Thursday, April 14, 2016
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Timeshare fraudsters duped thousands of British victims out of more than £4million a year in a well-honed criminal operation smashed by Spanish police. Police chiefs today announced that they have arrested 56 people - all Brits, including the three alleged leaders - and uncovered 500 mostly pensioner victims. And they said they feared thousands more would now be identified following a series of Costa del Sol raids against the gang which had been operating for more than five years. Detectives detailed the lengths the fraudsters went to dupe victims into handing over cash at a press conference in Malaga this morning.
The three-tier scam involved calls from fake lawyers and court officials who persuaded their victims to hand over up to £35,000 after being conned into selling their timeshares. The chief alleged ringleader, a Brit living in the resort of Mijas, had three homes and a boat and drove two luxury cars he is thought to have bought with his ill-gotten gains. Nearly 80 bank accounts linked to the gang have been frozen and six vehicles seized along with the boat and properties valued at nearly £600,000. Lead investigator,
Inspector Mercedes Perez Quesada, said: 'The fraud was three-fold. 'Telesales operators contacted potential victims and offered them attractive prices to sell their timeshare properties and took advantage of their ignorance of Spanish law once they'd been tempted to instruct them to pay things like administrative or public notary fees. 'Any excuse to get money out of them was valid. 'Once victims had been conned and knew they were never going to get their money back, a second group of people would call claiming to be lawyers saying they were going to launch a group action on behalf of victims and asking once again for money upfront. 'The third tier involved people posing as court officials ringing victims and saying cases had been resolved in their favour but they had to pay fees so they could obtain their cash settlements.
'The scam sounds very crude but we estimate the fraudsters were making between £35 and £35,000 from victims and the fraud was netting between £3.5 million and £4.5 million a year. 'The telesales operators were at the bottom rung of the fraud but knew exactly what was going on. 'The next level up were front men paid to open bank accounts so it made it more difficult to find out where the money had gone. 'They would receive commissions on the transfers of up to £360...Money collectors working for the three alleged ringleaders would collect up to £2,150 from each front man on a daily basis and pass it on to their paymasters.
'The leaders were the brains behind the operation and the final recipients of the money... They started the operation we have smashed in 2009. The alleged ringleaders, who have not been named, are suspected of laundering the multi-million pound proceeds of their fraud through bars and restaurants on the Costa del Sol. Much of the money had been banked in offshore accounts. Two of the three alleged leaders were arrested along with 36 other suspects in raids in February during the first phase of the operation. The man police say is the ringleader was detained in a second phase after returning to Spain from the UK. A judge at a court in the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola is now coordinating an ongoing criminal investigation. He is probing 11 companies believed to have been set up to facilitate the fraud.
Two men including the alleged ringleader have been remanded in jail after a closed court hearing and the remainder released on bail. None of the suspects have been formally charged as is customary under Spanish law, but are being probed on suspicion of money laundering, fraud and membership of a criminal gang. Inspector Perez said: 'We know so far this organisation defrauded 500 British victims out of money but we expect there are thousands of victims.' Police also admitted the alleged ringleader had been arrested before for similar offences. They were not able to say whether he had been convicted in court. Malaga police chief Pedro Garijo Torres said: 'We don't want to comment on things that escape our control. 'The important thing for us was the police operation which is of huge significance in an area like Malaga whose economy relies so heavily on tourism and foreign visitors.' Government spokesman for the area Jorge Hernandez Mollar described the police operation, involving financial crime specialists from Madrid and Malaga, as 'brilliant.'
Friday, February 13, 2015
Golfers in the UK can enjoy increased value and choice when travelling to the sunshine island of Tenerife this summer with the impending launch of a new direct flight route from London Heathrow.
From March 29, Iberia Express – a subsidiary of Iberia, the largest airline in Spain – will operate a thrice-weekly service from Heathrow into Tenerife’s Reina Sofia airport in the south of the island.
