Connery on the run

Sean Connery
Shaken, and stirred!

Ok, he’s not actually on the run but the former James Bond, Sean Connery, is wanted in Spain to answer questions over an alleged money laundering operation.

The 80 year old actor has been summonsed by the courts in Marbella who have been waiting for 18 months to put their questions to Mr Connery who claimed ill health when ordered to court in October 2010.

The case relates to the sale of the Connery’s Marbella villa ‘Malibu’ and the participation of companies linked to them and to the sale, following a complaint submitted to the anti-corruption prosecutor in 2006.

Marbella Town Hall claims to have lost out on 2.7 million euros from the deal which allegedly generated profits of 53 million euros after 72 luxury apartments were constructed on the site where the villa stood.

It is alleged that the actor and his wife, who will also be required to attend court, transferred up to 37 million euros abroad thus avoiding tax obligations in Spain.

Communication was sent to the Connery’s home in the Bahamas saying that “all legal measures, both in national and international legislation would be used” to force them to give evidence in court, El Pais reported.

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MacAnthony in court to answer charges

Darragh MacAnthony appeard in court today
Darragh MacAnthony

Darragh MacAnthony, 36, has appeared in court in Marbella to explain what happened to money paid by customers of his overseas property company, MRI, for furniture packs that were never delivered.

MacAnthony is accused of accepting payments from MRI customers for furniture packages which the claimants say they didn’t receive.

Speaking in court yesterday the football chairman claimed the money was paid to furniture companies in Bulgaria and Turkey and that they are the ones who have failed to deliver. He added that he had paid money back to some clients out of his own pocket.

When asked about the company he claimed that MRI was legally wound up in 2010. However, Antonio Flores, from law firm Lawbird acting for the plaintiffs, said that Companies House shows it is still trading, and furthermore accounts for years 2009 and 2010 were submitted just one month ago, on March 29th, according to the registry.

Also in the dock, former MRI chief executive, Dominic Pickering said he was not a director of the company but was there to “sort out furniture problems” following MacAnthony’s departure from Spain in 2010. Pickering claimed he was paid up to €20,000 per month to deal with the problems which he said were “sorted in 99.9% of cases.” He also backed up MacAnthony’s claim that the money had in fact been paid to the furniture companies.

Fernando de Arespacochaga, 91, became the frontman of MRI following MacAnthony’s departure. He said he had been paid €600 per month by the MacAnthony’s to front the company. He claimed his nephew had convinced him to sign and he had done so “in good faith”. He added that he, and his company, are insolvent.

Over 40 plaintiffs are claiming over 600,000 has been paid to MRI to furnish properties they had also purchased through the company.

Darragh left court refusing to comment.

MacAnthony ordered to appear

Darragh MacAnthony
MacAnthony will face charges

Following the ratification of the case against him in Marbella recently, millionaire football chairman Darragh MacAnthony, 35, has been ordered to appear in court in Spain next month.

The business man has been accused of taking money from home buyers for furniture packages that never arrived. The victims claim up to 600,000 euros was taken.

Over 40 plaintiffs attended court in Marbella in January to ratify the case in front of a judge who has now ordered the former owner of MacAnthony Realty International (MRI) to come to Spain to face the charges.

MacAnthony will not face the judge alone as his former chief executives Michael Liggan and Dominic Pickering are also being called to attend. The defendants could face up to eight years in jail if convicted.

The Peterborough United chairman handed the reigns of his real-estate company to 91 year old Fernando Arespacochaga, from Peru, in 2010. He too will be required to attend the proceedings.

The case will begin on April 25th.

Antonio Flores, from law firm Lawbird acting for the plaintiffs, says there are “many other” former clients of MRI who were affected by the companies business practices and this case covers just one of the irregularities found within the company.

Flores also said that there is another claim, totalling 15 million euros, that is currently being prepared on behalf of 200 MRI customers who claim they lost large deposits paid to the firm.

MacAnthony may face prison in fraud case

‘The Posh’ chairman may face prison

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.

Lawbird Legal Services

Phone: +34 952 861 890 | info@lawbird.com

MacAnthony does have a case to answer

MacAnthony Case
A small group of protesters outside court

Yesterday, 51 British expats, from England and the Republic of Ireland, attended a Marbella court at the request of the judge to ratify their lawsuit against Darragh MacAnthony.

