday May 18th at 9.35pm. It will also be available on the RTE Player for 21 days after this if you are within Ireland.
You’ll find reviews of Episode 1 and a preview of what you can expect to find in Episode 2 below.
Coming to your screens in March & May 2020 is a documentary series by Cornelia Street Productions for RTE TV, called ‘Burnt By The Sun’. Episode 1 was aired on Monday March 30th 2020 at 9.35pm. The programme had a whopping audience (for Ireland which only has a population of 4.8m) of almost 450k. It’s a big audience in these days of ubiquitous streaming and online platforms. The COVID-19 lock-in countrywide probably didn’t do the numbers any harm.
Episode 2 airs on May 18th, also at 9.35pm, also on Ireland’s RTE 1 TV station. If you are outside Ireland the player won’t work for you, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss other ways you may be able to access it.
I’ll discuss ‘episode 2’ shortly, first a brief review of how ‘episode 1’ was received by critics and the public.
‘Burnt By The Sun’ Episode 1 dealt with issues in Spain, Italy and Turkey. It included reference to the potential for a Spanish Reclaim recompense for those who paid for Spanish property that was never built through Ley 57/68 (what is Ley 57/68).
Over at the Irish Independent, John Boland’s take on the programme was:
What with Claire Byrne still self-isolating in her shed and Ryan Tubridy similarly hors de combat at home, it was startling to watch the first instalment of Burnt by the Sun (RTÉ1), where we saw the Irish behaving as if the world was their oyster and there was no limit to their tomorrows.
In the words of the introductory voiceover, this was when “the madness of the Celtic Tiger era was epitomised by our unbridled spending on overseas properties”, and we were shown archive footage of financial guru Eddie Hobbs deeming it “extraordinary how we lust after property”.
How far in the past it all seems now and, come to that, whatever happened to Eddie, who was such an ubiquitous media pundit during those heady years? Still around, I gather, though no longer RTÉ’s instant go-to guy for cautionary economic insights.
Caution, though, had been thrown to the winds by the people who featured in the five stories here: with properties bought straight off the plans, sight unseen, or from criminal conmen who flew their clients over to Spain or Turkey and wined and dined them before extracting deposits for apartments that either never got built or contravened local planning laws and had to be demolished.
The viewer was clearly meant to sympathise with these gullible souls, but that proved difficult, given that most of us had the good sense not to risk our modest incomes and livelihoods on such unproven and unknowable pipe dreams.
Dublin developer Harry Crosbie put it in a nutshell at the close of this week’s instalment: “I wouldn’t buy somewhere in Donnybrook because I don’t know Donnybrook.
Very prescient words indeed. It turns out that not only did poor old Harry not know Donnybrook, he didn’t get much of a handle on the Docklands either, for that matter. Which was unfortunate, seeing as most of his speculative fortune was invested there before it all went spectacularly wrong. (For context, Donnybrook is where RTE is based. It is in a very popular and expensive postcode in Dublin known as Dublin 4 or D4. Harry Crosbie owned the Point Depot, now the 3 Arena in Dublin’s Docklands, among many other property related projects before they were taken over by the National Asset Management Agency [NAMA] after the financial crisis).
You can find John Boland’s full piece at https://bit.ly/2X8VZP9
This was the Irish Times’ take on Episode 1 of ‘Burnt by the Sun’:
Coronavirus has turned the world upside down. One of the strange side-effects has been to cast the 2008 financial crisis – in Ireland, essentially a property meltdown – in a more benign light.
Yes, it was terrible. Lives were ruined. Some of us are still living with the crippling debts that ensued. But at least you could range far and wide from your negative equity property and didn’t have to fret about the wellbeing of elderly relatives living under de facto house arrest – however well-intentioned and necessary it is.
So it’s strange to be reminded of that period by Burnt by the Sun (RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm), a piece of recession “nostalgia” that recounts the nightmare experiences of people who accepted the dream sold by overseas sales people and developers. We meet Armagh native Ollie Reel, who in 2006 remortgaged his home in order to pay for a beachside holiday home in Estepona, Spain. Ollie has worked with hundreds of Irish people who have lost deposits on properties bought off-plan in Spain.
