AS part of an operation named Inversionis, the Guardia Civil have arrested 10 people and investigated two more in Barcelona who were allegedly involved in a large-scale scam involving the purchase of securities by small investors. Those arrested are accused of crimes of fraud, acting against public finance, accounting irregularities and money laundering.
This long-term investigation was initiated following a complaint filed by a businessman who claimed to have been caught in a scam requiring investment in the German Xetra market as early as January 2013.
Investigators became aware of at least a further 200 people in Spain who had lost money and it could have been higher as some may have believed that this was a legal undertaking which simply went wrong and have not therefore reported the matter.
The majority of victims were owners of small businesses who advertised in the yellow pages or on the Internet and have suffered individual losses of between €10,000 and €300,000 after being persuaded to buy fraudulent securities.
Basically these scammers contacted potential customers and offered them the opportunity to invest in securities which would see good returns whilst saving taxes from investments secured in off-shore tax havens.
Although these swindlers were operating from within Spain, they claimed that they were actually based in other parts of Europe and used sophisticated technical equipment to make it appear that they were calling from France, Germany or Sweden.
As part of their ploy to attract customers, they claimed to be working for subsidiaries of known companies which were authorised to be working in international financial markets.
This was a new concept of fraud within Spain as it was basically mirroring the activities of legally constituted companies but rather than invest the money received on behalf of its ‘customers’ it was creaming the money off for itself and it is estimated that some €50 million was involved in the scam.
To add to the difficulty in tracing both the funds and the people involved, Spanish authorities had to negotiate a minefield of false foreign companies formed not only in many parts of Europe but also Australia, Singapore and Turkey.
Eventually, the investigators managed to untangle the web sufficiently to lead them to the addresses of three people in Barcelona who were seen to be the ringleaders and after raiding their premises, the Guardia Civil seized €105,000 in cash, vehicles, buildings and a large amount of documentary evidence.