Esperanza Aguirre’s husband simulated a donation to defraud taxes and appropriate the Goya, according to his brother


Esperanza Aguirre’s father-in-law, Ignacio Ramírez de Haro, Count of Bornos, great of Spain, descendant of an aristocratic lineage with six centuries of history, only formally left the following assets as an inheritance:

“Two motor vehicles in poor condition. Two hunting shotguns. Two rifles. For a combined estimated value of TWO THOUSAND EUROS.”

elDiario.es has agreed to the liquidation of the inheritance and donation tax presented by the executor of the inheritance of the Count of Bornos. It is a document that contains only these few assets and that perfectly explains the type of tricks used by Fernando Ramírez de Haro and his wife, Esperanza Aguirre, to avoid paying the corresponding taxes for that painting by Francisco de Goya whose complex history we told our readers yesterday.

It is not that the Count of Bornos, Aguirre’s father-in-law, died destitute, as this documentation suggests, where there is only an alleged estate of two thousand euros. It is that his eldest son, Fernando Ramírez de Haro, hid a large part of the inheritance from the Community of Madrid’s treasury: another eight million euros in works of art and antiques. An alleged fraud that his brother Íñigo Ramírez de Haro has denounced in court and from which Aguirre also benefited, since they are married in a community property regime.

Esperanza Aguirre, at that time, was the president of the Community of Madrid: the same administration that receives and oversees this type of tax. Neither she nor her husband wanted to answer the questions of elDiario.es.

This document detailing the inheritance was presented to the Madrid Ministry of Economy and Finance on March 31, 2011. Aguirre’s father-in-law, Ignacio Ramírez de Haro, had died a few months earlier, on October 24, 2010. He was 92 years. He suffered from various ailments and in the hospital, he also caught an outbreak of Legionella.

Years before his death, the family of the Count of Bornos had already ordered most of the inheritance, benefiting from the tax cuts that one of the heiresses, Esperanza Aguirre, started up. The trick was – it is still the same today – to donate goods before dying.

Almost all the autonomies charge more taxes for donations than for successions: it is usually cheaper fiscally to inherit. Not so the Community of Madrid, which is an anomaly compared to all the others.

In December 2005, Esperanza Aguirre lowered the inheritance tax with a 95% discount. But the great gift to the rich, which has turned Madrid into a kind of tax haven to inherit, is not only there: it is the 99% reduction in the tribute that records donations between direct relatives, which was approved that same year.

This 99% discount in the tax allows the great fortunes to order the inheritance in life and pay ridiculous amounts for the transfer of their properties. If the children receive them as a donation before death, the tax to pay is only 1% of the quota established by state law: around 0.3% of their value; that is, three euros for every thousand. Some ridiculous figures, in comparison with those of the rest of the autonomies.

The inheritance from which Aguirre benefited was not small; much more generous than two old cars and four guns. At the beginning of the 20th century, the county of Bornos rivaled the Duchy of Alba as the largest landowner in all of Spain. And although a good part of those thousands of hectares were lost due to different incidents, Esperanza Aguirre’s father-in-law was still a large landowner.

In recent years, the count was donating these lands and other properties to his children, agricultural and livestock farms that were managed by the oldest of the six brothers, Fernando Ramírez de Haro, Aguirre’s husband. Also the palace in the center of Madrid where a large part of the family resides – the count and his wife occupied the first floor. And when Aguirre’s father-in-law died, the antiques and works of art that were in his house were just missing. Those “movable property” of which the document speaks and that the executor of the inheritance says “have been delivered while alive.”

When this document was presented, the family still did not know in detail the enormous value of these assets. Until a year after presenting this settlement, the heirs of the Count of Bornos did not know that, among those paintings, there was an unpublished Goya. It was in March 2012 when they discovered that this portrait of a family ancestor that was on the fireplace in the living room was, in fact, a masterpiece of the great Aragonese painter.

The earl was already dead. So you could not donate, for tax purposes, in the way required by the Law of Successions and Donations of the Community of Madrid: with the living donor.

The legal thing would have been to declare those assets within the inheritance and distribute them equally among all the heirs. But if it had been done that way, Fernando Ramírez de Haro and his wife, Esperanza Aguirre, would have had to share the money with the rest of the family.

Instead, both “concocted a plan to appropriate the painting through a consecutive series of crimes” and thus get the maximum possible benefit from the Goya, to the detriment of the other heirs and also the treasury, according to Íñigo Ramírez de Haro, brother-in-law. de Aguirre, in the complaint investigated by the investigating court number 26 of Madrid.

