Sun. Jan 26th, 2020

The Catalan madoff, scammer by obligation


Antonio Mas He scammed nearly 300 million euros to thousands of investors for a decade. Its main victims were members of the Catalan bourgeoisie, businessmen, owners of sicavs, high positions of real estate, sportsmen or cradle rich. Also from other places in Spain. They saw the business of Publiolimpia, a company that offered high profitability, which sometimes exceeded 12% profit, for advertising spaces. The business was simple and profitable. The only problem is that it was a fraud. When the big lie became unsustainable, Mas himself went to the Mossos d’Esquadra to self-denounce He had thrown himself into a “pool without water,” as he acknowledges, and finally crashed.





The farce did not hold. It was a pyramid book scam. He said he had spaces with communication companies, such as Mediaset or Atresmedia, which in turn offered large customers. Repsol, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Hawuei, Nintendo, or Movistar, among others. Whatever occurred to him. It didn’t matter and the name of the customers because they were fake.

Investors were paid their profits with the entry of more money from new investors. The business was going well while there was still money flow. Once it stops or some investor claims to recover its full amount, the house of cards sinks. And that was what happened.







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“They threatened me”

He himself has told him in detail to the judge of the National Court of Abascal, who has investigated him for the crimes of scam and money laundering, in a statement to which La Vanguardia has had access. The prosecutor began his interrogation with a simple question. Why did he do it? The owner of Publiolimpia, better known as the Catalan ‘madoff’ for the great scam committed, justified himself: “They did not stop harassing me, threatening me, they did not stop pressuring me very much, and in the end I was forced to commit a whole series of irregularities that led to all this situation that we are now. ”





Second forced question. Who threatened him? “Luis Pascual Franquesa and Carlos Campdelacreu”. The first is the son of the famous judge convicted of corruption Luis Pascual Estevill. Antonio Mas, began his professional life as an RTVE technician. He decided to set up a company, Ata Producciones, and it was in this where he associated with the previous two. Suddenly and thud began with very large investments of money.


Sete Gibernau as an investor

One of its investors was Sete Gibernau, the motorcycle racer. He was in a process of separation with his wife, and what he tried somehow is to hide his money. My surprise was when one day Luis Pascual appeared and told me that he had 11 million euros to invest, ”Mas told the judge last December 3.

Sete Gibernau at the Circuit de Catalunya, in June 2015

Sete Gibernau at the Circuit de Catalunya, in June 2015
(GTY)




Following this investment, his two partners claimed 18 million euros. “I receive a visit from two hitmen in my office. They came from an unpaid claims office from Colombia, ”he explains. “They put a knife in here and squeezed how nice. Fortunately, the knife did not pierce anything else, apart from hitting me four blows, throwing me on the ground and that’s it. They told me, “We are going to kill you if you don’t pay, 18 million, tomorrow we come to look for them.”






The origin: 18 million debt

That was when he created Publiolimpia. Their sole purpose was to attract investors to pay their debt with their two partners. I needed 18 million euros.

In a letter from the Prosecutor’s Office, which appears in the judicial summary to which this newspaper has had access, it is detailed how More “to settle the debt with the first investors and to be able to pay them the agreed interests, the researcher was resorting to new capital, what did it mean increasing indebtedness until, in order to continue with his business activity, he simulated in the way that his company managed advertising spaces ”.

“In this way, the researcher would be the author of a pyramid scam and documentary falsehood that would have affected numerous groups of investors, after which we found thousands of people injured throughout the national territory and some abroad, ascending the damage caused to hundreds of millions of euros, – without prejudice to the fact that many of these foreign investors would operate from tax havens, such operation would also involve the commission of crimes against the Public Treasury and money laundering, ”he says.


“I have not won anything”

The business got out of hand. He recognizes that entered 200 million euros, Although the Prosecutor’s Office figures the scam at about 300 million. However, he claims that he returned 198 million to investors. “The only capital I had is locked in the accounts. 860,000 and 750,000 euros. I have not won anything, ”he snapped in his interrogation. He said he has no yachts and lives on rent. According to him, he has nothing.





Mas acknowledges that he falsified contracts with large companies. He invented it. The money stayed in the account and did not move. They never went to any advertising campaign because they didn’t exist. He has had knowledge a posteriori, that behind these investment groups “they are people of a very high level.” But, in his opinion, their fault is also: “No one in 12 years of all those represented here has deigned to call Coca-Cola, nobody, or Repsol, nobody. No one. At the moment that one, only one, had called one of those clients, had skipped everything, nobody. And there are people… ”, he warned all the lawyers present in his interrogation.


Three years of research

(LVE)




The National Court has just reactivated this investigation, after it began in 2017, after the complaint filed by Antonio Mas himself. The matter started in the Court of Instruction number 31 of Barcelona but due to the large amounts allegedly scammed he moved to the National Court. At the signing of one of his businesses, while he waited at the notary, he waited sitting “because at any moment I was sure that the police or something would appear. It was unheard of what was happening. ” He acknowledges to the judge that the scam was clamorous. He falsified the signature of his clients, such as Repsol, to continue with that lie.





The so-called ‘madoff’ Catalan recounted how his business was a great success. Hence, a company dedicated to the management of invoices, Finalter, contacted him to offer a credit line of 50 million euros. “That topic is really creepy”He recalled questions from the prosecutor, who wanted to detail what happened with that company.


An “unfeasible” business

It was 2015, two years before the scandal broke, and a company manager offered to do business together. “They told me, we can offer you financing for the invoice discount. Obviously when they talk to me about discounting bills as they are not real I can not take an invoice to discount”He explained.

As he pointed out, he initially rejected the business because part of the contract was the duty to show the customer the invoice that would later be managed by that company. These bills, as he acknowledges, did not exist because there was no business, so it was “unfeasible”.

However, everything changes when seen in the situation of having to return to an investor of Publiolimpia 300,000 euros. “I am overwhelmed because I have maturities of some investors that I cannot attend, I have no capital. In this situation I throw myself into the pool without waterto, so to speak”.






“I faked the signatures”

The first thing he does is to falsify a Repsol invoice and send it to Finalter. “I evidently just thought that at any moment they were going to call saying‘ hey what is going to be history. ” And no, no. Not only do they not call, but they call me at a prestigious notary in Madrid to sign the first contract. They send me the first famous addendum where the client has to sign acknowledging that he has received the invoice. Obviously I falsify that signature. And I will send it back to them, ”he recalls.

I promise everyone here that I didn’t understand anything at all. I’m going to Madrid. I have in my hand the invoice and the addendum modified, falsified, good signed by me. I sit at the door of the notary because at any moment I was sure that the police or something was going to appear. It was unheard of what is happening. ”

This scam left a list of those affected, which are grouped into various groups of investors, such as the San Martí group, the Boceta Villagrá group, Danta group, Hortalá group, Gonzalbo group, Vitaly group, Capdevila group or Calber group, among others.


Hiding funds

The current sum of those affected directly and indirectly would be, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, approximately 1,120 affected, distributed between Catalonia, Valencia, Madrid, Asturias, Aragon, Navarra, Balearic Islands, Andalusia and Galicia. Likewise, the Public Ministry has information that there could be victims from other states such as Andorra, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France or Luxembourg.

Although it was Antonio Mas himself who decided to take the first step and denounce the scam he had mounted, various offices of the Mossos detail that despite his confession, “far from collaborating with Justice and trying to repair the damage caused, has continued to dispose of the funds obtained fraudulently for his own benefit using, for this, different societies in which he did not personally appear as administrator thereof.



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