The football chairman and his former chief executives Michael Liggan and Dominic Pickering, are accused of “theft by swindle and misappropriation of funds” amounting to 600,000€.

The claimants say they gave various amounts of money over to MRI Overseas for furniture packages for properties purchased through MacAnthony’s business but the furniture failed to appear.

The Spanish judge has considered the facts and decided that the three men accused do have a case to answer.

There was a small protest outside the court in which around 40 former MRI clients who had been affected by the case held placards and demanded action against the millionaire businessman.

In 2008, as a result of the many complaints against MRI, a tribunal was held by the National Federation of Property Professionals who were said to be “appalled to hear of the company’s misleading business practices”.  The tribunal resulted in fines of £5,000 and Darragh MacAnthony was forced to withdraw his membership of the Federation.

There must be days in Darragh’s life when he wishes he’d played it straight and by the book. How much easier his life would be today.

MacAnthony claimants in court today

A collective of 51 expats who accuse Darragh MacAnthony of failing to deliver over half a million euros of furniture will have their voices heard in court today.

The courts requested that the claimants attend personally, to ratify the suit, and the court will then decide if MacAnthony has a case to answer.

The claim was initially filed in Madrid in June 2011 and accuses the millionaire businessman of retaining 600,000 euros of clients money that was intended to provide furniture packages for homes bought through MRI (MacAnthony Realty International).

I will be speaking to the law firm involved in the case later on and will let you know the outcome.

Darragh MacAnthony back in the dock

Darragh MacAnthony faces charges
Darragh MacAnthony faces charges

A court hearing is due to take place in January 2012 which will see property millionaire and chairman of Peterborough FC, Darragh MacAnthony back in court once more. This time he will face 51 expats who accuse him of failing to deliver over half a million euros of furniture.

The victims, from Britain and Ireland, will give evidence against MacAnthony in an investigation that could lead to charges of fraud.

Lawyer Antonio Flores, who’s firm Lawbird is representing the claimants, said “The claimants have been ordered to come to Spain as the judge wants to depose them, together.”

“It is an exceptional request and a special room to fit them all is going to have to be arranged.

“This is bad news for MacAnthony,” the lawyer said, adding “The next step is to see if he wishes to settle.”

The claim was initially filed in June, in Madrid and accuses MacAnthony, 35, of retaining 600,000 euros which his company had received as payment for furniture packages for homes bought in Bulgaria, Turkey and Morocco.

Joining MacAnthony in court are MRI’s former cheif executives Michale Liggan and Dominic Pickering. Together they face charges  for ‘theft by swindle and misappropriation of funds’.

They all deny the charges.

Express evictions law modified to help landlords

Malaga Courts
Malaga Courts

Non-payment of rent has become a real problem on the Costa del Sol. According to new figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 878 tenants went to court for non-payment of rent in 2010. The courts have a backlog of cases causing delays fuelling the debate that the 2009 ‘Express Eviction’ law is not working.

A new law was introduced this month with the aim of speeding up the process which could benefit up to 900 landlords in the region. Experts predict, however, that the law is destined to fail due to a lack of manpower in the courts.

The new law, La Ley de Medidas de Agilización Procesal, aims to establish a set period for dealing with tenants who refuse to pay. After a tenant has been presented with a demand for payment they will have ten days to either settle the bill or vacate the property. If neither of these options are taken the tenant will have to provide reasons for non-payment or the courts will assign a date for eviction.

Under the previous laws the landlord would have to apply for a court date which could take months. The court would then decide when the tenant would be evicted and the property reclaimed.

The president of the College of Malaga Estate Agents, Cayetano Rengel, said “The new law is fabulous, as long as it works. Theoretically, in three months the non paying tenant will be on the street but the reality is that the courts are struggling.” He also said that increasing the speed of the eviction process would benefit the property industry as a whole adding “It’s a welcome change and should make an enormous difference, but not if it isn’t accompanied by an increase in court personnel.”

Meanwhile, Carlos Ruiz, manager of the Association to Promote Renting and access to Rented Property, said that the previous system didn’t work due to the lack of manpower in the courts and thinks this problem will continue and the new law wont be fully effective until human resources are increased.

Experts in Malaga estimate the current time from filing a lawsuit to eviction at around six months, much longer than the 60 days intended under the current law.