Fighting for the little guy!
“It is great to have worked with your team over all these years and I am just delighted there is, at least, one newspaper in Spain that has the same way of thinking as me… the little guy, indeed everyone, has the right to get even.”
IT’S been a busy decade for Andalucia’s bravest, most campaigning, lawyer.
Antonio Flores at Lawbird is now well established as one of the good guys not scared to take on the establishment, politicians and fraudsters on behalf of his hundreds of clients around the region.
As well as regularly getting his cases to court and securing decent, financial victories for his clients, he also has a strong team of lawyers working in all sectors of law.
Frequently the subject of writs and never far from controversy, he has been threatened by numerous gangsters, mayors and conmen.
“But it does not phase me,” he explains. “It is all part of the job that I love and I have no intention of stopping now.”
Here are some of Lawbirds key cases over the last decade and one true honour:
Rattling the Rothschilds
LAWBIRD is close to getting one of Europe’s richest men, Baron David de Rothschild, to face charges over an equity release loan scheme, brought into by more than 130 pensioners.
An investigating judge in Paris is now studying reams of documents in French, before likely ordering the financier to court.
It was thanks to Lawbird, via Denia court, that the Rothschild Financial Services Group was accused of falsely advertising the scheme.
Baron David de Rothschild was indicted in France over the allegations last year, after victims – mostly expats living in Spain – hired Lawbird in a class action.
Rothschild’s product, the Credit Select Series Mortgage Loan, was sold to pensioners as a legal means to reduce the value of their homes for inheritance tax mitigation purposes.
However, the Spanish Tax Agency ruled that such a scheme constitutes fraud, and Flores believes that Rothschild should be held accountable.
“In short, independently of what happened to the investment, Rothschild advertised a loan aimed at reducing inheritance tax, which is a breach of tax law,” he said.
The Rothschild Group has so far failed to comment.
Taking on the mayors
LAWBIRD announced a damaging expose on ex-Marbella mayor Maria Angeles Munoz last year when Antonio Flores alleged her failure to declare that she and expat husband Lars Broberg took out a €3.1 million equity release mortgage with Swiss bank Nordea in 2010.
The lawyer claimed she had investments in Luxembourg and Swede Broberg allegedly bought a 98% share in Gibraltarian company Crasel Limited, in 2003.
The release led to a big battle with Marbella town hall, which accused Lawbird of ‘professional misconduct’, however the case never went to court.
Flores insisted: “I have not been disrespectful towards her. I only said that she had either deliberately not declared her investments, or that she was a victim of the bank, like many others. I never made any indication which.”
Concerns were first raised about Munoz’s foreign dealings by a group established by Lawbird, called the Equity Release Victims Association (ERVA), made up of expats who have lost millions of euros through the bank.
Lawbird has since filed a complaint with Hacienda on behalf of ERVA’s members, affected by investments with Nordea Bank.
The case continues.
Exposing the fraudsters
HE had a long and chequered history on the Costa del Sol, before being locked up in the UK two years ago for a global male escort scam that raked in millions for his Fuengirola-based organisation.
But before this, Lawbird had managed to get a victory against serial conman Toni Muldoon in the Marbella courts.
After a 10-year investigation, Lawbird proved that Muldoon extracted millions from UK timeshare owners wanting to sell their properties.
After a group action in Malaga court on behalf of 190 UK victims, Muldoon was found guilty and given a two-year suspended sentence.
“What Muldoon was doing was 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,” explained Flores, who painstakingly went through hours of documents.
“He’s a clever guy, he’s able to run a business – with 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. Some of them elderly vulnerable people.
“He’s made millions over the years, for sure. I expect he hasn’t been stupid and has stashed away a lot of money.”
Lawbird is still pursuing his clients’ money from Muldoon and is hopeful of finally getting justice now that Muldoon is reportedly back on the Costa del Sol.
Going after Goldman
HE was one of the most famous serial fraudsters the Spanish costas has even known.
With a string of dodgy investment scams Nigel Goldman – aka Howard del Monte – raked in millions from unsuspecting victims, schmoozing them with champagne and promises.
The larger than life figure bought an air of respectability through his restaurant column in a downmarket coastal newspaper.
