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.
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.
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.
Muldoon was given a two-year suspended sentence for swindle and criminal association.
“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.”
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.
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.”
- Suffolk Trading standards cracked £5.7m escort and debt scam
- Escort scam trial: Ex-detective Christopher Taylor downfall
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.
“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.
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.
2013-04-25-Lawbird-Owner-of-leisure-complex-Laguna-Village-to-Pay-InvestorThe Malaga Appeal Court has ordered the property developing company Playa Padrón Estepona S.L., managed by German businessman Jürgen Sauer, owner of the Estepona leisure complex Laguna Village and co-founder of the Kempinski hotel, to pay just under 500,000 euros to a British investor.
The investor, represented in court by lawyer Luis Fernando Gonzalez Ordoñez, from Marbella law firm Lawbird Legal Services, had exchanged contracts in 2006 for the acquisition of several units in the complex. However the purchase was never completed because these units were rented out to third parties even though the seller had agreed, contractually, that they were to be sold “free from occupants”.
The investor had paid 185,000 euros to the developer and agreed that, in the event that he was unable to conclude the transaction he would forfeit the deposit but, if the developer was unable to sell under the terms and conditions agreed, it would return twice the deposit, plus interest.
The initial case against the developers ruled in their favour, citing the relevant clause as a clerical error. Following the successful appeal the company managing Laguna Village is obliged to pay 365,000 euros to the investor plus accrued interest since 2006 and legal costs.
There is general agreement that this is a good time to buy property in Spain. Prices are unlikely to drop further and those who are looking to buy as an investment should receive a good return when they sell in the medium to long term. Those looking for a main residence or holiday home will also be able to afford a larger or more luxurious property than they might otherwise have done.
Whatever the reason for the purchase, buying a property is a major investment and one that needs to be protected and looked after. The number one rule in this regard is to use the services of a lawyer. It might be tempting to save money by not doing so if everything appears to be straightforward, but this could well prove to be a false economy.
Why is a lawyer essential? For many reasons, says Antonio Flores, of Lawbird Legal Services in Marbella. Horror stories can happen.
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La Audiencia Provincial de Málaga ha condenado a la mercantil Playa Padrón Estepona S.L., promotora del complejo de ocio radicado en Estepona conocido como ‘Laguna Village’, fundada y administrada por el empresario alemán Jürgen Sauer, a abonar cerca de medio millón de euros a un inversor británico.
Dicho inversor, representado en juicio por el letrado de Lawbird Luis Fernando González Ordóñez, había firmado un contrato de arras para la adquisición de varias unidades en el complejo en el año 2006, en régimen de concesión administrativa, y no pudo escriturarlas al estar éstas alquiladas, dándose la circunstancia de que las mismas se habían vendido “libres de inquilinos u ocupantes”.
En total, el inversor abonó 185.000 euros a la promotora, y acordaron que de no proceder con la escritura por causa imputable a la compradora, esta perdería el depósito, pero que de ser la vendedora la que no pudiera vender, vendría obligada a devolver el doble de lo abonado —según se prevé para los contratos de arras penitenciales—, más los intereses desde el año 2006 y las costas procesales causadas.
El Juzgado de Primera Instancia 2 de Estepona dio inicialmente la razón a la mercantil Playa Padrón Estepona S.L., no estimando la petición del inversor británico, al aceptar como buena, entre otras, la alegación de que la cláusula de devolución del duplo de lo abonado se insertó en el contrato por culpa de un error administrativo. Sin embargo, la Audiencia Provincial en reciente sentencia estima el recurso formulado por la representación legal del inversor y revoca íntegramente la sentencia,condenando a la mercantil concesionaria de complejo ‘Laguna Village’ a abonar 365.000 euros, con sus intereses y costas.
Se da la circunstancia de que el empresario Jürgen Sauer, administrador de Laguna Village, cofundador del Hotel Kempinski de Estepona y propietario de la inmobiliaria Sauer, fue detenido en el año 2008 por un presunto delito de blanqueo de capitales en el marco de la Operación Hidalgo por la Juez María Jesús del Pilar Márquez, quinta instructora de la causa que inició el Juez Francisco de Urquía.
