Monthly Archives: August 2011

AN expat is taking Denmark’s biggest bank to court after it convinced him to use his Marbella mansion as collateral in an equity release scheme.

Euan Armstrong, 73, is in litigation after the scheme left him almost penniless with the bank trying to force him to sell his two million euro home to pay off debts. The pensioner had joined the Danske Bank scheme believing it would give him a salary for life, as well as reduce inheritance tax for his daughters – who would be liable to pay Spain’s top rate of 34 per cent.

But Armstrong, originally from Scotland, now faces losing his home. “The whole case is a mess of illegal contracts, bad investment and a loss of clients money in spite of Danske Banks’ huge profits,” Armstrong told the Olive Press. “We must stop these banks stealing our money.”

Armstrong claims he was convinced by three employees in the now-shut Mijas branch that taking out a million euro mortgage would reduce his two daughters Caroline and Kristen’s inheritance tax liability by half.

Illegal

Within the plan Danske Bank was supposed to use 850,000 euros to invest in bonds, Swiss Francs and Euros with the ‘profits’ being used to pay off the mortgage. Meanwhile, a 150,000 euro lump sum would be given to Armstrong as part of the equity release deal.

However things did not go to plan. After the first year Armstrong realised that the bank had actually lost him 18,000 euros. “And then for the next five years it continued to lose money and in 2009 I was told by an account manager in Luxembourg that I should sell my property and pay the bank back the 650,000 euros they had lost.” When he refused Danske Bank issued a foreclosure on his house and also a repossession order through Coin court, which would have taken place in July.

Fortunately however, his lawyer stepped in and obtained a court ruling suspending the repossession. According to boss Antonio Flores, of Lawbird – who is also filing eight separate cases against various Nordic banks in a similar situation – it is actually illegal to indebt yourself in order to reduce your inheritance tax liability.

Nonetheless, he estimates that hundreds of people fall victim to these schemes. “This type of product, peddled by unauthorised agents under the auspices of supposedly reputable banks is becoming more and more common and should be avoided at all costs,” he explained. A Danske Bank spokesman said: “According to the law we cannot comment on individual customer cases nor questions related to individual cases.”

The investigation continues.

The decision came unexpectedly: shortly after the Judge ruled in favour our client, a British citizen, SGR (Sociedad de Garantia Reciproca), defendants, filed a motion to appeal hoping to get the decision reversed and requested that enforcement of the ruling was stayed pending the Appeal Court decision, not before lodging the amount of the deposit with the Courts’ bank. 

But the Judge of the Court of First Instance either did not get the petition of stay on time or simply ignored it and, unexpectedly, handed over the payment order written out to BBVA bank to us so that we could collect the payment. Because under Spanish law, you are able to enforce execution of a ruling without having to wait for the appeal decision, nor provide a security in case the decision was reversed, and in this case the defendants SGR argued that if our client received the funds and took them to the United Kingdom, in the event of she losing the case on appeal, it would be difficult or impossible to get the payment back.

The case continues…

The Olive Press

Euan Armstrong, 73, who lives in Marbella, was initially lured in by the false hope he could reduce inheritance tax for his two daughters – who would eventually be liable to pay Spain’s top rate of 34 per cent – and enjoy a salary for life.

But Armstrong, originally from Scotland, now faces losing his home.

“The whole case is a mess of illegal contracts, bad investment and a loss of client’s money in spite of Danske Banks huge profits,” said Armstrong.

“We must stop these banks stealing our money.”

Armstrong claims he was convinced by three separate Danske Bank employees in the Mijas branch that taking out a one million euro mortgage loan against his home would reduce his daughters’ inheritance tax liability by half.

Within the plan Danske Bank was supposed to use 850,000 euros to invest in bonds, Swiss Francs and Euros with the ‘profits’ being used to pay off the mortgage, while a 150,000 euro lump sum would be given to Armstrong as equity release.

But Armstrong added: “After the first year I realised that they had lost me 18,000 euros. For the next five years Danske Bank continued to lose money and in 2009 I was told by an account manager for Danske Bank in Luxembourg that I should sell my property and pay the bank back the 650,000 euros they had lost.