And, of course, victims had no idea that they were being wined and dined alongside a string of convicted criminals that Goldman had met during his three spells in prison for previous frauds.
Alongside the Olive Press, Lawbird quickly got involved and is currently representing a number of victims in the Spanish courts, including one expat couple who claim Goldman owes them around 640,000 euros.
Dozens of complaints have been filed with the Marbella National Police since he vanished in December 2013 and he believes he owes up to 3 million euros.
He is currently awaiting for an arrest warrant to be served on Goldman and hopes to have him in court in Spain early next year.
Bashing the banks
LAWBIRD has spent years exposing and investigating banks suspicious equity release schemes.
The tax authorities confirmed to the legal firm that such schemes for Spanish property are not valid for tax mitigation purposes.
Lawbird is representing around 100 victims, mostly British, in getting money back from the banks, that include Nordea, Danske, Landsbanki, Jyske and Nykredit.
“The Tax Office’s response represents a boost for the victims demonstrating that they were victims of a scam and not accomplices to an alleged fraud,” explained Flores.
According to the victims, the strategy was to scare them with unbearable tax consequences should they not do anything with their unencumbered properties.
The schemes were mostly launched between 2004 and 2008 and Lawbird calculates that over 500 couples could be affected, most of them pensioners. The total sum of funds taken out to Luxembourg could reach 250 million euros.
Off plan victory
LAWBIRD has been instrumental in fighting on behalf of clients who were mis sold off-plan properties in Spain.
Earlier this year, Banco Popular, BBVA, Banco Mare Nostrum and Valencian building society S.G.R. were ordered to pay over 2 million euros, plus interest, to 40 British investors represented by the legal firm.
The rulings were all received on the same day and refer to investors who had paid large deposits on off-plan properties in Alicante and Murcia.
Last year, the company won another court case against Cajasol and the developer Manilva Costa in Estepona court, winning 600,000 euros for 11 British clients.
And this month a court in Madrid awarded six off-plan property buyers a total of 400,000 euros, after a bank guarantee claim was filed against BBVA bank, the second largest in Spain.
The court found against the bank as a result of the existence of a collective bank guarantee issued by the bank, despite no individual guarantees being available for each investor.
Boiler room battle
ANTONIO Flores has won his libel case against boiler room bandit Fabian Marcelo Ramirez.
The courts ruled that he had every right under freedom of expression laws to dub him a ‘swindler and ‘crook’.
The ruling came in a long fight Lawbird has been waging against legal boiler rooms, also known as recovery rooms.
The cocky Mr. Ramirez was not a happy man when his name came up in Flores blog and sued for libel, accusing the lawyer of harming his good name and reputation.
However, the Malaga judge backed Lawbird insisting that as Ramirez has been arrested four times for falsely promising victims a fast recover of lost money, in exchange of upfront fees, he had every right to label him in this way.
Mr. Ramirez, according to the Malaga Police Fraud Group, has operated a succession of companies that were devoted to scamming mostly British timeshare owners.
A COURT in Madrid recently ordered that Caja de Ahorros de Murcia must return over €400,000 in deposits paid by British investors after a Lawbird lawsuit.
It came after the bank took deposits to finance an off-plan development at the Urbanizadora Costa Palatinum/Proyectos Anteleresort.
Lawbird sued the developer in Murcia hoping that the Judge took notice of the fact that while the construction of this development was being aborted – with no mention of returning deposits – a newer project was being proposed in Venezuela.
The case was dismissed but the ruse worked as the developer made full disclosure and revealed documents that had been out of reach, including bank guarantees issued by Caja Murcia for the development.
With this document in hand, we filed a case in Madrid (avoiding Murcia) against Caja Murcia demanding the return of off-plan deposits, based on the 57/1968 Act on Off-Plan Property Down Payments.
The Court, on hearing the parties, upheld our allegations and ruled in favour of our customers, ordering Caja Murcia to make a full refund of the capital, plus interest.
WE are happy to announce that Lawbird has joined the Legal 500 index, following an invitation we have received from their staff.
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We are proud that the Legal 500 recognises Lawbird as a firm worth recommending in Málaga.