“We assumed everything was going well and then a brother of mine went out on holiday to Spain in 2008,” he recalls. “He said, ‘Why don’t I have a look round and see what’s happening,’ and the news he came back with wasn’t good. There hadn’t even been a sod turned on the site. Alarm bells started ringing.”
A story of sun-kissed dreams turned to ashes is similarly relayed by sales executive Christine Matthews, who was 27 when she remortgaged her west Dublin home to buy an apartment in Calabria. But the development stalled after Italian police began to look into links with the ’Ndrangheta, the southern Italian mafia. She continues to live with the consequences.
“I ended up remortgaging [my own home] for close to [€300,000] … and that’s back in 2007,” she says. “The property was probably only worth €220,000. Roll on a year and a half, when the value … went back to around €100 grand. Over 10 years now, it’s still in negative equity. I’m still paying for Italy … I’m paying a much heftier mortgage. I still haven’t recouped anything from the whole saga.”
A parade of financial woe doesn’t necessarily make for gripping TV. But Burnt by the Sun juxtaposes the misery with gorgeous shots of exotic destinations. Even as they bristle with the skeletal outlines of half-finished apartments, the landscapes glimmer in the heat.
It’s a reminder of the allure such destinations hold for all of us confined to rainy, dreary Ireland at present. It also reminds us of another era of fear, of negative equity and job losses. This latest crisis has brought those worries right back – along with so many new ones.
You can read Ed Power’s full review in the Irish Times here.
Reactions to Episode 1 on Twitter lacked a little fellow-feeling, but that’s Twitter for you – where empathy goes to die. See graphic below (click for a larger version).
‘Burnt By The Sun’ – What’s in ‘Episode 2’?
Episode 2 will deal with issues relating to French Leaseback and property investments that have gone awry in Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Dubai and India. French Leaseback will be of interest to a lot of people because of how heavily it was marketed before the financial crisis. For a product initially considered relatively reputable, in a predominantly stable EU economy, it is flabbergasting how many people have lost fortunes investing French Leaseback property. It has turned out to be an absolute nightmare for most of those involved.
Garrigae Leaseback Investment ‘Prospectus’ from 2006
Along with the exploits of a number of French Leaseback promoters, you’ll be treated to the shenanigans of the Ciarán Maguire Group. (just do a search on YouTube for ‘Ciaran Maguire Group’ or ‘Palm View Resorts’, at time of publishing this there are still some videos of Ciarán Maguire online outlining the utter madness, see the finished product below).
OK, I understand that in retrospect the concept of anybody falling for 10% returns for 20 years (i.e. getting twice the value of the property back in rental) is quite ludicrous. But it appears to have worked for him. He duped a lot of people with his bullshittery Trumpian approach.
Ciarán Maguire is a one-time member of boy band N.V. who decided to start marketing property in Cape Verde in the middle of the financial crisis. He used the backing of his father, Christopher, and his good name in the powder coating company Flexi Group (and it is presumed his financial backing), to launch a real estate sales company. To add insult to injury, the company was called Flash Developments – I kid you not. It purported to sell property in the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Senegal, as well as in the Dominican Republic and St. Lucia in the Caribbean. It transpired that the company owned no land at all – anywhere. Despite some incredible claims (like starting an airline to fly 747 planes from Ireland to Cape Verde – even though Cape Verde still doesn’t have a runway long enough to land one), Maguire managed to secure deposits from hundreds of clients before disappearing into the mist. He also ventured further afield, claiming launches of new resorts in both the Dominican Republic and St. Lucia, before disappearing from public view altogether.
