Operación Trafalgar was the code name given to the recent police operation which has hit the heart of the biggest timeshare racket yet to be discovered. In fact it is estimated that the organisation could have cheated as many as 15,000 people all over the world, according to the Malaga Provincial Police Station. The majority of the victims are tourists from the UK, Germany and Belgium, among other European countries.
It is calculated that since the group moved to the Costa del Sol in 2000 they have pocketed some 18 million euros. They used as many as 300 firms, which tended to appear and then disappear just as quickly, employing around 1,000 people during this period. Such is the scale of the organisation that it is thought that they are responsible for 90 per cent of all timeshare fraud affecting British buyers on the Costa del Sol, explained the police.
On Friday last week eight people of South African, British, Belgian and Norwegian origin, allegedly the leaders of the fraudulent organisation, were arrested in Fuengirola, Mijas and Coín.
One of them was W.M.P., a 58 year old South African, who is considered the ringleader of the scam. The police believe that, with the help of the others, he controlled the network of firms and bank accounts. Also arrested last Friday was 32 year old British man M.D.K., responsible for drawing up paperwork and obtaining lists of thousands of timeshare owners. The others were J.V. (Belgian, 51), G.I.K. (Norwegian, 48, and wife of W.M.P.), W.S. (44), S.S.R. (53) and R.Q.M. (37) all British, and the South African L.O. (49).
According to sources close to the investigation all the detainees have been released with charges after appearing in a Fuengirola court. However one of the British men, R.Q.M., has stressed that he was not even taken to the court, was only detained for an hour, and has no connection with the matter.
The group began to operate on the Costa del Sol, having arrived from the Canaries, in 2000. They set up a network of companies legally registered in Spain, although after operating for a few months the firms would vanish and reappear again with other names in other premises.
Using a series of telephone operators they contacted owners of timeshare apartments, offering them the option of selling. “You own a holiday package valued at 6,000 euros; I have an investor prepared to pay 30,000”, would be a typical first offer. Tourists who took the bait were then asked for a bank transfer, often around 1,200 euros, to cover paperwork and expenses. Time would pass and they would see nothing of the promised investment. Meanwhile the swindlers contacted potential buyers, often selling the same product to several different customers. Furthermore they later contacted their victims again, offering the services of lawyers to act against the original conmen, persuading them to hand over money a second time.