Fares for the new route start from €89 each way and it is one of three new direct weekly flights to have been announced by the low-cost carrier to the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, with new services also set to operate from Lyon in France and Asturias in Spain.
Barely a four-hour flight from the UK, Tenerife is a popular destination for golfers seeking guaranteed sunshine on the fairways, and the new Heathrow service will complement the wide range of regular flights already available from many regional airports in the UK and Ireland.
Blessed with average summer temperatures of 23⁰, more than 70km of beaches and a wide range of cultural highlights and activities both on and off the water, Tenerife offers the ideal location for a golf break.
The island features nine different and varied layouts: Buenavista in the west; Real Club de Golf de Tenerife in the north; and Golf Costa Adeje, Abama, Las Americas, Golf del Sur, Amarilla, and Los Palos in the south. Tecina Golf is a 40-minute ferry ride from the mainland on the beautiful island of La Gomera.
And Tenerife is set to be at the forefront of the golf industry later this year when the sunshine destination hosts the prestigious International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) for the first time in its history from October 5-8.
Tickets for the new flight routes are available through .iberia.com and other Iberia Group sales channels.
New route from Heathrow to Tenerife
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
British woman Paula Beatson (44) thought to be the ringleader of a Timeshare fraud gang one of 58 arrested in Gran Canaria
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Seven connected companies, which mis-sold membership of a concierge holiday scheme to the public while ostensibly conducting meetings to propose action against timeshare deals, have been wound up in the public interest by the High Court in London.
The order to wind up the companies, five of which were registered in Seychelles and two in the UK, followed an investigation by the Company Investigations team of the Insolvency Service in London.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills petitioned to wind up all the companies, collectively known as Club Class, as they were all intimately involved in the marketing of the scheme in the UK.
One of the English companies, Bridge View Consultants Ltd sold the Club Class product to the public in the UK at meetings which were ostensibly arranged to address people who had been mis-sold timeshares.
At these meetings, timeshare owners were encouraged to sign up to a group action against the timeshare industry to be conducted by an organisation called International Timeshare Refund Action (ITRA).
The court heard that instead, the ITRA presentation became a Club Class presentation in which consumers were informed there was a “one-off” opportunity for them to irrevocably relinquish their timeshares in part-payment for the substantial cost of the Club Class membership, which ranged from around £7,000 to £15,000. Consumers were unaware in advance that this was the true purpose of the meeting.
During the meetings, some lasting up to six hours, consumers were put under immense pressure to exchange their timeshares, which they were told were essentially worthless, but could be set off against the cost of their holiday club membership.
Consumers were also told that their timeshare liabilities would continue in perpetuity and pass to their heirs. The principal inducement was that the Club Class group would arrange for the release of the consumer from these onerous liabilities by effecting transfer or other means. Cash-backs were also offered as another sales promotional tool.
In fact, consumers’ timeshares were simply returned to the resort owner and no real efforts were made to assume their liability. As a result, consumers continued to receive maintenance demands from the resort owners. A representative of the Seychelles companies, Dennis Gilson, admitted in court that because of the onerous terms that had to be complied with to receive a cash payment, the cash-back offers were the equivalent of a spot-the-ball competition.
In making the winding-up orders, the Court found that in addition to the mis-selling and lack of commercial probity which generated a significant volume of complaints, there was a lack of transparency within the operations of the companies. The companies’ officers also failed to co-operate with the investigation.
Commenting on the case, David Hill an Investigation Supervisor with The Insolvency Service said: “These companies were set up with the aim of duping consumers, who in some cases had already suffered from unfair timeshare deals, by using slick patter for what was in reality the selling of an illusion. There was nothing investors could gain from paying to these companies.
“This action shows that The Insolvency Service will investigate and close down companies set up to scam the public.”
