On Wednesday this week 51 complainants from across the UK attended Marbella criminal courts to ratify the case against former property mogul Darragh MacAnthony and his former chief executives Michael Liggan and Dominic Pickering.
The judge will now decide whether to proceed with criminal charges in a case that could last up to two years.
Antonio Flores, from legal firm Lawbird which represents the claimants, told me that the defendants could be looking at a prison term of between 4 and 12 years if found guilty of fraud and misappropriation of client funds, as well as having to repay the clients money.
“The claimants want their money back,” Antonio told me. “They paid money for furniture for their new homes and the furniture didn’t arrive leaving them out of pocket.”
Collectively the claimants lost over 600,000€, which may seem like a large amount to most people but maybe not so to millionaire businessman and football club owner, Mr. MacAnthony.
Antonio Flores said “MacAnthony does have the option to settle with the claimants out of court but the time for that is running out.”
“If he doesn’t do it soon the chance will be gone and a court case will be unavoidable,” he explained.
The case continues and I will be keeping a close eye on it. I will keep you updated as often as I can.
As I had his attention I asked Antonio what he thought about the property market in Spain at the moment and what effect recent corruption trials, and the MacAnthony case, had had on the market.
“I think it’s safe to buy a property in Spain after everything that’s happened”, Flores said.
“Corrupt officials were exposed and removed from their posts and buyers are well informed these days.
“Many Spanish banks have a huge stock of properties and these cost money to maintain – community fees, local taxes etc – so the banks can’t hold on to them forever without suffering significant losses.
“When the banks do sell their properties they will be with discounts up to 35% off the original value, maybe more, and some banks are offering 110% finance on their own properties.
“This makes it much easier to find a real bargain on the coast”, he added.
I told Antonio that I think UK buyers are nervous about buying here following recent events and much negative media coverage and asked him if he thought their absence would damage the market further.
“The British media only shows British people being affected by corruption or price crashes and this is simply not the case,” he explained.
“There are people from all over the world buying property in Spain, including the Spanish, many of whom have found themselves in debt or, in the worst cases, homeless.”
Tighter regulations and the removal of corrupt officials means buyers are now unlikely to find themselves at risk of losing their homes and generally Antonio thinks the market here is safe. The banks have a lot of discounted stock, finance is available and there is a large amount of empty properties on the coast and for those reasons he thinks now is a good time to pick up a bargain.
He did stress however that no matter where or when you buy a property make sure you use a lawyer who speaks the language and knows the system.
Antonio Flores is a lawyer with legal firm Lawbird, in Marbella, and has been involved with many high-profile cases over recent years. He is a well known and respected lawyer on the Costa del Sol and I thank him for taking the time to speak to me.
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