A BRAZILIAN property developer that has netted millions from Singapore has apparently shuttered its office here.
The move came shortly after the firm was put on the Singapore central bank's investor alert list just last month.
The latest turn of events has left some of EcoHouse's investors in Singapore worried about whether they will get the returns they were promised.
EcoHouse builds social housing projects for former slum dwellers in Brazil. It had offered investors returns of about 20 per cent after just one year, on investment sums as low as $46,000.
However, several investors have claimed that they have not been paid despite their contracts having reached maturity.
EcoHouse Group's office on the 42nd storey of Suntec Tower Two was dark and empty when The Straits Times visited yesterday afternoon, though there was still a piece of paper stuck to the glass doors that stated the firm's opening hours.
A woman working in a firm on the same floor, who declined to be named, said that the office had been closed since the start of last week.
Calls to the Singapore office number given on EcoHouse's website went to an answering machine yesterday.
Some Singapore investors in EcoHouse told The Straits Times on Friday last week that the firm had not informed them that it was closing its office here.
But while some said the office closure made them concerned that they might never get their money back, others held out hope.
"It makes them seem more like a fly-by-night company," said Mr Ang Eng Chong, 36, who has invested $46,000 with EcoHouse.
He said he was supposed to get his capital, plus 20 per cent interest, back in March this year, but did not.
EcoHouse then promised to pay him just the 20 per cent interest, or $9,200, in May this year but failed to again, he said.
However, other investors said they believed they would eventually get their money back.
"As long as the projects are there it's not a scam. It's just a matter of time - I hope," said Mr S.K. Tan, 60, citing how EcoHouse's housing projects were backed by the Brazilian government.
He said that he had previously received a payout from the first phase of EcoHouse's building projects, though he has yet to see returns from his investment in subsequent phases.
EcoHouse chief operations officer Deen Bissessar had not responded by press time yesterday to Straits Times queries sent last week.
However, Mr Bissessar told website PropertyGuru.com.sg last week that EcoHouse had "taken measures to consolidate into our Brazil operation and managing global affairs from our global headquarters in London".
"Singapore investors should ideally view this as a further measure to improve the overall company position, thereby allowing us to complete our contracts with them faster," he said, according to the report on the website.
"We are doing everything we can to improve the situation with regard to construction and payments."
The Sunday Times reported in March last year that EcoHouse had netted $70 million from Singapore investors for three of its Brazilian housing projects.
Mr Ang told The Straits Times that he had filed a police report against the firm about a month ago.
A police spokesman confirmed last Friday that this report had been lodged, but declined to disclose whether the police were investigating.
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