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All that glitters is not Nigel Goldman as seasoned British fraudster vanishes over millions of missing money in Spain

January 25th, 2014

He was one of Andalucia’s best known expats, a loveable rogue who was said to have mended his ways. But recent ventures have put paid to that, with clients of Nigel Goldman demanding to know where their money has gone. The Olive Press reveals how he went from boarding school rower to one of Europe’s leading fraudsters and how it has happened for a FIFTH time

EXCLUSIVE: By Jon Clarke and Giles Brown

IT was characteristic of the larger-than-life fraudster Nigel Goldman that when the Olive Press recently reported how he was being sought in a three million euro financial scandal, that he ‘liked’ it on his Facebook page.

The perennial joker, who regaled the coast with stories and jokes at fundraising galas, on radio shows and in his regular restaurant column in the Euro Weekly News, could never quite face up to the truth.

Somehow he liked to believe that he was one of the chosen few, a friend to the stars, including Joan Collins, Anthony Worrall Thomson and James Hewitt. And that he was something of a celebrity himself.

Driving a top-of-the-range Mercedes and living in a palatial home in Elviria, near Marbella, ‘Sir’ Nigel, as he insisted on being called, liked to give the impression of being a staunch pillar of the community.

The truth however is rather different: For Goldman is a fraudster, who simply cannot help himself.

Over nearly three decades the portly businessman has made and lost millions of his – and more crucially – other people’s money… and then made light of it.

Indeed, in his bestselling autobiography High Stakes, he wrote of the loss of 14 million euros: “It was my clients’ money. But I wasn’t going to let that small detail worry me. I was out to enjoy myself”.

The book, published in 2004, tells the story of his rollercoaster ride in which he conned hundreds of victims over 10 years and landed up in prison twice.

More crucially it ends in Spain a decade ago, having fled the UK over a third scandal in which the ‘shit hit the fan’ and he ‘fuc**d the bank’ again.

So, one might well ask why anyone would consider putting their money in the hands of such a shady advisor?

A basic search of the internet throws up some eye-catching information on Goldman, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and attended a 30,000-euros-a-year school, known as the ‘Jewish Eton’ Carmel College.

There are the eight entries on the Rip Off Report website alone, not to mention countless other pages, including one for another book by him on gambling scams.

But the Costa del Sol is a long way away from Britain and, as many people say, people often ‘leave their brains at the airport’ when they arrive here.

But the sad truth is he was built up by a succession of radio shows and his regular newspaper columns, that also included his ‘Guru’ articles in the magazine Smart Gambler plus a regular appearance in Talk Radio Europe’s Viewpoint programme along with his good friend Barry Nathan.

It was with Nathan that he also became best known as the coast’s leading bon viveur. Accompanied by Nathan, Nigel indulged his taste for fine dining, styling himself as a Marbella Michael Winner for his regular column in the Euro Weekly News, a paper he tipped as the coast’s ‘key’ business.

Described as the ‘gourmet dining correspondent’ he would review any restaurant that advertised and when not at work, would spend his time hanging out in James Hewitt’s seminal restaurant Polo House, boasting how the ex of Princess Diana was a ‘close chum’ of his.

It certainly worked with the ladies. Rarely without a glass of champagne in his hand and a floozy on his arm (his Facebook page is literally littered with photographs of a string of louche looking women) he was seen as the archetypal playboy.

And he wasn’t scared to travel to see ‘his girlfriends’, dating a Scottish food blogger Annie Manson, better known as Annie B, from Vejer de la Frontera, as well as more recently the glamorous Suzanne Couling, from Berkshire.

Somewhere in the ether, he had mysteriously ‘acquired’ a knighthood and insisted that the prefix ‘Sir’ went before his name. He boasted how it got him upgraded on flights and he even had it etched on his credit cards and his bank statements.

After winning a trading competition on Talk Radio Europe’s previous guise REM, in which he turned 100,000 euros into 2.7million, he pretty much had it made. The die had been cast.

In the words of one leading media owner, Goldman had ‘been given a second chance, and somehow we all fell for it’.

He started by offering his services as a financial advisor and trader, via a string of companies including Petersham coins and stamps, Harvard Private Client and, most recently, International Financial Investments (whose acronym ironically spells ‘IFI’).

Promising guaranteed returns of over 10% on investments, he backed it up by insisting he had millions invested in the gold and coin market, as well as numerous property schemes in Spain and Morocco.

Unsuspecting clients were quickly bowled over and sent money to a string of accounts in Spain, Germany, the UK, the Isle of Man and even Tangiers, and were assured by the smooth-talking Goldman that they were investing wisely.

As had been his modus operandi in the UK, he snared his clients via costly advertising and trade shows, where, as he wrote in his book, you found investors with ‘defenselessness, greed and gullibility’.

His main thrust for business in Spain appears to have been via his radio show on Spectrum FM giving financial advice, market news and share tips in a five minute slot each day, plus an extended 30 minute show on Friday.

He would then meet clients at a number of upmarket hotels around the region to ‘help them’ invest their money.

One couple based in Mojacar, in Almeria, told the Olive Press this week how they met him with his girlfriend Suzanne at the five star Parador after his regular show, which was recorded in the nearby Spectrum FM studio.

Immediately offered a ‘glass of something’ they were schmoozed in the classic way of a fraudster and promised an amazing ‘minimum’ monthly return of 11% on their investment.

“We met him a few times before investing and really thought he was kosher,” explained the retired purchasing manager, 63, from Accrington, who has asked to remain anonymous for legal reasons.

“He was sold as this seriously knowledgeable moneyman on Spectrum FM and he would roll up in his black Mercedes and always had a nice room at the hotel.”

He would brag about his money and last time we saw him boasted about having recently bought 12 beachfront apartments in Tangier.

He continues: “He would brag about his money and last time we saw him boasted about having recently bought 12 beachfront apartments in Tangier. He said he was hoping to make loads of money from them. I think he was planning to move there.”

The end result of a couple of meetings and a meal out with the victims was a number of transfers between 2011 and 2013 that amounted to 146,000 pounds.

In return they received a ‘guaranteed income bond’, which paid back 11% a month and always did, with often a bit more, until last year.

