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.

Will restrictions on NIE numbers slow investment?

The Secretariat of Labour and Immigration has ruled that the obligatory NIE number can no longer be applied for by representatives with power of attorney meaning personal attendance is required.

This means anyone wishing to buy a property in Spain will have to arrive at the police station at 7am, wait in the queue for hours, go to a bank to pay the fee, and then return to the police station to apply for the number.

This will be required for anyone wishing to buy a property, set up a business, sign up for employment and many other legal matters.

Antonio Flores, from legal firm Lawbird, says that in Madrid you can expect a 3 month wait for an appointment to apply for the NIE.

Some Spanish Consulates are being used to speed up the process of applications and return an NIE number within 5 working days (RD 557/2011). As part of cost-cutting many consulates have been closed so you will have to find one first.

Flores thinks that this will stop many investors from coming to Spain. The big investors that Spain needs to attract are not going to willingly queue up outside the police station and wait hours for a number. They will take their investment to another, more accommodating country, with less red tape. This is another strange decision by the Spanish authorities at a time when they are actively looking for an increase in foreign investment.

Recently there were rumours that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was looking to buy a property in Marbella. Would he have to wait outside the police station on a cold, dark morning?

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

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