ALMERÍA, Nov. 16. (EUROPA PRESS) -
The Provincial Court of Almería has sentenced the hotel businessman Miguel Rifá to sentences totaling 22 years and five months in prison for draining the assets of his companies and, thus, defrauding the Tax Agency of more than 88 million euros through a scheme in which he used tax havens.
The sentence of the Second Section, to which Europa Press has had access, attributes to him the commission of two crimes of confiscation of assets and up to five crimes against the Public Treasury, one of them attempted, for the fiscal years of 2008, 2010 and 2011, although the mitigating circumstances of undue delays apply as the events date back more than a decade.
The court establishes that Rifá must compensate the AEAT with more than 88 million euros and imposes fines for an amount greater than 34.9 million euros, although in some cases it must face these economic amounts jointly and severally. with his partner and also convicted, I.M.M., or his companies.
The ruling for which Judge Luis Durbán is the rapporteur indicates that the businessman "controlled and directed" the commercial group made up of Hotel Almería SL, Alvari Hotelera, and Predios del Sureste SL, and highlights that, in 2008, they had contracts with the Tax Agency debts for a total of more than 84.1 million euros.
It points out that, despite the fact that "they had assets to face them," Miguel Rifá, together with other co-defendants and guided by "the intention to frustrate the legitimate expectations of collection" of the AEAT, "devised and executed a plan under which left said companies without assets with which to pay their debts".
The ruling highlights that the designed plan was structured in two phases; a first in which the debtor companies "contributed assets to other companies in the group in exchange for shares that they issued when increasing capital", and a second in which the debtor companies "sold these shares to third companies, always from the same group, receiving in consideration non-ordered promissory notes maturing generally in a very long term and without guarantees, which in most cases remain uncollected.
The court specifies that, "simultaneously and with the aim of distracting" the Tax Agency and "delaying" the executive phase, the debtor companies made "successive requests for postponement, often offering overvalued assets as collateral."
Thus, as proven, the debtor companies "were left without assets with which to pay their tax debts" while the properties they initially owned passed "to other companies in the same group whose formal owners were Portuguese companies." , in turn owned by a British company, in turn owned by companies domiciled in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands".
"All of them, in turn, belonged to Miguel Rifá," states the resolution, which adds that the promissory notes "never become effective because they were issued with no real intention of serving as payment instruments."
The 'modus operandi' designed by Rifá, who faced 26 years and eleven months in prison at the request of the prosecutor in a case in which the Tax Agency is also represented as a private prosecution, included companies "deploying various fraud mechanisms" that, In the end, they "ended up" increasing the debt with the AEAT, as described.
TRANSFER OF 13 HOTELS AND 130 PROPERTIES
The ruling explains that these operations to raise assets affected 13 hotels, some 130 properties, a building, a lot, as well as numerous shares and participations in the companies, and rejects, as Rifá alleged in the trial, that they respond to a "restructuring of the group's companies to seek external financing and investors" due to the effects of "the financial crisis."
"The linked nature of the operations, the opacity, the temporal coincidence of the transmission businesses with the foreseeable action of the AEAT, the carrying out of maneuvers aimed at distracting and delaying that action and the lack of economic sense of the operations are powerful indications that he sought to avoid paying debts by hiding assets," he emphasizes.
The sentence also condemns I.M.M., partner and administrator of Hotel Almería SL, as a necessary cooperator, to sentences totaling seven years and ten months in prison as the author of two crimes of confiscation of assets and a crime against the Public Treasury, while absolves him of three others.
The court notes that there is "more than sufficient evidence" that he carried out "each and every one of the criminal acts" guided "by the intention of collaborating in the asset clearance plan" and points out that "he provided both technical advice and effective participation in some of these legal businesses. He must jointly and severally compensate the AEAT with 76.5 million euros and pay a fine of 3.3 million euros.
C.A.B.C., administrator of Hotel Almería SL, has also been sentenced as a necessary cooperator to a total of three years and ten months in prison as the author of two crimes of confiscation of assets for which she must respond to the Public Treasury jointly and severally with 75.3 million euros. She has been acquitted, however, of three tax crimes.
"The deeds place her in several decisive transmission businesses," details the ruling, which adds that she "collaborated with the plan put in place" by Miguel Rifá, "whose instructions she followed at all times, being fully aware of what she was doing." She thus rules out that, as she alleged, that she "only followed orders from his boss" since, she notes, "in the face of such numerous and powerful indications of fraud she cannot object that he was not aware of it." ".
A fourth defendant has been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison and to pay compensation, also joint and several, to the AEAT of 75.3 million euros. The court points to him as a necessary cooperator in the two crimes of removing assets because he "followed the instructions" of the businessman "at all times knowing the meaning and purpose of what he was doing" and, as in the previous case , appears in public deeds of several determining transmission businesses.
The Third Section acquits, however, a fifth defendant, a Portuguese lawyer and outside the business group, as there is "no evidence that allows us to conclude with certainty" that "he was aware" that the incorporation of companies in Portugal and the " other services performed" at the request of Rifá "were intended to defraud the legitimate interests of the creditors" of their companies.
Finally, it acquits a sixth and seventh defendant, prosecuted as front men. In one of the cases, the ruling states that, although he intervened in a deed of one of the asset concealment operations, he did so "following orders" from the businessman for whom he worked "but without being aware that he could be assisting" in a crime. He adds that, days after that event, he was dismissed as legal representative of Predios del Sureste SL.
In the other case, he concludes that there is no evidence that he had "a conscious participation" and emphasizes that, in addition, "he did not intervene in any of the deeds through which the patrimonial emptying materialized."
"Everything seems to indicate that, certainly, it lent itself to being used as a mere instrument in the management of Portuguese companies, but it cannot be derived that it acted, at least, with a certain notion of the fraudulent purpose pursued," concludes the resolution, against which an appeal is possible before the Supreme Court (TS).