New Delhi - Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is under
investigation by Indian police for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the
collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed, a lawyer said on
The firm behind the development is alleged to have taken
millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded.
Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing one of the buyers, said
that police had filed initial charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy
against Sharapova as part of a wider case against the firm Homestead
The 30-year-old tennis star travelled to India in 2012 to
launch the luxury high-rise apartment complex - 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
"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 Singh.
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.
Police were not immediately available for comment on the
case, which is being heard in a Delhi court.
Calls to the developers also went unanswered. Sharapova has
not commented on the case.
The former world number one made almost $30 million in 2015,
according to Forbes, with $23 million of that coming from endorsements like the
project in Gurgaon.
She has had a stop-start season since her controversial
return to the game in April, following a 15-month doping ban.