“We invested into a range of his products, including his ‘Fantasy Portfolio’, which is precious metals, I think, and more recently IFI,” added the expat, who has now reported his dealings to the police.

Things seemed to be fine until in October their monthly payment did not arrive.

“When we contacted him he said something about an embargo over a tax bill from 2008 and all his assets had been frozen. We have heard nothing since and are very worried about our investment.”

Another victim Geoffrey Whitton, 48, based in Madrid, believes that Goldman had been planning his departure from Spain for some months and knew the ‘gravy train was coming to an end’.

The writer, who invested 20,000 euros with Goldman, smelt a rat and came down to Marbella last summer to confront him.

But, while he wanted to know what had happened with his money Goldman was more interested in ‘loading’ his investment and getting more from the former chef, from Cornwall.

“He said he was going away in mid October and that he would be rid of me then. I didn’t really know what he meant. I do now,” said Whitton, who has cooked at Kensington Palace.

Curiously when the Olive Press had probed Goldman on the subject in November, he had insisted via email that Whitton was ‘unreliable’ and had been making up claims of sex abuse about him.

“He has made false allegations against me of being involved in a child abuse ring in Morocco,” he said. “I believe he is of the opinion that I have ‘done a runner’ with his funds. This is plainly untrue, and I would urge you to be very careful of this individual.”

Another client, a publisher based in America, believes that the wheels started to come off when Goldman started to invest his clients’ money into a Ponzi scheme run by a now disgraced firm MMS.

First investing with him in 2008, the businessman has stayed in close contact with Goldman, and by his own admittance has made a ‘healthy profit’ from him.

He said: “Goldman introduced me to a company called MMS (Montague Morgan Slade) which I know handled large sums of his clients’ funds.

“I would suspect this is where the problem lies, as this firm received a lot of bad publicity recently for running a Ponzi scheme, and one of the directors ended up in prison. I believe a lot of Goldman’s clients funds ended up in this scheme.”

He added: “I made a healthy profit from his trading and I am scared that I may be asked to repay my profits to make good the losses suffered by others, as is what happened in the Madoff case.”

Lawyer Antonio Flores from Lawbird, in Marbella, who is representing a number of the victims, fears that the scandal has all the hallmarks of a Ponzi-type scheme and so far all that is known is the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

He said last night: “We believe the fraud is already well over three million euros. We have so far spoken to 10 victims and we know of another who gave him 850,000 euros alone.

“He was very good and his schemes were not just reserved for the British expats. One German expat walked in here the other day having invested 50,000 with him.”

So where is Nigel now?

EMPTY: Goldman's four bedroom Elviria home

EMPTY: Goldman’s four bedroom Elviria home

When the Olive Press visited his four bedroom Elviria home this week, he had clearly moved out.

While the letterbox still bore his name, neighbours insisted that he has not been seen for months and he had ‘fled’ even leaving three of his cats.

“The police were around one day asking questions and the next day he had literally gone,” revealed expat Jennifer Cook. “There was always a string of people coming in and out and Nigel gave the impression he was a fixer. He could sort anything out.”

It seems he is currently dividing his time between the UK and Morocco, where he has invested millions in real estate deals.

According to one Olive Press reader, who bumped into him in at hotel lobby in Fez, last week, he was ‘very unhappy’ to be recognised.

“He has grown a moustache and lost five kilos” he said. “And when he realised that he had been recognised, he fled”.

The case is being partly handled by the Guardia Civil in Mojacar and by the National Police in Marbella. While they are being tight-lipped about the case at present, lawyer Flores believes that an arrest warrant will be issued within weeks.

“And then the heat will really be on,” he said.

It seems that although everyone may well deserve a second chance, Goldman has more than blown his and, with the authorities now actively looking for him, his champagne lifestyle may once again be over.

In the Media ,

Day in court for expat who lost €1m to ‘thieving’ bank

January 21st, 2014

AN expatriate who lost €1million to a ‘thieving bank’ has taken it to court.

Euan Armstrong, 75, says he has lost his life savings after being sold an ‘illegal’ equity release scheme that was supposed to protect his estate from inheritance tax.
Danske bank ‘mortgaged his house’ then invested the cash in its own financial products. Not only did Danske not deliver on the promised €35,000 of annual investment income but they then began charging him tens of thousands in commissions and ‘charges’ – €18,000 the first year, even more the next, up to an average of €55,000 per year – before  trying to re-possess his home near Coin.

That has left Euan, and he says, hundreds of others out of pocket to the tune of possibly hundreds of million of euros.

Armstrong told EuroWeekly that “my €1 million investment was spiraling downward to where by 2010, I’d lost €850,000 of it,” with Danske after him to pay what they had lost. Left destitute, he says, “I had to put my own house up for rental in order to live and eat.” He has since been forced out of retirement and back to work as a yacht captain.

NOT GIVING UP: Euan Armstrong says he is one of hundreds

Giving up the fight against Danske is impossible for Armstrong because, according to him, “I’m only one of hundreds.” In response, he linked up with fellow ‘equity release’ fraud victim Ian Sherdley to form the Equity Release Victims Association (ERVA, www.erva.es) which empowers similar victims to speak out with ERVA’s support. Antonio Flores of Lawbird Legal Services confirms that 500-600 people have fallen prey to illegal mortgages schemes totaling €175 million along the Costa.

Armstrong accuses multiple banks—“They’re all doing it,” he says—of targeting the elderly, retired demographic, those without mortgages, so as “to get their money off them.” In the meantime, Armstrong claims innocent people are dying from corollary effects like alcoholism. He says the stress has brought on an irregular heart beat while his brother John has since passed away. “The banks are waiting for people to die,” he states, explaining that if banks wait it out long enough, they win. Law firms fighting these cases have made little progress because the banks “just don’t answer.” Armstrong sentiments were unequivocal: “They’re thieving, robbing *****.”

Armed with 1,030 pages of evidence on Armstrong’s case, a Malaga court has overturned a previous Danske appeal by declaring the case is indeed criminal, not merely civil. Now Henrik Hjerrild and Morten Runo, two top executives from Danske Bank International S.A.’s Luxembourg office, have been summoned by a Fuengirola court for suspected criminal financial dealings.

