Friday, May 17, 2013
FINCA PARCS - NO SUPREME COURT APPEAL FROM CAM BANK – CASE CLOSED Disgraced CAM Bank once described by the Governor of the Bank of Spain as the ‘worst of the worst’ has not filed an Appeal to the Supreme Court in the Finca Parcs case. Therefore, the Sentence issued by the First Instance Court in Hellín on 8 June 2012 and confirmed by the Albacete Provincial Appeal Court on 11 April 2013 is now FIRM and FINAL against both CAM Bank (now SabadellCAM) & the property developer, Cleyton GES SL. The First Instance Sentence that was ratified by the Provincial Appeal Court concluded that both the developer and Bank failed to fulfil their legal obligations according to Spanish Law, LEY 57/1968 and that CAM Bank was guilty of malpractice and a complete dereliction of its duties. The Court convicted jointly and severally both defendants to return off-plan deposits paid by the 47 buyers totalling almost 1.5 million Euros for houses that were never built at the abandoned Las Higuericas, Finca Parcs development close to Agramón, Albacete. BUYER’S REFUNDS As the Sentence is now firm the Court has released the principal amount of the group member’s deposits which was paid by CAM Bank to the Court following the provisional enforcement of the First Instance Sentence in July 2012. In due course the 47 group members will each receive a refund of their off-plan deposits less costs. Interest and Costs will be calculated, agreed by the Court, and then paid to group members in approximately 2 to 3 months. Finca Parcs Action Group Co-ordinator, Keith Rule says: “This is a momentous day, one that many of the group members thought they would never see. We were elated in June 2012 when we won in the First Instance Court and again in April 2013 when we won in the Appeal Court. However, today is probably more significant as it marks the end of the case with a firm and final Sentence against both the Bank & Developer. We provisionally enforced the First Instance Sentence in July 2012 and this resulted in CAM Bank paying the principal amount of the deposits to the Court. As the decision is now final the Court has released the funds payment to each group member. Since paying my off-plan deposit in 2006 I always believed that the banks have liabilities and obligations according to Spanish Law, LEY 57/1968. One of my biggest hurdles in 2008 and 2009 was finding a Lawyer who also shared my view. The fact that we now have a firm and final decision in this case is evidence that there has always been substance to my views and opinions in cases such as this. The true measure of success in the legal process is to obtain the refund of the off-plan deposits. We have now achieved that. I would like to thank María de Castro, director of Costa Luz Lawyers, for trusting my views back in 2008 and having the confidence to support and assist me in building such a strong case against both the developer and bank. Also we are truly grateful to Jaime de Castro, our litigator who at all times worked in such a professional, efficient and determined manner on behalf of the whole group. Thanks also the group members for believing and joining me on this momentous journey. Final success has been a long time coming but all concerned can be rightfully very proud of what we have achieved. One thing is for sure, LEY 57/1968 may have been introduced 45 years ago but never before has it been the centre of so much public and legal attention” María de Castro, Director of Costa Luz Lawyers comments: “This case is an excellent example of how Judges in Spain are teaching Banks to treat people. It is a magnificent result in favour of the consumer” Group Lawyer, Jaime de Castro comments: “Spanish legislation protects off-plan house buyers with protective rules that do not exist in other European countries. LEY 57/1968 is an old Law that is still in force and makes the banks and developers jointly responsible for the amounts paid in advance by buyers when the housing is not delivered or is completed after the deadline agreed in the contract. The Spanish Courts are applying this Law strictly and categorically” LANDMARK CASE LAW Lawyers representing other buyers of off-plan property in Spain who were not issued with the legally required Bank Guarantees to protect their deposits can now use the Finca Parcs decision as Case Law to strengthen legal arguments in their own cases. Keith says; “The Finca Parcs case will no doubt help to strengthen the Lawsuits of other off-plan buyers who did not receive the legally required Bank Guarantees, many of whom still have their life savings at risk. Together with our legal team at Costa Luz / De Castro we have worked tirelessly since 2008 to highlight this issue in the media and to the Spanish & British Governments. That belief and hard work is now backed up by two very strong sentences from the Hellín First Instance Court and the Albacete Appeal Court that are now firm and final. To those off-plan buyers still affected by these issues I would say, never give up. Stay strong, keep believing and always focus on getting your money back. Much against the odds, we in the Finca Parcs Action Group have succeeded in winning against a big financial entity and I am sure others will now achieve similar success in the future. We have proved that it is possible” Kind regards Keith Finca Parcs Action Group (FPAG) Finca Parcs Grupo de Acción
