AN expatriate who lost €1million to a ‘thieving bank’ has taken it to court.
Euan Armstrong, 75, says he has lost his life savings after being sold an ‘illegal’ equity release scheme that was supposed to protect his estate from inheritance tax.
Danske bank ‘mortgaged his house’ then invested the cash in its own financial products. Not only did Danske not deliver on the promised €35,000 of annual investment income but they then began charging him tens of thousands in commissions and ‘charges’ – €18,000 the first year, even more the next, up to an average of €55,000 per year – before trying to re-possess his home near Coin.
That has left Euan, and he says, hundreds of others out of pocket to the tune of possibly hundreds of million of euros.
Armstrong told EuroWeekly that “my €1 million investment was spiraling downward to where by 2010, I’d lost €850,000 of it,” with Danske after him to pay what they had lost. Left destitute, he says, “I had to put my own house up for rental in order to live and eat.” He has since been forced out of retirement and back to work as a yacht captain.
Giving up the fight against Danske is impossible for Armstrong because, according to him, “I’m only one of hundreds.” In response, he linked up with fellow ‘equity release’ fraud victim Ian Sherdley to form the Equity Release Victims Association (ERVA, www.erva.es) which empowers similar victims to speak out with ERVA’s support. Antonio Flores of Lawbird Legal Services confirms that 500-600 people have fallen prey to illegal mortgages schemes totaling €175 million along the Costa.
Armstrong accuses multiple banks—“They’re all doing it,” he says—of targeting the elderly, retired demographic, those without mortgages, so as “to get their money off them.” In the meantime, Armstrong claims innocent people are dying from corollary effects like alcoholism. He says the stress has brought on an irregular heart beat while his brother John has since passed away. “The banks are waiting for people to die,” he states, explaining that if banks wait it out long enough, they win. Law firms fighting these cases have made little progress because the banks “just don’t answer.” Armstrong sentiments were unequivocal: “They’re thieving, robbing *****.”
Armed with 1,030 pages of evidence on Armstrong’s case, a Malaga court has overturned a previous Danske appeal by declaring the case is indeed criminal, not merely civil. Now Henrik Hjerrild and Morten Runo, two top executives from Danske Bank International S.A.’s Luxembourg office, have been summoned by a Fuengirola court for suspected criminal financial dealings.
What is next for Armstrong? “Wait and hope the bank will cancel the mortgage. Then I’ll sue for damages. The situation has brought financial ruin.”
By Bianca Neff