What is next for Armstrong? “Wait and hope the bank will cancel the mortgage. Then I’ll sue for damages. The situation has brought financial ruin.”

In the Media ,

Danske Bank under lup i sag om skatteunddragelse / Danish Bank under the microscope in the case of tax evasion

January 10th, 2014

Danske Bank har angiveligt rådgivet kunder til at spare i skat ved at optage gæld i deres spanske hus. På den måde kunne de bl.a. undgå at betale arveafgifter. Pengene skulle bruges til at investere via Danske Banks bankselskab i Luxembourg, men i dag er store dele af kundernes formuer tabt, og derfor skal to af Danske Banks folk nu forklare sig i retten.

Beskyldningerne går på, at banken i processen både har vildledt kunderne og begået bedrageri. Sådan lyder det fra advokat Antonio Flores fra Lawbird Legal Services – et advokatkontor i Malaga, som fører en sag mod Danske Bank på vegne af nogle briter. Hans mål er at få banken til at betale erstatning til kunderne.

Det skal tilføjes, at han er aflønnet efter en no cure, no pay-ordning, så han får en procentdel af erstatningerne, hvis han vinder sagerne. Han har ført kamp med flere andre danske banker, der har ligget i lignende opgør om salg af investeringsprodukter baseret på lån i fast ejendom via Luxembourg eller andre lande, der havde status af skattely.

»Nu har retten bestemt sig for at kalde de her Danske Bank-personer til Spanien for at blive afhørt. Sagen skal klarlægge, om der skal rejses en kriminalsag. Dokumenterne er allerede godkendt. De viser, at Danske Bank begik vildledende markedsføring og bedrageri,« lyder det fra Antonio Flores, som oplyser, at det er rådgiverne Morten Runo Waaben og Henrik Hjerrild Hansen fra Danske Bank Luxembourg, der skal forklare Danske Banks sag i retten. Det skal dog ikke forveksles med, at de er sigtede i sagen.

Et centralt dokument i sagen er såkaldt fact sheet fra 2003 fra Danske Bank. Her redegør banken for de fordele, der er ved et såkaldt Capital Assurance-produkt. Der nævnes fem forskellige punkter, hvorved udenlandske kunder bosat i Spanien opnår en skattefordel ved at gå ind i Danske Banks model.

»Disse dokumenter om skattefordele var ikke sande, de var løgn. Men man kan ikke afvise, at Danske Bank har misforstået disse produkter, men det er fuldstændig klart, at man ikke må bruge dette produkt til at omgå skat, det er ulovligt,« siger advokaten.

KPMG afviser godkendelse

For at gøre sagen endnu mere pikant oplyses det i dokumentet fra Danske Bank, at »The tax benefits of the Capital Assurance have been approved by KPMG«, men nu oplyser Antonio Flores, at han er i besiddelse af et brev fra KPMG, hvori de afviser at have godkendt modellen:

»Skattekontoret siger, at det er ulovligt, og KPMG siger, at de aldrig har godkendt produktet.«

I den konkrete sag oplyser advokaten, at et britisk ægtepar har belånt deres ejendom med en mio. euro.

De penge har Danske Bank så investeret, men det er gået skidt efter krisen, og der er nu kun 300.000 euro tilbage.

Selv om Antonio Flores allerede har tabt sagen ved en civil ret, er målet fortsat, at kunderne skal stilles, som om de aldrig er indgået i aftalen.

Det kan angiveligt blive en dyr omgang for banken, for Antonio Flores påstår, at 100 spanske kunder er i en lignende situation i Danske Bank. Det antal afviser direktør for Danske Bank-koncernens private banking-område, Klaus Mønsted Pedersen, dog:

»Jeg kan ikke forholde mig til det tal, jeg ved simpelthen ikke, hvad han taler om.« Hvor mange er der så?

»Det er ret få. Men jeg ved ikke, hvor han har det tal fra. Det er far out. Det er en ti år gammel sag, som tidligere er tabt i en civil ret. Nogle forsøger at slippe for at betale et lån, fordi de er kommet i klemme. De gør alt, hvad de kan. Jeg synes, at det er tankevækkende, at han kører det her i pressen og ikke i retten.«Men kan du bekræfte, at der er kunder, som har tabt penge på at investere i Luxembourg? 

»Hvis man under krisen tog et lån og investerede, så gav det tab for mange mennesker. Sådan er det jo. Meget af det er kommet tilbage, men det kan man ikke forhindre.«Hvordan forholder du dig til påstanden om, at I har vildledt kunderne og begået bedrageri?

»Jeg er da irriteret over det. Men sådan er det at drive virksomhed. Det kan man ikke undgå at løbe ind i.« Vil du afvise, at det har noget på sig?»Jeg vil afvise fuldstændig, at der er noget som helst på den sag,« I materialet står der, at der er fordele rent skattemæssigt? »Det er for mig at se bare almindelig information om, hvordan sådan noget fungerer.« Men er det ikke en god forretning for banken. Man har lånt en masse penge ud og investeret dem samtidig med?

»Bankvæsen handler jo om at foretage investeringer og yde lån og modtage indlån og betalingsformidling. Det har været en fornuftig forretning, men ikke mere fornuftig end alt muligt andet.«

 

——

 

Danish Bank has allegedly advised clients to save tax by raising debt in their Spanish house . That way they could include avoid paying inheritance taxes. The money was used to invest via Danish Bank banking company in Luxembourg, but today much of customers’ fortunes lost and therefore two of the Danish Bank people now explain himself in court.

The accusation is that the bank in the process both misled customers and committed fraud. So says lawyer Antonio Flores from Lawbird Legal Services – a law firm in Malaga, leading a case against the Danish Bank on behalf of some Britons. His goal is to get the bank to pay compensation to customers.

It should be added that he was paid at a no cure, no pay scheme , so he gets a percentage of the damages if he wins the cases. He led fight with several other Danish banks that have been in similar showdown on the sale of investment products based on mortgages via Luxembourg or other countries that had the status of tax havens.

“Now the court has decided to call these Danish Bank persons to Spain for questioning . The case must clarify whether to bring a criminal . The documents have already been approved. They show that the Danish Bank committed deceptive marketing and fraud , ” says Antonio Flores, who says that it is the advisors Morten Runo Waaben and Henrik Hjerrild Hansen from the Danish Bank Luxembourg to explain Danish Bank case in court . It should not be confused with the fact that they are suspects in the case.

