The police have thwarted a fraudulent scheme to sell luxury homes on the Golden Mile in Marbella worth four million euros. The investigation is continuing, but so far five people, including two estate agents and a lawyer, have been arrested.
The investigation by the National Police's UDEV team (Specialised Crime and Violence Unit) in Marbella began on 11 September, after the owner of several properties in the Casablanca area reported that somebody else had tried to sell them.
The owner said the properties were in the name of a company, and he was the registered administrator. In April, he had advertised the houses and garages for sale on several websites, and three people had contacted him in response, saying they were interested in making an offer.
They claimed to be acting on behalf of a group of investors in Madrid and said they needed to check out the company which owned the properties, to make sure it was solvent. The owner then gave them copies of the title deeds and registration documents, proof of ownership, his own ID card and even his passport.
According to the police, once these supposed intermediaries had obtained all the documentation, they said the purchase couldn't go ahead after all because disagreements had arisen between different members of the investment group they were representing.
The owner told the police he didn't realise he had been the victim of a fraud until September, when a notary with whom he worked asked for a copy of the property registration document because some people were interested in buying. On this occasion the potential purchasers were genuine.
When he went to the property registry, he discovered that his company no longer figured as the owner and that two of the properties had been transferred to a completely different company.
The police discovered that one of the people involved, using false documentation, had presented a fake resignation letter from the real owner as company administrator and had registered himself in his place, which meant he had the power to sell the properties. He did the same thing on the Companies Register.
However, that was not the end of it. The police then discovered that several of the properties had been bought in good faith in August, signed before a notary in Madrid, and that people were interested in buying the others and were about to put down a 500,000 euro deposit, in a sale arranged through an estate agent in Marbella, who was also acting in good faith.
The group perpetrating the alleged fraud had received 400,000 euros in deposits, but if they had been successful in selling all the properties, they would have obtained four million euros.