The Supreme Court has slightly reduced the sentence to the former president of the Philatelic Forum, Francisco Briones, to 11 years and 10 months in prison and a fine of 49.7 million for aggravated fraud, accounting falsehood, punishable insolvency and laundering, by applying the mitigation of delays improper
In the ruling, known this Thursday, the high court corrects in some technical aspects the ruling of the National Court, which imposed a penalty of 12 years and 4 months in prison to Briones, although it confirms that there was an “aggravated scam” in the that customers were captured “through deception” between 1998 and 2006.
For these facts, the Supreme Court sentences between six months and eleven years in prison to 16 defendants, including the former legal advisor of the company, Juan Ramón González, who reduces his punishment by half, to the three years and three months in prison, plus a fine of 15.9 million, on understanding that his performance in the scam was an accomplice and not a necessary cooperator.
Regarding the compensation of those affected, the ruling establishes that it is Briones, González, and subsidiarily, Fórum Filatélico, who are responsible for the amounts delivered by customers, less the amount they have already received in the liquidation phase.
However, it acquits four of the twenty convicted by the first instance, assessing that there is not enough evidence against them, while reducing the penalty imposed on figurehead Pedro Ramón Rodríguez until three years in jail, six months less.
The magistrates of the Supreme endorse the factual report of the first section of the Criminal Chamber of the National Court and conclude that the Forum clients “ignored that the money that society received from them was partly destined to the purchase of new philately at prices much lower than those that were later sold or awarded. “
These amounts were also intended to “pay to other clients who wished to recover their investment or to those who received the insured interest” and ensure the operation of the company, and another part “was diverted to the personal assets of the accused.”
According to the ruling known on Thursday, the convicted either created or participated in circuits with screen companies through which, by rotating the merchandise, they managed to artificially increase the price of the stamps that were finally awarded Forum.
Also, they extracted “clandestinely” from the philatelic stamps already acquired that moved through the circuit to end up returning to the company of Briones, which, in this way, paid again for the same product.
In this sense, the Supreme Court clarifies that although the sale of stamps with a repurchase agreement, in general, can be legal, in the case of the Forum “the will of the investors was captured by deception”, as they agreed “on their own damage, placing your money in an ignored situation of high risk of loss. “
The sentence, of which the magistrate Miguel Colmenero has been a rapporteur, also proves the crime of insolvency punishable, while “the business produced constant losses due to the commitment to repurchase with interest since the only source of income was the money of the investors”.
Also the money laundering, for which he condemns, among others, Briones and his former CEO, Antonio Merino, for having intervened in operations aimed at hiding the origin of the money scammed.
Regarding the crime of accounting falsehood, the Supreme Court determines that both the former President of the Forum and the two external auditors concealed that “the annual accounts did not adequately reflect the commitments with clients and overvalued the company’s philately.”
As a consequence, an image was offered according to which Forum generated very high profits, between 34 and 43 million euros between 2001 and 2003, when the reality was of inevitable insolvency given the nature of the business.
In this regard, the magistrates insist that although the administrators of the company are responsible for the formulation of the accounts, the external auditors may incur the same crime, as necessary cooperators, if they endorse with their report states that they know that They hide the faithful image of the company.
“It is true that it is not they who prepare and formulate them (and) that they do not have to guarantee their accuracy. But it is also true that their function operates as a security element for third parties outside the company regarding whether the accounts have been prepared and presented according to the rules “, conclude the judges.