A key document in this case is called a fact sheet from 2003 from the Danish Bank . This explains the bank for the benefits of a so-called Capital Assurance product. There are five different points , whereby foreign customers residing in Spain achieve a tax advantage by going into the Danish Bank model.

“These documents about the tax benefits were not true , they were lying. But one can not deny that the Danish Bank ‘ve got these products, but it is quite clear that one should not use this product to evade taxes , it is illegal , “said the lawyer.

KPMG denies approval

To make matters even more piquant is stated in the document of the Danish Bank that ” The tax benefits of the Capital Assurance havebeen godkendt by KPMG ,” but now says Antonio Flores that he is in possession of a letter from KPMG in which the denies having authorized the model:

” The tax office says it is illegal, and KPMG say they never approved the product . ”

In this particular case, the lawyer says that a British couple have mortgaged their property with a million . euro .

The money has Danish Bank so invested , but it has gone bad after the crisis, and there are now only 300,000 euros return.

Although Antonio Flores already has been unsuccessful in the civil courts , the goal remains that customers must be treated as if they never entered into the Agreement.

It can supposedly be an expensive place for the bank, Antonio Flores claims that 100 Spanish customers are in a similar situation in the Danish Bank . The number of rejects director of the Danish Bank Group’s private banking division , Klaus Mønsted Pedersen, however :

“I can not relate to the numbers I simply do not know what he’s talking about . ” How many are there ?

“It is quite a few . But I do not know where he got that number from . It’s far out . It is a ten year old case that was lost in a civilian court . Some try to avoid paying a loan because they get caught. They are doing everything they can. I think it is significant that he runs it here in the press and not the right . “But can you confirm that there are customers who have lost money investing in Luxembourg?

” If the crisis took a loan and invested , so gave it a loss for many people. How it is. Much of it has come back , but it can not prevent. ” How do you relate to the allegation that I have misled customers and committed fraud?
“I’m as annoyed by it. But this is to run a business . You can not avoid running into the ” Do you deny that it has something to do? ‘I reject completely that there is anything on the matter ,” the material says that there are benefits for tax purposes ? “It is for me to see just general information about how something works. ” But it is not good business for the bank. It has borrowed a lot of money and invested them at the same time ?

” Banking is all about making investments and providing loans and receive deposits and payments . It has been a sound business , but no more sensible than anything else. “

In the Media , ,

Dos directivos de un banco danés citados como imputados en Fuengirola

January 9th, 2014

El Juzgado de Instrucción número 1 de Fuengirola, que instruye el caso de un británico a quien se le vendió una hipoteca inversa extranjera, ha citado a declarar como imputados por un delito de “estafa y publicidad engañosa” a dos directivos del mayor banco de Dinamarca, el “Danske Bank”.

Según la providencia del Juzgado, los dos directivos, que actualmente trabajan en la sucursal luxemburguesa del banco, deberán presentarse el próximo 23 de enero para ser interrogados por el juez, según informa a través de un comunicado la defensa del afectado, el despacho de abogados Lawbird.

Además, el juzgado llamará a comparecer el mismo día a los representantes legales de “Danske Bank International S.A” como responsable civil directo, al no existir en la fecha de los hechos un “supuesto de responsabilidad penal para personas jurídicas”.

Según la querella presentada por el afectado en 2011, “Danske Bank” le convenció para que hipotecase su vivienda de retiro en Alhaurín el Grande (Málaga) en garantía de un préstamo, el cual, sin que pasara por España, “se invertía en operaciones de especulación financiera en Luxemburgo”.

El producto financiero, denominado “Capital Assurance”, prometía ventajas fiscales ajustadas a la legislación española en relación con los impuestos de patrimonio y sucesiones, al “reducir mediante el artificio de trabar hipoteca la base imponible de la vivienda”, que posteriormente se declaraba al fisco.

Según el gabinete de abogados, “Danske Bank” llegó incluso a “falsear” el contenido de un informe emitido por la consultora mundial KPMG sobre la fiscalidad del producto, al “interpretar torticeramente las conclusiones” del mismo.

La nota indica que KPMG ha considerado como “falsa” la afirmación que “Danske Bank” hacía en su folleto publicitario de que los beneficios fiscales del producto “Capital Assurance” han sido aprobados por la consultora, la cual requirió la eliminación del folleto publicitario de toda referencia a cualquier aprobación dada por KPMG.

El texto indica que recientemente Hacienda dictaminó que las hipotecas inversas extranjeras “no sirven para desgravar impuestos en España” a quienes poseen inmuebles en nuestro país, constituyendo “infracción tributaria sancionable” el hacerlo, incluso por vía penal, para el caso de que el montante defraudado supere los 120.000 euros.

En la misma causa penal está imputado el anterior presidente de “Danske Bank”, como máximo responsable de la entidad danesa, que se cree que “ha podido colocar en España un centenar de estos productos”. EFECOM

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In the Media

Marbella no quiere ser Benidorm

December 29th, 2013

Simulación de la torre que planea Sierra Blanca Properties en Marbella.

Marbella no quiere ser Benidorm. Ni Singapur, Hong Kong o Dubai. La ciudad, símbolo durante años de la corrupción y el urbanismo destripaterrones, se ha levantado contra el plan que el Ayuntamiento, del PP, aprobó el pasado 22 de noviembre y que autoriza la construcción de cinco rascacielos de hasta 50 plantas cada uno. La alcaldesa, Ángeles Muñoz, ha anunciado que renuncia a la idea, pero el caso deja muchas lecturas: se reactiva la construcción en la costa más exclusiva y, contra pronóstico, en Marbella ha surgido un movimiento contra ella.

Pedro Rodríguez, presidente de la promotora Sierra Blanca Properties, no entiende por qué su plan para levantar una torre de 30 plantas en Marbella ha sublevado a buena parte de la ciudad. “Marbella tiene que competir en el mundo, con Dubai, Miami o Singapur, y este proyecto mete a la ciudad en el siglo XXI”, explica en su despacho.