Episode 2 carries out a brief foray into Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai didn’t allow ownership of freehold property by foreigners until 2002. This coincided with Ireland’s voracious appetite for purchasing property overseas. At that stage Dubai’s proactive ruler, Sheikh Al Maktoum, figured that the Emirate was running out of its primary cash driver – oil. Something was needed to replace it, so he decided that turning Dubai into the building site of the Middle East was the way to go. It heralded the initiation of some of the most cutting edge and, to be honest, downright weird, building developments the world has ever seen. Some, like the Palm Islands, the ski-slope attached to the Kempinski Hotel (yes, a ski-slope in the desert – environmentalists the world over shudder), the Burj Al Arab, the Mall of Arabia and the Burj Khalifa were built. But many more were not. Some such as The World, 20 minutes boat ride off the coast. quite tragically. The programme investigates.
The episode also deals with the endeavours of a group of Irish investors in the Sunset Resort in Pomorie, Bulgaria. Despite receiving their properties (following a developer absconding and the development being taken over by Irish sales agents, the Neil O’Reilly run Platinum Developments), owners have been left with a trail of bills and ongoing abuse by the management company run by Boyan Bonev. Prior to purchase the investors were told that Platinum would be responsible for management of the resort. On completion, however, it was entirely handed over to Bonev’s company. It is asserted that he has continually abused owners, foisting upon them numerous unexpected, unwarranted and inexplicable charges and cutting off utilities when they are not paid. This makes the units incapable of being let, which leaves owners between a rock and a hard place.
Finally, there will also be coverage of Kuvera India, VG Buildtech and the respective owners Kieran Murphy and Vinay Bansal. Kuvera heavily promoted the off-plan Orchard View and Mountain View developments in Rudrapur, India in 2007 and 2008. They were to be built by Bansal’s VG Buildtech. Within a fairly short period it became obvious that there were huge problems. Money disappeared, recriminations began and nothing was ever built. Through the courts, investors eventually got access to all of Murphy’s assets in the UK and South Africa. They also liquidated VG Buildtech’s portion of the project, but didn’t even recover enough to cover their expenses.
Overview – What is the series ‘Burnt by the Sun’ about?
The premise of the series is to examine the problems encountered by Irish citizens who have purchased property abroad and discuss any potential remedies available to them, if any.
Here is the promo for the series:
The Press Release from the ‘Burnt By The Sun’ PR team runs as follows:
Burnt By The Sun – RTE1
‘Burnt by The Sun’ is a two part documentary series for RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, which may also potentially be screened by other broadcasters.
It is due for transmission in March/April 2020. Filming will take place between November 2019 and January 2020. The main locations will be Spain, France, Bulgaria, Ireland, Dubai, Turkey, Portugal and Cape Verde.
Irish people share their stories of buying property abroad during Celtic Tiger times and the road they’ve travelled since. The programme will reveal how, over fifteen years later, some buyers are still struggling to escape what has become a never-ending nightmare. Others are resigned to the ongoing cost of their investment while many continue to battle on, trying to recoup their losses.
Each of our stories will focus on a different dilemma – those who bought off-plan property that was never completed, buyers still paying hefty mortgages today for their unrealised dreams. Illegally built homes, some demolished or awaiting the arrival of the bulldozers, many without access to basic utilities like water and electricity. As a result, the properties are uninhabitable and unsaleable.
Some buyers have discovered their leases are virtually perpetual and selling-on involves fines and penalties often greater than the value of the property.
Overseas owners continue to wrestle with difficult decisions in the face of, in some instances, plummeting values with uninhabitable or unsaleable homes.
Experts will offer insights into those who took the plunge and those who are still thinking of investing or buying their dream holiday home today. We will update on recent developments whereby old laws have been dusted off, enforced but also amended and reveal new laws that have been put in place.
Archive material will remind us of the economic climate of the time and the lure of easy return and ‘risk free’ investments.
Where possible, we will offer hope, advice and new options to those navigating through difficulties with overseas properties and ask decision makers and influencers what they can and will do to protect Irish and European consumers with property abroad. As we ask the question – would buying abroad today be any different?
Cornelia Street Productions
16 Fitzwilliam Square E,
00353 1 662 1030
Burnt By The Sun – Episode 2