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The tiny village of Lliber nestles beneath the Sierra Bernia in the beautiful Jalon valley in the north Costa Blanca in Spain. To the average tourist it is an unexceptional Spanish village, typical of the region with its stone houses and narrow streets and spectacular mountain views, but behind its picture perfect façade lays one of the biggest property scams in Spain. A scam that has brought unrest and disharmony to the community, has set neighbour against neighbour, ruptured friendships and families and brought financial, emotional and medical hardship to a great number of people. Until the beginning of the 21st century this sleepy little village, with a population of less than 500, had not seen an influx of incomers since the early part of the 17th century, when Majorcans were offered low rent land and houses to come to the village to replace the manpower of the vanquished Moors. Most of the current inhabitants of Lliber – and of surrounding villages – are the direct descendants of these incomers as their names and dialect suggests, and has earned the village the name Llucmajor – from the Majorcan village of the same name. Before this Lliber was occupied only by Moors. The current invasion – which in just two or three years more than doubled the population - began around the beginning of 2000. It was at a time when many northern Europeans were being seduced by the Spanish sun. Its cheaper houses and its promise of a better and cheaper lifestyle than they could have back home in Britain or Germany. It seemed to many like the ideal place to retire, to relax and to reap the benefits of the long years of work. It was also the ideal climate for fraud and its unpleasant accomplice, greed, to flourish. The stage was set for the formation and planning of a major conspiracy – and the unsuspecting buyers fell right into their trap, seduced by the promise of beautiful houses set in a stunning location. At least one of the builders advertised in a major British newspaper. Most people who chose Lliber were intelligent, professional people. Not the sort of people who one would expect to be taken in. They all thought that they had bought prudently and cautiously, with due regard to the law. It wasn’t until several years later that they realized that they had been the victims of a massive fraud involving town hall officials, builders and legal representatives. The building licences that had been obtained to build their houses proved to be worthless pieces of paper, issued to the builders by the then mayor and architect, in exchange for allegedly large sums of money. 2m euros, found by the fraud squad in Andorra, is thought to form a small part of this. Unknown to the unsuspecting buyers who had put their trust in the hands of their legal representatives, the licences were issued for the rebuilding of warehouses (whether or not they existed), on rustic land. The law states now, as it did then, that houses cannot be built on rustic land on a plot less than 10,000 square metres – all were built on smaller plots, in many cases on land owned by third parties and some on protected land. In some cases, people paid for land, houses and swimming pools, which were either not built at all, or were left incomplete. An embargo by the local police meant that people either had to complete their properties at their own expense (and at the risk of prosecution), or find alternative accommodation. It is estimated that the fraud amounts to an astounding figure of between 90m and 130m euros with more than 300 houses deemed to be illegal. In 2009 the Guardia Judicial began a long and arduous investigation and in December of that year, they arrested eighteen conspirators, who still await trial. On the back of this, and in an attempt to minimize the possible infrastructure costs and danger of their houses being demolished, one hundred and forty one people affected by the property fraud, presented themselves to the Denia court as victims. These pensioners have waited over ten years for justice. The waiting has brought untold hardship. Some people have lived without mains electricity – dependent on expensive and unreliable generators, while others, without a mains water supply, have had to have water brought in by tanker. All have struggled to understand a system that could leave them in a no man’s land of uncertainty, trapped in a situation that could not have occurred in their homelands. At least six people have died with their problems unresolved leaving their partners or families to continue the battle. Many have suffered ill health and stress as a direct result of this; all have suffered in some way or another. In January 2009, prior to the police enquiry, and in an effort to bring about some sort of resolution, a group of victims formed an association – AULN (Abusos Urbanisticos Lliber No) under the wider umbrella of the national group AUN, to support each other and to put pressure on the authorities to help them by whatever means at their disposal. This in itself has divided the community, some people choosing to stoically support the perpetrators of the crime, victimizing and harassing those who have chosen a legal and peaceful solution. Many well-earned years of retirement have been spent worrying and actively trying to solve the problems of their illegal houses. Endless hours have been taken up in long and arduous and often fruitless meetings with town hall officials. Often the language is a barrier but more often the barrier is a lack of comprehension at the perplexities of Spanish law and bureaucracy and the corruption that lurks just below the surface. They have seen two different governments occupy the Town Hall, have tried to become actively involved in the administrative process, have heard conflicting reports and solutions from the opposing political parties and still feel no further forward. The former PSOE administration who were in office for eight years, advocated that the only