Over 100 Britons affected in fraud, which involved false certificates to obtain mortgages and hundreds of illegal constructions
By Jenny Kean in Chiclana
CHICLANA has confirmed its name among the worst black spots for illegal building in Andalucia.
Another nine people have now been charged as part of the year-long investigation which has seen architects, estate agents, lawyers, promoters and land valuers implicated in allegedly falsifying certificates in order to build on non-urbanisable land.
In all, 39 people are now facing charges of fraud, falsifying documents and breaking land laws under the Civil Guard-led operation Obra Nueva.
They are accused of issuing false certificates claiming that a house was more than five years old, when in many cases it had not even been built.
The certificates were used to obtain mortgages for the non-existent houses, providing the funds to build on land where such construction was not allowed.
According to sources, the practice has been going on for years in the Chiclana area. Further arrests are expected.
At least 200 Britons who unwittingly bought illegal houses know only too well the cost of being duped in this way.
Not having a legal property has left them without a proper electricity supply and often water too.
A local expat association the Chiclana Foreign Residents Association (CFRA) has been formed to try to tackle the problem.
Chairman Colin Wood told the Olive Press: “Like many people, we went through the proper channels to buy our property,” he recalls.
“We used an estate agent, a lawyer, a notary – even the bank we got our mortgage from looked over the paperwork and everyone said it was all OK. We fell for it hook, line and sinker.
“We also had a separate contract with the builders to guarantee the electricity – but we’ve still ended up without a proper supply. Now we find that one of the certificates on the escritura was false.
“We have heard of cases now where people are getting some money back, settling out of court for at least part of the money they need to pay for alternative power supplies, like solar panels. But it all takes a lot of time and money.”
The CFRA is now linking up with members of the local German community, many of whom are in the same boat.
“In terms of the British people, the number affected certainly runs into three figures,” estimated Colin.
Meanwhile the local authorities are pressing ahead with the long-promised process to legalise some 15,000 homes in the Chiclana area.
The plan will introduce proper infrastructure to a number of areas where illegal homes have sprung up in recent years.
The plan would mean bringing sanitation, water, electricity and roads to nine areas. Home owners will have three years to present their case and will have to pay a number of local taxes and register the age of their property.