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Friday, May 06, 2011
Press releases 2011 -
OFT secures enforcement orders against holiday club companies
58/11 6 May 2011
The OFT has obtained enforcement orders in the High Court against two companies and seven individuals stopping them using sales and marketing practices the OFT considers to be misleading or otherwise unlawful when selling and marketing holiday club memberships and other holiday based products.
The OFT was concerned that holders of timeshare products attended presentations on the promise of being able to dispose of their timeshares, with their maintenance charges, when in fact they were subjected to lengthy and high pressure sales pitches to be sold expensive holiday club memberships costing large sums, in some cases up to £12,000. Sales staff told these holders they could get back up to 95 per cent of these sums under a 'reclaim' scheme but did not explain the restrictions that applied, and often played on their fears that their children would otherwise be liable for timeshare maintenance fees. Many consumers subsequently wished to cancel their holiday club memberships but were not allowed to.
Interim enforcement orders were obtained against Personal Travel Group Limited (PTG), Geo Demographic Market Research Limited (GDMR) and two individuals who are directors of PTG and were directors of Incentive Leisure Group Limited (ILG). Final enforcement orders were obtained against five individuals associated with PTG and GDMR, one of whom was also a former director of ILG.
Amongst other things the orders prohibit the companies and the individuals from engaging in misleading sales practices when dealing with people who want to dispose of their timeshares, and require consumers to be given cancellation rights in certain circumstances.
The orders follow the launch of High Court proceedings by the OFT in December 2010 against these companies and individuals for their involvement in activities which the OFT believes breach consumer protection law.
The interim enforcement orders against PTG, GDMR and the individuals concerned will last until there is a final hearing of the OFT's court action. A date for the final hearing has not yet been set.
The final enforcement orders conclude the OFT's action against the individuals concerned.
No interim enforcement order was sought against ILG as it is not trading and is in liquidation in Gibraltar. However, the OFT is monitoring the progress of the liquidation and intends to continue its action through the High Court against the company.
Jason Freeman, Director in the OFT's Goods and Consumer Group, said:
'The enforcement orders put a stop to activities that we consider to be unlawful, and which we believe were causing serious harm to consumers.
'It is important that traders do not mislead consumers or exploit their fears in order to make a hard sell. In particular, these are contracts where we believe consumers should have been given cancellation rights and we are pleased that the traders have accepted that they have to give notice of such rights in accordance with the law.'
The content of the orders was agreed by the companies, the individuals and the OFT, and approved by the Court.
- The interim and final enforcement orders were made under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 and sealed by the High Court on 19 April 2011.
- Under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 the court may make an enforcement order which requires the companies and individuals named to cease or discontinue any breaches of consumer protection laws that may have occurred.
- If a company or person breaches an interim or final enforcement order, they can be held in contempt of court which could lead to a fine, imprisonment or the seizure of their assets.
- Interim orders have been made against PTG, Keith Barker and Kimberley Bambroffe. Mr Barker was a director of ILG, and is a director of GDMR and PTG. Ms Bambroffe was a director of ILG and is a director of PTG.
- Final orders were made against Martin White, Jonathan Daniels, Mark Gales, Robert Knight and Lily Alderson. Martin White was a former director of ILG. Mr. Gales, Mr. Knight and Ms Anderson were involved in the management of and sales by one or more of the companies involved in this case.
- The registered office of PTG is Unit 21, 2nd Floor, Waterport Place, 2 Europort Avenue, Gibraltar.
- The registered office of GDMR is Haven Court, 5 Library Ramp, Gibraltar.
- The liquidators address for ILG is Haven Court, 5 Library Ramp, Gibraltar.
- For more information see the case summary in respect of this investigation. The interim and final enforcement orders are also available on this page.
- Trading Standards Services in Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, North Somerset and Durham assisted the OFT during this investigation. The OFT also received assistance from many other Trading Standards Services in respect of the investigation.
- The OFT does not provide advice or resolve individual complaints for consumers. Consumer information is available from www.direct.gov.uk/consumer For further assistance consumers should consider obtaining independent legal advice.