El pleno aprobó en noviembre permitir la construcción de torres en cinco zonas

La oficina está a las afueras de Marbella, en la llamada milla de oro, junto a un centro comercial en cuyo aparcamiento abundan todoterrenos y coches de alta gama. Alrededor hay villas bajas pintadas en tonos ocre, piscinas, vallas altas, césped y palmeras. En la cafetería atienden en inglés. Podría ser Miami o California.

Rodríguez explica en su mesa llena de papeles cómo ve el futuro de la construcción en Marbella. “No tiene sentido construir si no haces algo excepcional. El producto de precio medio está en los bancos y en la Sareb [el banco malo] a precio muy bajo, así que hay que ir a por lo exclusivo”. Él, que ha capeado la crisis construyendo y vendiendo villas de lujo para extranjeros, creía poder dar el salto definitivo. Presentó al Ayuntamiento una torre de 30 plantas y 115 metros de altura. Su intención era vender 114 apartamentos de lujo de más de 300 metros cuadrados por, como mínimo, un millón y medio de euros cada uno.

La torre tendría 30 plantas y 114 apartamentos de lujo.

La idea de Rodríguez, pulcro afeitado, jersey de pico sin corbata y pelo repeinado, nace en Nueva York. Allí vivió durante años hasta que a mitad de los ochenta volvió a España. Explica que un chalé con piscina es caro de mantener y engorroso para quien solo pretende usarlo por temporadas. Una torre de lujo, sostiene, elimina esos inconvenientes. Y tiene una gran ventaja: tiene vistas al mar, algo que en Marbella empieza a escasear y que demandan los extranjeros, entre los que destacan los rusos. El promotor insiste en que la financiación no es problema y que podría vender los pisos antes de poner un ladrillo.

Podría sonar a baladronada, a otro castillo en el aire, pero en la ciudad todo el mundo le toma en serio. Rodríguez ha sido presidente de los empresarios de Marbella y no suele ir de farol. Nacido en Calzada de Calatrava (Ciudad Real) en 1947, tiene una biografía meritoria. Con nueve años comienza a trabajar en el campo y ayudando en la carnicería a su padre. De chaval se va a estudiar a Madrid, donde demuestra facilidad para los idiomas. Con distintos empleos se paga los estudios y aprende inglés y francés. Es el boom del turismo y Rodríguez entra en una agencia de viajes y después en una aerolínea.

Algunos promotores locales se opusieron al proyecto: “Rompen el paisaje”

Va a Nueva York y monta una agencia de viajes mayorista a España: Hispanidad Travel. Hace fortuna y abre oficinas en México, Miami y Madrid. “En 1985, cuando España entraba en la UE leí un libro llamadoMegatrends en el que explicaba que del norte de EE UU se estaba produciendo una migración hacia el sur, al cinturón del sol, porque las empresas ahorraban costes y la calidad de vida era mejor. Pensé que algo similar ocurriría en Europa y vine a Marbella”. La torre, que asegura que tendría la firma de Ricardo Bofill, culminaría esa historia de hombre hecho a sí mismo.

El 22 de noviembre el pleno municipal de Marbella sacó adelante, con la mayoría absoluta del PP, una “modificación puntual de elementos del Plan General de Ordenación Urbanística”, aprobado tres años antes para enterrar definitivamente el gilismo.

Una promotora proyectó levantar 30 plantas “con vistas al mar”

La aprobación inicial daba un mes de plazo para alegaciones. Nada más conocer el edicto, Carola Herrero fue una de las personas que se levantó contra los rascacielos. Esta arquitecta coordina la plataforma contra las torres. Es simbólico que no son los ecologistas los que más se han movido, sino urbanistas y promotores. En la cafetería de un hotel de Marbella, los coordinadores de la plataforma relatan sus pegas.

Allí está Rafael de la Fuente, un hombre afable de 72 años que fue concejal del PP en Marbella y exdirector de los hoteles de lujo de Monteros y Don Carlos, en Marbella, y Villamagna, en Madrid, entre otros. “Las alturas son muy peligrosas. De joven vi cómo las torres arruinaron Torremolinos. Era el primer destino turístico de España y en seis años lo destrozaron. La gente que viene del norte de Europa no quiere eso. Marbella es único y no podemos destrozarlo”.

“Mejora el bienestar de la población”

El pleno municipal de Marbella aprobó el pasado 22 de noviembre “una nueva tipología edificatoria singular en altura” y al ser una modificación puntual en principio no precisa el visto bueno de la Junta de Andalucía, del PSOE e IU.

El acuerdo define que los rascacielos podrán ir en cinco zonas de la ciudad, entre ellas la conocida como “la gitana”, la que tiene la categoría urbanística más avanzada y que es donde Pedro Rodríguez ha presentado su proyecto.

El documento que sustenta el edicto explica que los rascacielos “conllevan unas mejoras para el bienestar de la población por llevar implícita una revitalización de las áreas urbanas donde se implanten”

A su lado está el promotor Juan de Orbaneja: “Por muy bonita que pongas una torre rompe el paisaje y conlleva un efecto dominó: luego vendrán más y no podremos pararlas”. No es que en Marbella no haya edificios, pero es verdad que conserva un perfil relativamente homogéneo. “Ni Gil se atrevió a plantear rascacielos. El mayor lo hizo el marqués de Villaverde y tiene 20 plantas. Cuando Franco lo vio le preguntó que qué era eso. Le dijo que era la primera de un complejo y que al lado irían nueve más. Franco lo paró”, apostilla Carola Herrero.

El impulsor de la torre cree que las críticas al estilo son inventos. “¿Cuál es el estilo arquitectónico de la ciudad o arquitectura marbellí? En Marbella existen varios estilos, desde el centro árabe, edificios del desarrollismo o urbanizaciones anglosajonas. Incluso hay al menos cuatro torres”. Añade que el PGOU en vigor contempla la construcción de varias torres más y el proyecto del puerto que anunció el jeque Al Thani incluye rascacielos.

