Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova is reportedly being investigated by Indian police over the collapse of the development of a luxury housing complex near New Delhi that she endorsed.
The five-time Grand Slam champion, 30, has been accused of “cheating and criminal conspiracy” over her connections to the development of the complex, which folded after taking millions of dollars from homebuyers, the Times of India reports, referring to a lawyer representing an alleged victim.
The Russian tennis star traveled to India in 2012 to endorse the luxury apartment complex in Gurgaon, outside New Delhi, which she named ‘Ballet’, and which potential buyers were told would include a tennis academy and clubhouse.
The website of the project reportedly quoted Sharapova as saying she wanted to “make the owners feel like they own something special and different.”
The complex was planned to be completed in 2016, but construction work was abandoned after millions had been collected from homebuyers.
A wider case has been filed at a Delhi court against the developers, Homestead Infrastructure Development, although according to Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing one of the buyers, Sharapova has been implicated due to her endorsement of the project.
“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,” Singh told AFP.
Local police officer Arvind Sharma told AFP that “we have registered a case of cheating on directions from the court.”
Sharapova is yet to comment, and the developers did not answer calls from the media.
The Russian former world number one returned to action this year after a 15-month doping ban. She was the highest-paid female athlete in the world for 11 years in a row, according to Forbes, and made $23 million from endorsements in 2015.