Grand Slam champ Sharapova investigated over failed luxury tower in India

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova is being investigated in India for "cheating" in a failed luxury residential project that she endorsed before her doping ban, police and a lawyer said yesterday.

Sharapova, shown in 2006, made $23m from endorsements in 2015 (Wikimedia Commons)

The firm behind the striking Sharapova-branded development in Gurgaon is alleged to have taken millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded. It was designed by London-based international architect UHA.

"We have registered a case of cheating on directions from the court," local police officer Arvind Sharma told news agency AFP.

He said Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, 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.

According to UHA’s website the 9-acre development was "an innovative combination of luxury hi-rise residential apartments with a professional tennis academy", featuring a 150-m-high tower with 220 residential units.

The website of the project quotes Sharapova as saying her goal was to "make the owners feel like they own something special and different".

The developer called the project an "architectural master-piece exuding graceful femininity and strength, athleticism and elegance".

But the project’s failure puts Sharapova, who was banned from tennis for doping, in the legal firing line.

"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.

According to the lawyer the project was supposed to be ready in 2016 but construction work was abandoned after millions of dollars were collected by homebuyers.

AFP said calls to the developers went unanswered and that Sharapova has not yet commented on the case.

A former world number one, Sharapova made $23m from endorsements in 2015, said Forbes, reporting that some sponsors were turning away after the doping scandal, which saw her banned from professional tennis for 15 months to April this year.

Image: Architect UHA’s render of the Ballet Tower planned for Gurgaon, India (UHA London)

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