El letrado Luis González ha señalado que “la mercantil no contesta a los requerimientos del despacho para proceder al abono del importe de la condena, por lo que se procederá a ejecutar la sentencia, embargando, si fuera necesario, los alquileres que regularmente abonan los inquilinos de los locales del complejo Laguna Village”.
El Supremo confirma una sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Málaga que estimó el recurso de una compradora de una residencia en Marbella
El Tribunal Supremo ha dictado una sentencia en la que determina que la falta de licencia de primera ocupación es causa de resolución del contrato de compraventa de una vivienda porque supone el incumplimiento de la entrega del inmueble cuando el permiso no va a concederse en un plazo razonable.
El alto tribunal ha confirmado una sentencia dictada por la Audiencia Provincial de Málaga en diciembre de 2009 en la que estimó el recurso presentado por la compradora de una vivienda en Marbella, a la que previamente el Juzgado de Primera Instancia número 3 de la localidad había condenado a cumplir el contrato en los términos acordados.
La Audiencia malagueña declaró resuelto el contrato suscrito en febrero del 2004 entre una mujer de nacionalidad irlandesa y la promotora del conjunto residencial en Marbella, decisión contra la que la empresa presentó un recurso de casación.
Para corroborar el acierto de la sentencia recurrida por la promotora, el Supremo argumenta que ésta no ha acreditado que la falta de licencia de primera ocupación obedezca a una simple demora y que no existan obstáculos para su obtención, según la resolución a la que ha tenido acceso Efe.
Por ello, entiende que la parte compradora no puede ser obligada a escriturar y cumplir con su parte del contrato “cuando subsiste la incertidumbre de si la promotora va a poder cumplir en un plazo razonable, siquiera tardíamente, con su obligación de entregar la referida licencia de primera ocupación”.
Además, explica que el cumplimiento de la obligación de entrega por el promotor no puede entenderse limitado a que la vivienda lo sea “en un sentido puramente físico”, sino que debe comprender también su aspecto jurídico, y permitir que los suministros se contraten de forma regular y que el comprador pueda ejercer su derecho a alquilar o vender el inmueble.
Desde el punto de vista de protección de los consumidores, el Supremo concluye que el deber de información del promotor-vendedor no puede considerarse cumplido por la puesta a disposición de la documentación relativa a la vivienda, ya que debía informar a la compradora de que la edificación no se correspondía con la calificación urbanística del suelo.
En este sentido, señala que la seguridad de la propiedad inmobiliaria es uno de los factores característicos de los sistemas jurídicos avanzados y tiene “más importancia, si cabe cuando los compradores son extranjeros”, con menos facilidad para conocer toda la legislación española que pueda afectarles al comprar una vivienda en España.
En cuanto a la documentación presentada por la promotora para demorar la sentencia, el Supremo precisa que la licencia de primera ocupación para el conjunto residencial, de 192 viviendas, se obtuvo en junio del 2012, cuando el plazo límite pactado era octubre del 2005.
Y añade que la licencia “ni siquiera es completa”, ya que excluye las piscinas comunitarias, uno de los elementos incluidos en el contrato, que quedaron fuera a expensas de la obtención de informe favorable de la Consejería de Salud de la Junta de Andalucía.
The Spanish Supreme Court has declared that a contract signed by an Irish purchaser with the developer Marbella Vista Golf S.L., for a unit in Santa Maria Green Hills, was validly terminated by the purchaser.
The Supreme Court has argued that for a property developer to comply with the contract not only is the unit to be completed, but it needs to have the mandatory license of occupancy.
