Here is a press release I received from the Finca Parcs action group, a group of mainly expat property buyers who were left destitute after the promotor went under and it transpired that the “bank guarantees” protecting their investments where worthless.
The meeting with David Lidington and his team of 3 went ahead in early September – you may have seen the press release issued by David Lidington on the British Embassy ‘UK in Spain’ website. There were 4 of us, Keith Rule, Mike Kerr, and two Gendas, my son, Kafo and me, Ruth. We came away from our all-too-short time in the grand surroundings of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) with a feeling that we did have the ear of the Minister and that he would do the best he could for us under the diplomatic constraints imposed on him.
We had several proposals to put to him and he had questions for us. It became very clear that he and his 3 aides present in the room have no real sense of what we victims of property abuse have been experiencing. That was to be expected as ‘until you’ve been there and done that’ it is impossible to imagine. I saw, what I believe to be genuine, surprise on the faces of the officials when Keith brandished the mass, and I mean mass, of evidence he has gathered in his efforts on behalf of the Finca Parcs development. It began to dawn on the FCO team that our arguments are to be taken very seriously.
Briefly then, this is what transpired:
Mr Lidington would inform the British Embassy in Madrid of our meeting.
He would issue a Press Release giving details of the meeting.
Neither Mr Lidington nor his aides were aware of the Bank Guarantee issues as illustrated by Keith. He has promised to raise them with, and take advice from, Ambassador Paxman in Madrid. The full-time ‘property expert’ (employed by us, the UK taxpayer) is based in the embassy there.
He promised to raise the issue of Bank Guarantees with Spanish Ministers at every opportunity, whether on the telephone or face-to-face.
He will explore the possibility of officials from the Bank of Spain meeting with us. He will encourage this.
He will advise UK MEPs to establish a formal cross-party working group together with those of member states re property issues in Spain.
He said that he would find out if the EU Budgetary Control imposed on Cyprus was to do with Property issues and whether it was possible for similar action to be considered against Spain.
He will talk to Nick Clegg who, through his personal knowledge and experience of Spain, may be able to help us.
We asked for a dedicated FCO staff member with an ombudsman role to whom victims might turn and who would lend weight to our cases before the Spanish courts, but he explained that such a person would not have authority in Spain and directed us to a team of people already working in the FCO who may be able to assist – not with individual cases but with overseas property issues of public interest. We still await their contact names and numbers.
At the conclusion of the meeting one of his aides, a member of the team working with Human Rights and Assistance Policy, encouraged us to contact him directly if and when necessary.
There were, and still are, disappointments.
Mr Lidington’s response to our written question sent prior to the meeting re financial help from our own government (bail outs, legal aid, etc) was that no help could be offered to victims at all. We had also suggested that monies could come through the EU from withheld grants to Spain as suggested in the approved Auken Report of 2009.
We then suggested that perhaps George Osborne and his Team might be approached to work on banking issues, but he was adamant that it was not possible and didn’t elaborate. It was apparent that financial aid of any kind was not for discussion.
Following the meeting we expected a cautious FCO Press Release. That is the nature of the beast. But it quoted Spanish figures of ‘happy Brits’ living in Spain which reads as a counter-argument to all we said at the meeting. This is no comfort to those of us who are still trying to get justice for the wrongs committed against us in trying to be a member of that ‘happy’ group. Whilst we are fully aware that Diplomacy has a public face and many private acts and we know that the Minister has to tread warily when it comes to matters Spanish (Gibraltar, fishing quotas, expansion of trade, etc.) this was a statement too far. It smacked of sycophancy. It can be read here: http://ukinspain.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=655255682
The figure of 850,000 Brits living in Spain is a Spanish one and can be refuted. We are all aware that many people have bought and live happily there, but many don’t. Due to the retrospective laws being threateningly imposed many live very uneasily. There are also many who, through changing circumstances of their own (age, health, financial, ends of contract, etc), want to sell up and move on. The property market in Spain is in the doldrums and people cannot sell. Spain is stuck and something has to give. The ‘something’ has to be the Spanish government.
We are not asking the Minister to ‘tell’ his counterparts in Spain what to do. But he must issue some forthright and persuasive arguments for the Spanish authorities to heed and act upon before British trade in the Spanish Property industry can resume.
It is doing Spain itself no favours for our Minister to put out a statement such as the one he has (unless there is some Machiavellian reason of which we are unaware). And it certainly is doing us none because it increases our anger and pushes us further down the trust scale. We have very little at the best of times. I, personally, have almost none and have lost the will to have any.
Our promise to Mr Lidington was to send him a file detailing our arguments backed by hard evidence as soon as possible. The completed, comprehensive 200+ page file has recently been delivered to the FCO. It covers Ley 57/1968, and the roles of the Judicial system and the Banks within it. It relates their roles in practice and demonstrates in detail how the Banks, numerous authorities here, in Spain and in the European Parliament have failed us in our efforts to purchase property in Spain. It contains actual figures. These are the necessary pieces of evidence to help the Minister see through the smoke-and-mirrors fabrications of the Spanish Government and enable him to get at the truth and reality of these dreadful situations in which we find ourselves. If he and his team are not able to help us after reading through this dossier then we know exactly where we stand.
There were other issues to be discussed which are being worked on as I write. There will be further updates from one or other of us when progress is made and agreed.