A GROUP of British expats have been questioned by police after their padron certificates proving they lived in Spain appear to have been doctored.
At least eight people have been grilled over the town hall registration forms, which were all handled by the same gestor company on the Costa Blanca.
National Police confirmed to the Olive Press that detectives are working alongside the Guardia Civil to now investigate all residencia applications in Alicante made in 2021.
It comes after ‘widespread fraud’ was allegedly detected in over 22 Britons attempting to become resident here.
This week a number of elderly expats described the situation as ‘humiliating’ and ‘hellish’, after they were held for questioning under caution.
They told the Olive Press how they were carted to Alicante police station and grilled about falsifying documents submitted with their TIE card applications.
“We were wrongly arrested for submitting fake padrons, even though we put the correct ones in with our paperwork for residencia,” said Jay Elliott, 66, of Orihuela Costa, who has lived in Spain for over five years.
She and her friend Lily Higgins, 71, had planned for a peaceful retirement in the sun but are now living with the threat of a court case or even deportation.
“I’ve never been in trouble before but here I am, being treated like a common criminal,” said Higgins. “It’s humiliating.”
They added that the same gestor is being investigated for changing the date on at least 22 more British applicants.
Another couple, who asked not to be named, told the Olive Press how they had been questioned when they went to collect their TIE cards.
“We were taken into a room, read our rights and told to explain why our 2021 padron had been doctored to show a 2020 date – it was hell.”
All those detained had used One Way Services, a gestor based in Quesada, near Torrevieja, to process their applications – including the padron.
Owner Matt Smith insisted that his is not only gestor business to be dragged into the investigation.
“Nobody has been arrested, that is a fact,” he insisted, adding: “Other gestors are also being brought in as part of an ongoing investigation into TIE applications.”
A police spokesman told the Olive Press: “All residencia applications from every gestor in the province will be investigated in case of possible connections.”
All fraudulent submissions will be cancelled with applicants given the right to appeal.
“The outcome of the appeal will be either ‘you now have residencia’ or ‘you have 15 days to leave Spain’, they said.
A source told The Olive Press that a court date in Torrevieja has yet to be confirmed, as evidence is still being gathered.
Anne Hernandez of Brexpats in Spain warned that a lack of clear national guidelines means rules can differ from region to region.
She added that the complicated application process is leaving expats vulnerable to unscrupulous gestors.
“One would expect that when you turn to a professional for help, you pay the money and get professional advice but we hear lots of stories every day about people being given the wrong information or even being exploited and landing into trouble by so called qualified gestors,” she warned.
“This case of fraudulent padrons being submitted is shocking but it’s by no means isolated.”
Hundreds of British expats have turned to the services of brokers or gestors for help with the residency process since the issue became more complicated with Brexit and Spain experienced a rush of applications as the end of the transition period approached and in the months since.
Appointments are difficult to get, paperwork can be confusing and requirements can differ between Extranjeria offices.
Recent procedural changes at Alicante Foreigners’ Office now suggest that only a padron dated 2020 will be accepted as proof that an applicant lived in Spain prior to the Brexit deadline on December 31.
Those applying directly, or on behalf of someone, are likely to have their TIE submission refused without that specific document even though the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is supposed to guarantee the rights of those who were living in Spain before January 1st 2021.
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