According to a report in today's El Pais, one of the companies involved in the stamp fraud probe, Forum Filatelico, was investigated previously in 2001, when payments to an Israeli arms dealer were detected, and again in 2003, for payments from Gibraltar to one of the company's directors.
Meanwhile, employees are staging demonstrations in defence of the company today outside all of its offices.
In another development, Public Administration minister, Jordi Sevilla, has said that it is "very soon" to start demanding that the government begins sending compensation payments to the thousands of small investors affected by the scam.
The other company involved in the scandal, Afinsa, has launched an appeal against the jailing by High Court judge, Santiago Pedraz, of four of the company's directors, and has launched a 'nationwide social platform' to "defend" the interests of the company's workforce and 175,000 customers.
Judges jail all nine stamp fraud arrestees
Saturday, May 13, 2006
High Court judge Fernando Grande Merlaska has ordered for all four executives of the Forum Filatélico company to be remanded in jail this morning while judge Santiago Pedraz took similar action against the five employees of Afinsa yesterday, explaining that he was doing so in light of the "high risk" that they would flee the country or destroy vital evidence.
Among those jailed today is the president of the company, Francisco Briones, and four fellow directors. They are accused of fraud, money-laundering, criminal insolvency and maladministration.
Meanwhile yesterday, government first vice-president, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, confirmed that the government is studying a series of measures to support the hundreds of thousands of small investors affected.
Stamp fraud High Court hearing starts today
Friday, May 12, 2006
The nine people arrested in relation to the alleged stamp fraud case involving the Afinsa and Forum Filatelico companies will be appearing before High Court judges Santiago Pedraz and Fernando Grande Merlaska later today.
Meanwhile, the ten associations that form the Consumers and User Council (CCU) agreed yesterday to offer free advice to all those affected by the alleged fraud, and called for new legislation to offer greater protection to the customers who invest their savings in this kind of company. However, at this stage investors have only been offered general advice and information, and it has not been agreed to provide aid for, what could turn out to be, an extended legal process.
For their part, the Health and Consumption ministry attempted to quell the concerns of the victims of the fraud by reassuring them that, if and when it is established that if a crime has actually been committed, they would have plenty of time to present their claims, advising them that the more paperwork that they can provide to substantiate such claims, the better.
Three more arrests in stamp fraud probe
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Nine people were arrested yesterday, and stand accused by two judges in the National Courts in Madrid of being behind a giant scheme to defraud at least 350,000 people, 8,000 of whom from the Valencia region, where the fraud is said to have reached €144 million.
Two companies -Forum Filatelico and Afinsa Bienes Tangibles- were closed yesterday and both the Spanish tax authorities and the police believe that they were both in a state of bankruptcy since starting a fraudulent pyramid selling scheme between 1998 and 2001.
As the small investors, who spent between €150-300 with the companies, hammered on the doors of the offices in Valencia demanding their money back, insiders revealed that the publicity campaigns from the two companies implied that any investment would be returned at 6% over the usual rate, and that the investors' money was being spent on such items as antiques, stamps or works of art that are not subject to the usual fiscal controls.
However, the two companies were in such a parlous financial state that they were not even able to buy the works of art or stamps that they had promised their investors, as it is now believed that the monies sent to the companies by investors ended up in offshore accounts, with the total amount defrauded believed to be in the region of €3,500 million.
It is the largest fraud ever uncovered in Spain, and following raids on the various offices yesterday, police only came away with several bundles of thousand dollar bills with a total value of some ten million euros as well as other works of art and stamps of lesser value.
In a brief statement yesterday, government spokesman Fernando Moraleda, stated that the government does not have a policy to reimburse people defrauded in these kinds of investments.
Six held in stamp collector fraud probe
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Police have arrested six people thought to be part of an organisation working through two philatelic companies that has allegedly swindled thousands of small investors. Searches are being carried out today at the offices of the Forum Filatélico in Madrid (photo), Valladolid and Barcelona, and at the headquarters of the Afinsa company in Madrid.
The fraud involved a number of employees at both companies who would target small investors with rare stamp portfolios worth upwards of €300 with the promise that they would earn annual interest of at least 6%.
The investors were never actually shown the stamps they had bought, and sources close to the investigation claim that should the more than 20,000 investors affected decide to withdraw their investments, it would mean financial ruin for both companies.
The investigation is being handled by High Court judges, Santiago Pedraz and Fernando Grande Marlaska, and two anti-corruption prosecutors.