THEY had hoped to follow in the footsteps of bestselling author Chris Stewart and build their own dream home in the Alpujarras.
But British couple Neil and Caroline Riddoch’s plans quickly became a nightmare, after it turned out they had paid €92,000 to fraudsters for land in a nearby village.
After seven years of legal wrangling and court costs, London-based businessman Riddoch thought the thieves had finally been brought to justice when they were found guilty at Granada’s Supreme Court in 2013.
However, more than two years later, Riddoch, 56, has received less than 10% of the money he is owed for the 2006 purchase in Carataunas.
And worse than that the pair of fraudsters haven’t spent a second behind bars.
“After they were found guilty of defrauding me, my barrister told me I had two options. They could either serve their one-year sentences immediately, or have them suspended for 18 months and be made to pay me back entirely during that time.
“I was told I would get my money back quicker if they didn’t go to prison, I thought I had won.”
But Riddoch has, to date, received just €10,400, which only covers the court fees on the day of their sentencing. The crooks, who run a mining business near Sevilla, have not refunded any of the initial €92,000 they charged Riddoch.
They had managed to pretend the estate was theirs by registering it illegally at Granada’s land register office (Catastro).
Riddoch, boss of London printing company Colour Fast World, only realised the con after he was sued by the land’s real owner when he saw electric pylons and a generator spring up.
Caught up in a legal minefield, he even ended up paying the actual owner thousands in legal fees.
In total he estimates he lost €200,000, which includes €47,000 in legal fees plus what he paid in land tax, translation and travelling.
“It’s about justice now and I would forgo the money just to see those two fraudsters go to jail,” Riddoch told the Olive Press this week.
“On the day of the sentencing, they smiled as they left court because they said they were lucky to avoid prison. They actually went to buy lottery tickets,” he added.
The couple have now given up on a life in Spain, opting to purchase a second home in France instead.