EXCLUSIVE BY ANDREW PEARCE AND JON CLARKE
OLIVE PRESS INVESTIGATION
A SPANISH lawyer has apparently “vanished” leaving dozens of expatriates facing financial ruin.
Jose Luis Maseda, 67, has left up to 26 of his clients facing an estimated five million euros in losses through transactions he arranged.
Maseda, who speaks perfect English, allegedly handled the money, while advising his clients to invest in a string of suspect property deals.
Some told the Olive Press that he had invested their money in a controversial golf development in Antequera, which is currently being investigated by the courts.
One British estate agent is among at least 26 expatriates fearing the worst over dealings with Maseda, whose company Eurobrokers, in Benalmadena, has now closed.
Police confirmed they are probing a series of allegations, which date back more than five years.
Detective Juan Martin, who is heading the investigation in Benalmadena, revealed: “As the investigation goes on, more and more people are coming forward saying they have lost money, and Maseda´s name is mentioned.
“It is becoming clearer that a lot of people are very concerned. We hope to track him down soon.”
One client Kevin Bravant, 55, from London, claims he is owed 80,000 euros after investing the money in the controversial Valle Rosario del Golf development through Maseda more than three years ago.
The former secretary at South Herts golf club, in north London, initially raised 110,000 euros by remortgaging his Fuengirola home through Maseda.
He had planned to then invest 80,000 euros in a savings account to help finance his son’s dream of becoming a professional golfer.
However, in August 2006, on the recommendation of Maseda, he decided to invest for a year at an agreed guaranteed seven per cent interest rate in three plots at the controversial development, which has been stopped in Villanueva del Rosario.
The following year, Bravant – who this week filed an official police report against Maseda – personally handed the lawyer a letter with the required three-month notice period, to get his 80,000 euro stake back.
But, two years later, despite constant demands, Bravant says he is waiting for his money, and it is now more than two months since he last heard from the lawyer.
Bravant first made contact with Maseda after seeing an advert in a local paper in 2006 and was initially impressed by his “charismatic and charming” character.
“My wife has had to go back to the UK because of ill health over this matter,” explained Bravant.
“Maseda seemed like an honest bloke face to face. But he’s still got the deeds to the golf plot and his office which had all the documentation inside is closed, and I can’t do anything.
“He is currently untraceable. I last heard from him on September 16, when he sent a two-word text message saying ‘next week’.”
Another expatriate, Della Brady, 37, from Tolox, handed Maseda 75,600 euros for the same golf development in which “not one brick was laid”.
“He (Maseda) told me that his cousin was an architect and that my planned property was in safe hands,” explained the mother-of-two, from London.
“I was receiving text messages from him until the end of August saying I will get money back.
“But I have not heard anything since and it seems to be the same story for many others.”
Colin Penfold, from Surrey, says Maseda recommended that he place a 50,000 euro deposit in a “secure bank” account. He is now unable to locate his money.
Estate agent, Penfold, 71, says he is in contact with 26 people who claim to have invested in total up to five million euros through Maseda in would-be property deals.
Penfold initially began dealing through Maseda in 2007 when he was negotiating to buy the Torrequebrada Hotel in Benalmadena.
“I did everything by the book, I was very cautious and worked closely with my solicitors and bank in England for my own peace of mind,” he explained.
“So many people view Maseda as a respected lawyer but there are so many questions about him now, and I’ve had enough.”
The Olive Press was alerted to Maseda’s disappearance when dozens of comments were posted on our newspaper website.
An investigation has since revealed that Maseda – whose wife’s name is Dolores – claims to have an MBA.
He comes from Torremolinos and his business is posted on website Costa Property Services (www.costa-property-services.com) and is linked to various other companies including Bona Fide Legal, Country World and Muino and Foricher estate agent.
Trading for more than 20 years, his business also claims to be an authorised agent for more than a dozen banks and financial houses, including Halifax, Sol Bank and Santander.
Fernando Foricher, who worked in Maseda’s office in Arroyo de la Miel for a number of years, told the Olive Press he “vanished into thin air” over a year ago.
“He owes a lot of people money and me as well,” he said. “There were always people turning up at the office demanding money.
“Last year I decided enough was enough and confronted him and he promised to sort it out. But then he and his wife disappeared.
“I am sure there are plenty of civil cases against him around the country.”
Boss of Costa Property Services Spain, Keith Ball, said: “I have been a shoulder for people to cry on who have lost money in schemes Maseda is connected to.
“I have known him for ten years. I classed him as a friend. I trusted him. He seemed a total gent.”
Police officer Martin, who is based at Benalmadena local police, explained: “The case is very much open.
Maseda in many instances obtained power of attorney and signed away money in the name of clients.
“As the investigation goes on, it is becoming clearer that a lot of people lost out.”
Some people interviewed by the Olive Press fear that Maseda may avoid prosecution if he has committed offences given the suspected influence he has over some highly placed officials.
“He is a man with a lot of high profile connections,” claimed Foricher. “He had a lot of important clients and a lot of powerful people who may protect him.”
However, another former colleague, Michael Brabant, who was introduced to Maseda three years ago, is confident he will get something back in the end.
“I am also owed money as a result of this and if I knew where he was I would be the first to wring his neck.” said the boss of Spanish Partners.
Despite phone calls to two addresses alleged to be Maseda’s homes in Madrid and Malaga, and two mobile phones, the Olive Press was unable to contact him.
He also did not respond to messages sent to his email, or answer his door in Malaga.
When the Olive Press tried to contact his nephew Alexis Luz, a policeman at Fuengirola National Police station, a colleague said he was “off sick.” He was unable to say when he would be better.