The Court of First Instance in Marbella deemed that the developer could not be held responsible for not having the licence, as it was up to the Town Hall to grant it and so, it was out of the control of the developer. The Appeal Court reversed this decision on grounds that granting licences of occupancy by administrative silence was not valid, if these violated planning laws and regulations. On appeal, the Supreme Court ratified this conclusion.-
The Court also deemed that foreigners deserved extra protection given that, whilst their understanding of the laws was lower, they trusted the reliability of the Spanish system of protection of property rights.
The building licence came under scrutiny from Marbella Town Hall as the residential complex had been built on land zoned for one family Andalusian style homes and had been challenged by the Junta de Andalucía.
What Marbella Vista Golf SL had built was eleven blocks with 42 separate entrances, with carparks and communal zones, making up the residential complex of Santa María Green Hills.
A Marbella law firm has denounced around ten banks for fraud
Spanish “Hacienda” has recently confirmed that the so-called Equity release on Spanish property is not valid for tax mitigation purposes. According to an official answer to an enquiry submitted by Lawbird Legal Services representing 100 of approximately 1,000 victims, mostly British, attempting to mitigate wealth and inheritance taxes registering a charge against the property is tax fraud.
This matter was denounced a year ago at the Audiencia Nacional as fraud, fraudulent publicity and tax evasion but the Magistrate Fernando Andreu dismissed the case on grounds that he deemed the allegations to not be of a serious nature and the facts were not proven conclusively. Civil proceedings have been filed and rulings are soon expected.
According to Antonio Flores of Lawbird, “the Tax Office’s response represents a boost to the aspirations of the victims in relation to demonstrating that, indeed, they were victims of a scam and not accomplices to an alleged fraud, as has been insinuated”.
Following the dismissal of the case by the National Audience back in April 2012 and further to a “denuncia” filed at the Malaga offices of the Spanish Tax Office, Lawbird indicated that it was this body who should investigate if such a “tax amnesty”, now deemed fraud, did actually exist.
Hacienda has now come back stating that the approximately 600 mortgage loans sold to foreign pensioners with a Spanish property, under the pretext that they would allow them to – legally- mitigate wealth tax during the life of the subscriber, and inheritance taxes following their demise, cannot benefit from any reduction in such taxes. In fact, the Tax Office states that attempting to reduce the value of the home would constitute tax fraud and a criminal offence where the defrauded sum exceeds €120,000 per tax year.
Lawbird deems that “the borrowers are victims because top banks confirmed the legality of the product, assisted by top-notch Madrid lawyers who now, following the repercussions of the case, are distancing themselves from their former clients.”
The banks allegedly involved are Nordea Bank Luxemburg, Danske Bank Luxemburg, Landsbanki, Jyske Bank,Rothschild, Sydbank and Nykredit who sold either directly, or through unregulated Costa financial offices, the financial packages. Most of the pseudo-IFAs have now disappeared.
According to the victims, the strategy was to scare them with unbearable tax consequences should they not do anything with their unencumbered properties. Several banks, most of them from Scandinavian countries with private banking offices in Luxembourg, made their clients believe that that in Spain, if someone is to die without having a mortgage on their properties, the Tax Office would tax the inheritors so heavily that they would not be able to ever pay those taxes.
They offered mortgage loans to reduce the value of their properties and advised that the loan capital should be sent to opaque tax havens, in some cases, with a view to have it invested on behalf of the pensioner. However, as a result of poor investment decisions by these banks the invested capital lost substantially and now, the victims are fighting to save their homes.
This alleged financial plot started in 2004 and finished in 2008. Flores calculated that in Spain, over 500 couples could be affected, most of them pensioners. The total sum of funds taken out to Luxembourg could reach 250 million euros, according to the lawyer. The banks told their clients that this sum would be “tax free” if it was inherited in a tax haven, or without the Spanish Hacienda’s knowledge. The alleged fraud to the Tax Office could reach, on average, 20 per cent of the total sums, approximately 50 million euros in total.
Lawbird is particularly worried that pensioners with very limited income, some of whom were over 85 years of age, decided to rush into speculative investments with their properties.
Spanish tax office will not accept equity release to mitigate taxes