¿Qué habría pasado si Gil hubiera propuesto estos rascacielos? Los opositores creen que la ciudad se habría levantado, pero hay motivos para dudarlo. Antonio Flores, un abogado especializado en clientes extranjeros, opina que la Operación Malaya ha vacunado a la población: “La gente aquí ya no ve a los promotores como gente que busque el bien común. Ahora recela de los grandes planes urbanísticos”. Ni las promesas de empleo han evitado una dura campaña en la prensa contra el proyecto.

“La gente de aquí recela de los planes urbanísticos”, dice un abogado

Tanto, que el Ayuntamiento ha plegado velas. Desde el consistorio se insiste en que solo fue una idea y que como no hay consenso no se hará. “Ha habido demagogia y poca información”, y añaden que la intención del equipo de Gobierno era “generar riqueza y empleo con garantías y sin incrementar el volumen”.

Aun así, el Ayuntamiento no ha aclarado si va a revocar el acuerdo del pleno o si el parón es solo de palabra. Temiendo esto segundo, la plataforma sigue activa y recabando apoyos contra el plan. De la Fuente destaca la imagen que puede sacar Marbella de esto tras las mayorías absolutas que concedió al gilismo una y otra vez: “Quizá así mostremos que no somos un pueblo de descerebrados y maleantes”.

In the Media

Piden parar el desahucio de una jubilada en riesgo de exclusión social

July 17th, 2013

Una pensionista holandesa que reside en Benahavís podría ser desahuciada de su casa el próximo 31 de julio, tras haber solicitado acogerse al decreto andaluz de vivienda suspendido por el Tribunal Constitucional, si la jueza no le permite ampararse a la norma estatal de protección a deudores hipotecarios y paraliza el desahucio.

Según indicó ayer su abogado, Antonio Flores, tras superar un cáncer en 2008, la mujer aceptó la proposición de Jyske Bank, radicado en Gibraltar, y pidió un préstamo de 413.000 euros para adquirir una nueva casa y otro de 123.000 euros sobre su vivienda, sin cargas, con el fin de “trabajar conjuntamente” con la entidad.

Ella “no ha abonado ni una cuota”, por lo que el banco planteó una demanda de ejecución hipotecaria sobre el nuevo inmueble, que ya se ha adjudicado, y otra sobre su casa habitual. La defensa solicitará suspender el desahucio de esta última por dos años, en virtud del decreto ley de medidas urgentes para reforzar la protección a los deudores hipotecarios y pedirá la suspensión por cláusulas abusivas, según la normativa europea.

La mujer está en riesgo de exclusión social, ya que tiene una pensión de menos de 500 euros y es usuaria de Cáritas.

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Toni Muldoon Brought to Justice – BBC Look East – 19-06-2013

June 21st, 2013

In the Media

Suffolk fraud: ‘Despicable’ Toni Muldoon ‘flaunted wealth’

June 19th, 2013

 

Staff clutch menus, hoping to catch a tourist’s eye, while competing ticket sellers hand out flyers about their boat trips to see the dolphins.

This is the Costal Del Sol, a magnet for expats and holidaymakers seeking a bit of Spanish sun with a distinctly British flavour.

It was also the home of millionaire expat Toni Muldoon as he conned vulnerable people back in Britain out of money they could ill afford to lose.

While they signed up to his £5.7m fake escort or debt elimination scams, he “flaunted” his wealth and lived a life of luxury in a 10-bedroom villa.Continue reading the main story

He is a despicable criminal. He has ripped thousands of people off

Antonio Flores – Lawyer

“Muldoon was a typical expat,” said Antonio Flores, a lawyer who investigated Muldoon.

He added: “He was a vain man, he liked to show his wealth and he liked people to know who he was, even though he was in the wrong business.”

In Benalmadena, described by one ticket seller as a “five-star area”, Muldoon had a pleasure boat and aqua taxi business.

The Caribbean Lady, which has since been seized as an asset, took tourists out into the Mediterranean.

A chalk board and posters still advertise the boat, with a gap in the marina where it was once moored.

Call-centre operators

A few miles away is the sprawling holiday resort Fuengirola, with its high-rise beachfront hotels.

Muldoon liked to show his wealth here and in Marbella, visiting bars and restaurants.

The headquarters of his fraudulent schemes could be found in an office and call-centre, where tables are still laden with phones.

Office in FuengirolaA call centre, crucial to the fraud, was based in an office in Fuengirola

 

Operators would answer calls from British customers keen to sign up as an escort or to have their debt cleared by one of Muldoon’s bogus businesses.

The BBC asked people in the marina and at bars along the coast about Muldoon, but they are all reluctant to speak about him – except for Mr Flores.

‘Big criminal organisation’

Before the fraud, investigated by Suffolk trading standards, Muldoon extracted millions from UK timeshare owners wanting to sell their properties.

Mr Flores, of Lawbird Legal Services in Marbella, spent 10 years investigating the scam and last year took a group action in the Malaga courts on behalf of 190 UK victims.

Antonio Flores

Antonio Flores described Muldoon as “despicable”

Muldoon was given a two-year suspended sentence for swindle and criminal association.

Mr Flores believes there are people in the Costa Del Sol who have already stepped into Muldoon’s shoes, running cold-call schemes asking for upfront fees.

“They [Muldoon's businesses] would say there were people willing to buy their timeshare and in order to secure the deal the owners had to send a deposit,” he said.

“What he was doing is ripping people off once and then he would have another company call people offering them legal services to recover the sum which they had lost. It was another scam.

“He’s a clever guy, he’s able to run a business – it does have a structure with offices and staff and telephones.

“They start at 9, they finish at 6 and in that time they have to sign up a certain number of people.

“He is a despicable criminal. He has ripped thousands of people off, each out of £3,000, £4,000. Some of them elderly vulnerable people.

“It was a big criminal organisation.

“He’s made millions over the years, for sure. I expect he hasn’t been stupid and has stashed away a lot of money.”

‘Dreaded extradition’

Mr Flores said the guilty plea in the UK courts was not a sense of closure because the victims of the timeshare fraud had not got their money back, nor had they had the sense of justice of seeing Muldoon go to prison in Spain.

Toni Muldoon's Spanish villaMuldoon’s villa in Campo Mijas has also been seized as an asset

 

Instead of serving time in Spain, Muldoon returned to a quiet community nestling in the hills above Fuengirola.

