Sharapova named in India luxury housing fraud probe
NEW DELHI: Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is under investigation in India for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed, police and a lawyer said on Tuesday.
The firm behind the development is alleged to have taken millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded.
“We have registered a case of cheating on directions from the court,” said local police officer Arvind Sharma.
He said Sharapova and the firm behind the development, Homestead Infrastructure Development, were named in the case.
The 30-year-old tennis star travelled to India in 2012 to launch the luxury high-rise apartment complex — later named Ballet by Sharapova — which prospective buyers were told would house a tennis academy, a clubhouse, and a helipad.
The website of the project quotes Sharapova as saying her goal was to “make the owners feel like they own something special and different”.
“Any celebrity who endorses any product technically becomes an agent for that company. No one would have invested in the project if Sharapova’s name was not there,” said Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing the complainant.
The project in Gurgaon — a satellite city of the capital New Delhi — was supposed to be ready in 2016 but, Singh said, construction work was abandoned after builders collected millions from homebuyers.
Calls to the developers went unanswered. Maria Sharapova has not yet commented on the case.
Sharapova, a former world number one, made almost $30 million in 2015, according to Forbes, with $23 million of that coming from endorsements.
She has had a stop-start season since her controversial return to the game in April, following a 15-month doping ban.