“I refused, so in November 2010 Danske Bank issued a foreclosure on my house and also a repossession order through the local court due to take place last month.”

Fortunately for Armstrong, his lawyer Antonio Flores from the Marbella based firm Lawbird – who is also filing eight separate complaints against various Nordic banks on behalf of expats who bought into similar plans – stepped in and obtained a court ruling suspending the repossession.

According to Flores it is actually illegal to indebt yourself in order to reduce your inheritance tax liability, but there are likely hundreds of people who have fallen victim to this scheme.

“This type of product, peddled by unauthorised agents under the auspices of supposedly reputable banks to mostly British pensioners, is becoming more and more common and should be avoided at all costs,” he explained.

And Armstrong added: “The Judge in Coin Court has accepted that the charges of criminal intent are correct, in spite of their lawyers saying it was not correct as someone else had tried a similar case and lost and had to pay 500.000 euros to Danske Bank, who had lost their money in the same way.”

Armstrong has now been forced to rent out his home and move in with his daughter and resume his former job as a yacht captain in order to raise legal fees.

A spokesman for Danske Bank said: “According to the law we cannot comment on individual customer cases nor questions related to individual customer cases. We have no comment.”

The investigation continues.

 

Story by Sean O'Hare | The Telegraph

Danske Bank, Denmark

Denmark’s biggest bank faces a criminal investigation amid claims it offered “illegal” financial products Photo: Francis Dean/Rex Features

Six years on, Mr Armstrong is forced to live with one of his daughters as he prepares to take on the bank that promised so much yet threatens to leave him penniless.

His lawyer is filing eight similar complaints against various Nordic banks on behalf of expats who bought into equity release plans in the false hope that they could avoid inheritance tax and enjoy a salary for life. He believes the true number of victims could run into the hundreds.

Scottish-born Mr Armstrong, aware that his daughters would eventually be liable to pay Spain’s top rate of 34 per cent inheritance tax on the €2 million home he owned outright in Malaga, sought the advice of an independent financial advisor known to advise British expat pensioners living on the coast.

The advisor, who was allegedly unauthorised to sell financial products in Spain, suggested Danske Bank’s Capital Assurance product as a means to reduce liability and introduced him to the local Danske Bank branch in Mijas. He too faces possible criminal investigations.

Mr Armstrong alleges that he was assured by no less than three Danske Bank employees that taking out a €1 million Danske Bank mortgage loan against his home and effectively indebting himself would reduce his daughters’ inheritance tax liability by half.

It was agreed that €850,000 would be used by Danske Bank to invest and the profits used to pay off the mortgage, while a €150,000 lump sum would be given to Mr Armstrong as equity release.

According to Mr Armstrong’s lawyer Antonio Flores from Lawbird Legal Services , it is illegal to indebt yourself in order to reduce your inheritance tax liability.

He said: “This type of product, peddled by unauthorised agents under the auspices of supposedly reputable banks to mostly British pensioners, is becoming more and more common and should be avoided at all costs.”

The Danske bank mortgage loan of €850,000, Mr Armstrong was told, would be invested in bonds, Swiss Francs and Euros.

Mr Armstrong said: “After the first year I realised that they had lost me £18,000. For the next five years Danske Bank continued to lose money and in 2009 I was told by an account manager for Danske Bank in Luxembourg that I should sell my property and pay the bank back the €650,000 they had lost.

“I refused, so in November 2010 Danske Bank issued a foreclosure on my house and also a repossession order through the local court due to take place last month.”

Fortunately for Mr Armstrong, his lawyer obtained a court ruling suspending the reposession following the lodging of criminal complaints against the bank and its staff.

Mr Armstrong has now been forced to rent out his home and resume his former job as a yacht captain in order to raise legal fees.

A spokeman for Danske Bank said: “According to the law we cannot comment on individual customer cases nor questions related to individual customer cases. We have no comment.”

The investigation continues.