Las Mimosas in Campo Mijas feels like a gated community, with each house surrounded by high walls, a gate at least 7ft tall, with buzzer entry and a warning about burglar alarms.

Its residents are mostly expats – Dutch, Swiss and British, to name a few – with Muldoon clearly not mixing with his British neighbours.

His peach-coloured mansion is ostentatious, a swimming pool on a terrace sheltered by something like a giant dressing partition for extra privacy.

But, more than 1,000 miles away from Campo Mijas, Muldoon’s life of deceit was beginning to come crashing down as trading standards officers in Ipswich were gathering a mound of evidence against him.

Perhaps those dominant walls and gates prepared him for his next home, HMP Norwich, where he has already spent several months on remand.

The dramatic change in lifestyle is, in part, a kind of justice for his victims.

“We heard from the police he would be happy to go to jail in Spain because he knew he was going to be treated more leniently than in the United Kingdom,” said Mr Flores.

“He had dreaded the fact of being extradited and he fought his extradition through the Spanish courts.”

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Why Spain’s Costa del Crime is now the worst place to go on the run

May 18th, 2013

Once a land of Ferraris, cocaine and women, it was the flashy destination of choice for the most notorious fugitives of Britain’s underworld. Now, as the arrest of Andrew Moran shows, Spain’s “Costa del Crime” is the worst place to go on the run, reports Colin Freeman.

Since he last gained fame as a brief item in the “Crimewatch” slot of his local television news, a lot has changed for Manchester armed robber Jason Coghlan.

Having broken out of the dock during a court appearance in 1999, he spent a fortnight as one of the North West’s most wanted men before being re-arrested and sentenced to 12 years in Britain’s highest security jails.

Today, though, the man the police warned the public not to approach comes across as very approachable, having turned his back on crime in favour of a new venture in sunny Marbella.

This time he is on the right side of the law – just – acting as a legal “Mr Fixit” to the British criminal fraternity, who complain that a decent Spanish lawyer is as hard to find as a decent Spanish plumber.

“A lot of lawyers out here aren’t good at acting for foreign criminals, and when Brits get arrested they need someone like me to guide them to a decent one,” said Mr Coghlan, 43, whose younger brother, Arran, is nicknamed the “Teflon Don” back in Manchester after three separate attempts to prosecute him for different murders failed.

 

Jason Coghlan

“I make sure they’re represented properly and handle the translation issues, but I can also talk the criminal’s language, as it were, because of my background,” Mr Coghlan added.

One potential client for Mr Coghlan now is fellow Mancunian Andrew Moran, 31, who last week became the star of his very own mini-gangster movie when Spanish police released a video of his arrest at the poolside of his villa in Calpe, near Benidorm.

The footage, which received widespread media coverage, showed police creeping up on Mr Moran as he sunbathed, pouncing on him as he vaulted over a garden wall to escape. That it looked like a scene from the Costa-based crime flick Sexy Beast, in which Ray Winstone’s retired villain whiles away life by the pool, was no coincidence. Spanish police, who allegedly discovered two pistols at Moran’s villa, knew that if they grabbed him in his trunks, he was unlikely to be armed.

In the back yard of Moran’s empty villa this weekend, a bottle of Factor 20 suncream was the only remaining sign of his life in the run, which began four years ago with a previous vault from the dock of Burnley Crown Court, when he was on trial for a mail van hold-up. Spanish judges are now debating whether to extradite him to Britain, or try him in Spain, where he faces separate charges of cannabis dealing and ramming two police cars while evading a previous arrest attempt last year.

Yet while Moran’s arrest was hailed as a triumph by British police, who nowadays work much more closely with their Spanish counterparts, it also showed that the “Costa del Crime” is still popular with Britons facing accusations of villainy.

Moran was on a list of no less than 65 “most wanted” issued in the past six years by Operation Captura, the Spanish arm of Britain’s Crimestoppers scheme, which targets suspects thought to be hiding in Spain by distributing leaflets and beer mats with hotline numbers to expat bars. Of that 65, all but 15 have now been arrested. And at the risk of doing himself out of future clients, Mr Coghlan says that other fugitives planning on coming here should think again.

“Quote me on this – Spain is singularly the worst place to go on the run,” he said.

Police capture Andrew Moran in Calpe.

“In the 1970s it was okay because there was no extradition treaty. But nowadays there is lots of police attention, both British and Spanish. You might as well hide in Norfolk. Spain is not an imaginative choice at all, but then again, many villains do not have much imagination.”

It is a far cry from the old days, which Mr Coghlan himself caught the tail end of in the 1990s, when he would regularly head out to Marbella to spend the proceeds of his crimes, blowing tens of thousands of pounds in just a few weeks.

“Back then I felt like a king, and it felt safe to spend money there,” he said. “There was a place where you could hire Ferraris for £600 a day, and the women were experts at parting you from your cash. I loved the birds, and I’d buy them whatever it took – jewellery, clothes whatever – just so we’d look good when out at night.

“But the Spanish police back then were a different breed, and you could still offer them money to get out of serious situations. Act all flash these days, and you’ll soon get into trouble.”

Certainly, Mr Moran appears to have kept a low profile, having had a distinctive mole removed via plastic surgery and swapping his skinhead look for a short-back-and sides and wispy moustache. He also seems to have avoided the expat bars in Calpe’s “English Square” where, apart from a local character named “Pikey Pete”, no-one remembers seeing any villainous types for years.

“Nowadays, those kind of people stay in villas out in the countryside and keep themselves to themselves,” said one drinker, who nonetheless asked not to named.

Making life harder these days is increased airport security, the introduction of the pan-European arrest warrant in 2004, and occasional swoops by Spanish police, who will sometimes do random ID checks in bars frequented by British villains.

Yet many fugitives do still take their chances here, as is evident from a flick through the outstanding Captura wanted list, where the mugshots of Glasgow hardmen, Geordie gangsters and East End enforcers show the modern British underworld at all levels.

At the upper end are current fugitives like David Andrews, 66, accused of running a major cocaine trafficking gang, and Derek “Decco” Ferguson, wanted over a Strathclyde pub carpark shooting in 2007. Further down, meanwhile, are men like alleged heroin dealer Scott Coleman, who, with a distinctive pair of lips tattooed on his buttocks, has presumably had to be more cautious with the ladies than Mr Coghlan was.