Among other crimes, such as fraud, misappropriation, money laundering or against the Spanish historical heritage, he also accuses them of documentary falsification and tax fraud.

A “verbal donation” to be able to sell the Goya

On April 10, 2012, Esperanza Aguirre’s husband wanted to dispose of the painting as if it were his property. He did so with a rather anomalous notarized statement, since the donor had been dead for a year and a half. In it, he assured that his father had “verbally donated” 59 paintings, antiques and other works of art that were in the palace six years ago. Among them, the portrait of Don Valentín Belvís y Moncada, painted by Francisco de Goya.

This notarial declaration to claim ownership of the painting was made just a month after the appraisal by Sotheby’s, which valued the painting at eight million euros. On March 9, 2012, this auction house confirmed that it was an unpublished masterpiece by the Aragonese painter, something that until then the family suspected but did not know for sure. “One of his best portraits, painted at the peak of his career”, as accredited by different experts.

In the documentation that elDiario.es reveals today, the appraisal price of Goya’s painting is another: 6,725,900 euros. Other very valuable works of art and antiques also appear in the inheritance, such as “12 Chippendale chairs”, valued at 440,000 euros. Or several old portraits of family ancestors, which are priced between 8,000 and 30,000 euros each.

In total, with this “verbal donation”, this batch of 59 works of art is “valued for tax purposes” at 7,989,700 euros. Almost eight million. Here are all the documents (PDF).

According to the complaint filed by Aguirre Íñigo Ramírez de Haro’s brother-in-law –which has provided various documentary and testimonial evidence to the court–, this “verbal donation” is fraudulent. It was manufactured and later sold as if it were his Goya, which at that time Sotheby’s had already appraised and which a few months later would be bought by businessman Juan Miguel Villar Mir, founder of the OHL construction company.

To give more truth to the story, according to Aguirre’s brother-in-law, his brother chose San Fernando’s day, May 30, 2006, as if the false donation to Fernando Ramírez de Haro was a gift for his saint.

The chosen year, 2006, is not accidental either. The notarial deed is from 2012, so the supposed donation would have occurred six years earlier. Tax fraud expires after five years, so that any hypothetical investigation that is opened on that operation would result in it being prescribed.

This aspect is very relevant, because if the donation had really taken place in 2006, it would also be an alleged fraud with the Treasury. Aguirre’s husband’s legal obligation would have been to pay taxes for that donation in that year. Not more than five years later.

It is true that, at that time, the value of the Goya was not known. But only with the rest of the paintings and antiques that are detailed in this writing, they add more than 1.2 million euros without declaring in 2006: the year in which, in theory, the “verbal donation” took place.

In that notarial deed, Aguirre’s husband emphasizes that “he does not benefit from the tax exemption” even though the obligation to pay was prescribed, and that “he will practice self-assessment.” But Fernando Ramírez de Haro does not waive the 99% discount on that donation. A completely irregular decision, according to a lawyer specialized in tax law who has consulted elDiario.es.

The requirement that these types of donations be declared in a public deed is very important, explains this expert in tax law. It is used to control these types of transactions and to know when they are carried out, what they consist of and if all the requirements are met. It is not a minor formality: it helps to avoid fraud in inheritance and before the treasury. And for a donation of this type to be valid for tax purposes, it must be a public deed signed by both the donor and the recipient. In life, not a posteriori.

Assuming that a verbal donation signed years later can qualify for a tax credit would open the door to all kinds of fraud. Any inheritance would always be subsidized at 99%, because it would be enough to claim before a notary that the deceased donated it verbally a few years before dying. To accept such a ruse, explains this lawyer, would even serve to launder black money or other property. “If this were worth it, I could now take out any good and say that my father donated it to me in 2006 and that it is subsidized at 99%,” he assures. “This document is crude and does not serve to meet that requirement.”

With this notarial deed, Aguirre’s husband presented the self-assessment of taxes. It is this other document:

There he declares a donation of 7,987,700 euros from his father, who died a year and a half ago. If not for the tax cut approved by his wife, and that her husband applies in a very questionable way, he would have had to pay 2.6 million euros in taxes. It is what donations pay in other communities where these taxes have not been de facto abolished. Or when the requirements to qualify for this bonus are not met.

But thanks to this 99% reduction in the tax, whose requirements it is very doubtful that he would meet, Aguirre’s husband only paid 26,445 euros for a donation valued at almost eight million euros: 0.3%.

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