way forward was through a General Plan that would redraw the boundaries of the village, encompassing the illegal houses, thereby allowing them to be legalized on smaller plots. For the past two years the PP party have been in power and brought their own, different criteria to the problem. Some house owners who have until now been without mains electricity have been granted group licences to install it. While others who do have electricity – albeit on the ‘temporary’ basis of builder’s supply, are being urged to either pay out large sums of money in order to update the infrastructure or to face being disconnected. This may sound like progress but to many people who have already sunk their life savings into their dream houses in Spain, it is the straw that could break the camel’s back. All have already paid for mains services in the cost of their houses. None expected to have to find large sums for infrastructure ten years down the line. Some people will not be able to finance this. Meanwhile Spain itself struggles to survive the economic crisis that has befallen it, with 27% of the population unemployed and the figure rising to 50% of those under the age of 25. Thousands of Spanish people, unable to repay their mortgages, have been evicted from their homes, yet still face a life time of debt to the banks as a result of this. At a time when the Spanish economy needs every cent it can get, in Lliber alone, an estimated 1m euros has already been lost in local taxes, with an annual loss of somewhere in the region of 100k euros.. Multiply this by the amount of revenue lost nationwide! Their European and international image has become tarnished as successive governments fail to see the bigger picture and millions of euros are lost in petty bureaucracy. The housing market is at rock bottom as northern Europeans, traditionally their biggest customers, have lost confidence in it. Well documented corruption in the housing sector, draconian land grab laws, coastal laws and the legislation affecting foreigner’s assets all contribute to this. The Spanish government is literally biting the hands that have fed them for many years. More to the point, the human rights of many people, including those trapped in the property scam in Lliber, have been compromised by the lack of justice. As court papers fail to move from judges’ desks, 141 people in Lliber wonder which will come first – death or justice.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Round Town News summed up one of the criminal cases against Trampolin Hills on 2nd May in an article titled NO JUSTICE! We might add that similar unexplained delays have occurred in the court dealing the bankruptcy of Trampolin Hills. http://www.roundtownnews.com/rtn-newsflash/item/41897-no-justice.html FRUSTRATED AND angry at delays in a verdict in a fraud case has left property victim Andrew Wilford despairing over the Spanish justice system. Andrew and his wife Kate gave evidence before a Murcia Judge more than 10 weeks ago against the developer of the Trampolin Solera complex near the city. They maintained their life savings were effectively “stolen” and they were looking to the criminal courts to resolve the issue. However, despite being told Spanish law requires a judgement in a criminal case within five days – they have been told overworked courts in Murcia are running nine months late. And said it was even open to a criminal judge to give an indication as to his findings “without prejudice” to the full written version of the judgement. Justice delayed is justice denied according to the UK court system and Andrew said he was considering taking his “simple fraud case” to the European Court of human rights “since mine have been undeniably ‘assaulted’ by the courts in Spain.” He added: “Quite frankly, this situation is ridiculous. I assume that most ‘participants’ involved in Spain actually die before the cases are resolved – indeed, maybe this is the objective.” DEVELOPER Andrew and Kate were in the process of buying their Murcia home ‘off-plan’ when in 2008 discovered CAM Bank had granted developer Rafael Aguilera a builder’s mortgage based on an allegedly inflated valuation – despite the building being almost completed - and later sold the property to a third party. The couple, from Colwyn Bay, say they have lost 200,000€ in deposits and spent around another 100,000€ in legal fees. He believes they were “clearly defrauded” and the defendant should have been sentenced years ago. “He could have served a prison sentence and been released by now!” And Andrew asked: “What can be so complicated? I signed a contract to purchase a property, paid nearly 200,000€, the defendant then took out a huge mortgage with CAM Bank and then subsequently a sold my property to a third party. How can that be complicated? “In any normal civilised society, that would only take 30 seconds to decide. I fully appreciate that Spain and the banks are in ‘financial meltdown’ largely as a result of corrupt Spanish developers but does that really mean that citizens of other countries who are partners in Europe should be treated so badly?” And in a complaint to the Ministry of Justice, Andrew said: “My life savings were effectively stolen by a Spanish national in 2005 and yet here I am some eight years later still trying to achieve justice through your courts system – does this seem fair? I am sure we both know the answer – it is simply not fair!” He said he was finding it increasingly difficult to understand or appreciate the delay and was frustrated in his attempts to discover the reason. “I am really, after five years of waiting, becoming increasingly concerned as to just what is happening about this matter.”