So why do they still come? “It’s partly because there is a well established British community there that they can assimilate into very easily,” said Dave Allen, head of the fugitives unit at the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

“Parts of Spain are basically like south London with sunshine. Having said that, we’ve changed our policing methods a lot in the last 30 years, and nowadays, criminals who move abroad are never off our radar.”

The other attraction is Spain’s prime location in the drug trade, which is now booming more than ever. Cocaine and marijuana is easily trafficked in from North Africa, from where it can then be sold retail on the Costa club scene, or shipped wholesale to Britain. According to some estimates, as many as 30 or 40 British criminal gangs now operate in southern Spain, alongside Dutch, Eastern European and Irish gangs, the latter fleeing recent crackdowns in their Dublin strongholds.

True, increased transport hub security in the post 9/11 era makes airports and ports harder for fugitives. But many use so-called “FOG” passports – or “fraudulently obtained genuine” passports – whereby a criminal will bribe someone for their personal documents and then use them to obtain a legally valid passport.

Once out in Spain, criminals can also usually rely on networks of contacts to help them, said Mr Allen – assuming they are not “too hot to handle”.

But while a large criminal fraternity can help provide a support network, it can also be a problem. Fellow villains are far more likely to recognise fugitives – and give their game away – than ordinary members of the public are.

“The police always call it ‘intelligence’ to make themselves sound intelligent, but when they arrest someone it’s usually just some other villain has informed on them,” said Mr Coghlan.

Which is where his new Marbella-based firm, Jacog Law, comes in.

Specialising in “Spanish to English Criminal Legal Services”, it has gained 28 clients since starting 16 months ago, including a Briton accused of smuggling a tonne of hashish, and a suspected IRA hitman convicted of murdering Daniel Smith, himself a suspected gangster, in a bar near Marbella in 2010. And while Mr Coghlan does not claim to be a lawyer, he does bring considerable practical experience of criminal legal systems, both in Britain and in Spain.

Originally from Stockport, he fell into crime when he was young, being booted out of the Commandos for assault and theft and then becoming involved in car-ringing and robbery. His brother Arran, meanwhile, has been accused three times of the murders of northern gangland figures and also arrested over a large-scale cocaine smuggling plot. He has never been convicted of any of the offences, however, and insists he is a legitimate businessman facing a police vendetta.

After his initial arrest for the 1999 post office robbery, Jason Coghlan escaped from Trafford Magistrates Court, where, having told guards he needed crutches for a leg injury, he threw the crutches away and leaped over the dock. He was then caught in Blackpool a fortnight later, and having been classified as a Category Double AA high-risk prisoner, served his time in maximum security jails like Whitemoor, where he met Britain’s topmost gangsters. Among them was the Brinks Mat bullion handler and road rage killer Kenneth Noye, who himself was arrested in Spain in 1998 after two years on the run.

“I did ask him once why he’d gone to the south of Spain,” said Mr Coghlan. “He said that for people of his generation, it was the only place they really knew.”

Having decided to reform, Mr Coghlan become a jail-house lawyer while inside, advising other prisoners on legal cases and appeals. He got the idea for his current venture, though, after subsequently being thrown in jail in Spain, where he went after his release in Britain to pursue an alleged time-share fraudster who owed his mother money. The man complained to the police, who then arrested Mr Coghlan and held him on remand for 11 months. Worse still, he claims, a lawyer he paid €10,000 to only visited him once.

“It is hard to describe how bad the legal service is out here,” he said.

“While I was in prison I also heard dozens of other complaints about the inefficiencies of lawyers out here, and having learned the hard way, I now want to change that.”

To that end, his firm refers work to a number of favoured legal firms, in return for a percentage of any fees they then charge. Unlike some Spanish legal firms, he says, they will challenge weak police cases rather than simply plea bargaining.

“It is fair to say that a lot of Spanish lawyers take a rather laid back approach,” agreed Antonio Flores, a leading lawyer at Lawbird Legal Services in Marbella, which has had referrals from Mr Coghlan.

True, Mr Coghlan freely admits that his own reputation helps to ensure that nobody trifles with his clients. But he adds: “There is nothing legally wrong with what we do, even if the authorities don’t like it. And I’m not pretending to be a lawyer, I’m just a good case administrator.”

Ironically for a man who now claims to have gone straight, the success of his future venture will, of course, depend on the Costa del Crime continuing to attract villains. As things stand, though, that seems likely – even if they do look over their shoulder rather more often while sitting by the pool.

In the Media ,

Lawyers move to change judge in house scam case

April 28th, 2013

LAWYERS have called a halt to a case concerning an alleged multi-million pound overseas property scam involving a Yoxall businessman in an effort to get the judge changed – after they claimed his brother had links with some of the firms involved with the case.

In a letter to hundreds of people impacted, legal bosses have revealed that they have asked for Judge Jose Emilio Coronado Ruz to be removed from presiding over a class action lawsuit against Spanish developer Ricardo Miranda Miret.

Lawyers are delaying the case until the judge is replaced after links between his brother and one of the developers involved in the case were uncovered.

Previously, the Mail has revealed that Colin Thomas, of Town Hill, had been subpoenaed to appear in Madrid.

The criminal claim for fraud and misappropriation of funds was lodged in 2011 in an effort to recover money on behalf of dozens of Ocean View Properties (OVP) victims.

Mr Thomas’s company, OVP, was behind a string of successful overseas propoerty enterprises but ran into difficulties when it became involved as a UK agent for Spanish developer Ricardo Miranda Miret.

More than 1,000 British investors, who paid a total of £45 million for ‘off-plan’ overseas property developments, have lost their money after the firm was formally dissolved in 2009 with the appointment of liquidators Grant Thornton.

The court claims made in Madrid are linked to developments which never materialised at the Estepona Country Club on the Costa del Sol and Punta Perla, in the Dominican Republic.

Mr Thomas is currently banned from being a company director for nine years following an Insolvency Service investigation.

He was also cleared by the Serious Fraud Office and Staffordshire Police following an investigation into the collapse of OVP.

Neither Mr Thomas nor his advisors were available for comment.

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