EXPATS caught up in the alleged fraudulent residency scam on the Costa Blanca have been told by police that they can’t leave the country while the case is investigated.
Dozens of people are facing a life in legal limbo for up to two years while police investigate the alleged fraud before it is decided if they face deportation or can legally stay.
It comes after The Olive Press reported on a group of expats who had been detained by police over padron certificates that appear to have been doctored by one particular gestor they hired to process their TIE applications.
They included 71-year-old widow Lily Higgins, who was grilled over her town hall registration form, which was handled by One Way Services.
Several more have since come forward to complain about the British gestor, in Ciudad Quesada, which is at the centre of the investigation.
These include Jane Long of Torrevieja who was taken to Alicante Police Station and questioned over her part in ‘an alleged fraud’.
The 53-year-old said she and her husband Nigel had confronted Matt Smith, owner of One Way Services, about why a doctored certificate had been submitted on their behalf.
“Smith said he was only trying to help people,” she told the Olive Press.
“He said he’d already admitted his guilt to the police, before shredding my fake padron in front of my eyes,” she added.
He added that she should ‘expect a phone call from the police merely to answer a few questions’.
However, after being taken away in a police car, held for two hours, fingerprinted and photographed, she was told by detectives at the Policia Nacional that she will be considered ‘guilty, until proven innocent’.
Mrs Long despaired: “I was told I couldn’t even travel back to the UK because I’m a criminal!”
The Kent woman revealed that the police had informed her, “another 40-plus people will also be arrested.”
Fellow Brit, Brian Williams, 63, told us he also had to give a statement at Alicante police station last week.
It involved the property owner, who has lived in Spain for seven years, having his fingerprints taken, as well as getting photographed.
“It was astonishing,” he told the Olive Press. “I’m now told the court case could take 18 months to two years, possibly more.”
He continued: “I started all this on September 1, but it became apparent as time went on there was something amiss.
“I feel this can go two ways: I’m found guilty and deported or after possibly two years I’m granted residencia.
“I put all my faith into One Way Services and have been so let down, a very stressful time for me and countless others,” he added.
Other victims, who don’t want to be named for fear of repercussions, also mentioned One Way Services.
“We had absolutely no idea that they had submitted fraudulent documents on our behalf,” the elderly couple said.
“We also found ourselves summoned to appear in Alicante to be questioned under caution with our fingerprints and mugshots taken – it was one of the scariest and humiliating things we’ve ever experienced.”
The couple admitted: “What has made us contact The Olive Press is the complete lack of shame and remorse from Matt Smith and his business colleagues.”
Continuing: “As a result of their actions, not only have all applications been cancelled but we will all likely face criminal charges which we will need to defend,” he said, adding that he has informed the British Embassy of the issue.
When the Olive Press called Matt Smith for an explanation he refused to answer questions. “Speak to my lawyer,” he said before hanging up.
The lawyer later confirmed to the Olive Press that Smith had made a statement to police clearing his clients of any knowledge of the alleged fraud.
“My client explained [to the police] that none of the clients had produced the applications themselves [but] only paid my client to apply for the TIE on their behalf,” David Guijarro Mayor from ABC solicitors told The Olive Press in response to written questions.
He sought to reassure One Way clients that they would not be held criminally responsible.
“So it is totally clear now that the criminal investigation is being focused only against my client so for sure the fiscal will not start criminal actions against his clients sadly affected,” he said.
If it emerges that any other of One Way clients were to be detained over the matter, the lawyer said: “Mr. Smith will proceed immediately to clarify in front of police or/and the Court that these clients have no relation at all with any criminal activity.”
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