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Anfi: The Story Behind the News Part Four

This week Inside Timeshare has been following the story of Anfi. It began with the development of the resort, the brief partnership with Tui and then the virtual takeover of the Cazorla Group. We say takeover as when they purchased their 50% share from Tui, they also took hold of the “Golden Share”, which gave them control over the board of directors. Today we revisit a story that came to light in 2016, this is the Tauro Beach Project, one that has been frought with problems and some very serious irregularities.

It all began when the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service, SEPRONA, challenged the authorisations that were granted to Anfi to occupy over 3Km of the coast. The Guardia Civil had been running an investigation into the Anfi Group, the promoters of the project since work began to transform the beach in February of 2016.

In July 2016, La Provincia published an article about the investigation and how it had now expanded. They reported that the Department of Sustainability of the Coasts and the Sea, which comes under the Ministry of Environment, had dismissed the head of the Canary Islands Coastal Authority, José María Hernández Leon. It appears that his dismissal is based on serious irregularities found in the permissions granted to the Anfi Group for the project. This project is for the creation of a new beach, boardwalk and other facilities at the mouth of the Barranco de Tauro.

As these investigations moved along, it uncovered some very disturbing information, it was announced that the Mayor of Mogan, Onalia Bueno, is also under investigation. This was for granting a licence that had apparently expired. But this was only the tip of what was being uncovered. It was looking like unlawful acts had been committed in the execution of the regeneration works at Tauro Beach.

The plans were to convert the rock and pebble beach into a manmade sandy beach, build a marina and inland, the construction of several hotels, a shopping center and other amenities. With Anfi holding the licence to “exploit” the area for 50 years. This concession has now been legally removed.

It soon came to light that the licences and permissions to start the work and transform the beach were not issued until around 6 months after the fact. Just this alone made the work illegal.

Then there was the controversy about the sand that was to be used for the beach, it was apparently imported from Western Sahara, it is also believed that no environmental precautions were carried out on the imported sand, this is to protect the new area from invasive species.

It also came to light that this sand was imported illegally, there are international and EU rules which govern the use of any resources from this region. The UN and the EU have sanctions on this matter and the sand most definitely comes into the category. One of the reasons is that since the Spanish withdrawal from Western Sahara, Morocco has laid claim to the region and has occupied it against international condemnation.

This story was also published in the UK press, this link will take you to the Inside Timeshare article and a link to The Guardian where it was published.

The first conviction of this investigation was that of the Head of the Coastal Authority, José María Hernández Leon, it is believed that more charges and convictions may follow.

Ex-Head of the Coastal Authority, José María Hernández Leon
Now serving 3 years

During this whole episode, Inside Timeshare also published what was happening to the people who live at Tauro Beach and the small bar and restaurant situated there. They watched with horror as their beach and area were basically destroyed.

With the transformation of the beach into a flat sandy area, the natural protection of the land behind the beach and subsequently the houses were removed. At the first of the high tides and only a mild swell from a small storm, the sea breached the beach washing much of it away. It did not end there, the local population were flooded out of their homes, this had never happened before, even during some of the most violent storms.

This is just one of the incidents that took place, much of the story can be found on our pages, there are a lot of them, the following link shows just a few, there are also links within the articles to various publications and previous stories on Inside Timeshare.

The investigations are still ongoing, Anfi and the Cazorla Group are also involved and may face possible criminal charges and prosecution, along with members of Mogan Council and especially the Mayor. The discrepancies in the documentation are being viewed very severely as fraudulent, the whole affair is going much deeper and is more complicated than first envisaged.

The debacle that is the Tauro Beach Project, has not done the reputations of many individuals much good, it has also severely tarnished the reputation of Anfi. The cutting of corners, the “favours” made to get things moving and done, it is all smelling of bribery and corruption and it will all come out in the end. When it does, rest assured it will appear on these pages.

Tomorrow we end our series on Anfi: The Story Behind the News, with Part Four. This covers the latest “Boardroom” battle that has now spilled over to the courts and it is a story that shows the great animosity between the partners.








Anfi: The Story Behind the News Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of Anfi: The Story Behind the News. So far, we have given the early story of Anfi and the dream that was to turn sour. Events and decisions made in the boardroom would in the future have serious repercussions not just for Anfi, but the entire timeshare industry. Today we look at one event which has changed things forever and made Spanish Legal History, the first Supreme Court Rulings that changed the timeshare laws. It was a long-running battle as when the Timeshare Law 42/98 was enacted on 5 January 1999, the timeshare industry did not change its practices in accordance with the new laws. These were put into place as a result of various EU Timeshare Directives which sought to protect consumers of malpractice and lay down regulations on the sale of timeshare, which previously had been totally unregulated. The timeshare industry believed they were “untouchable”, that they were too big and strong and the law was wrong. As you will see this was not to be the case.

When the Timeshare Laws were enacted in 1999, the timeshare industry was given the opportunity to get their act together and adapt their contracts to comply with the law. They were also allowed what was known as a “deed of adaptation”, this allowed those contracts sold before the enactment of Law 42/98 to remain legal as they were sold before the law was put into place, but new contracts must comply.

Many timeshare companies saw this in a different light, they interpreted the law differently, they believed that the “deed of adaptation” meant that if the resort was running before the law came into force then that meant all contracts remain the same.

As with any new laws, these must be tested in the courts and placed into jurisprudence, which means they are now “set in stone”. In the beginning, very few cases ever got to court and those which did tend to be found in favour of the timeshare companies. Many lawyers would not take these cases on, it was a new law and they did not understand it. Also, they believed the timeshare companies were too big, powerful and had plenty of money, they actually believed that they would never stand a chance of winning.

All this changed on 1st April 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled on the very first timeshare case to be brought before Spain’s Highest Court.

The story begins in 2001 When a Norwegian lady, Mrs Tove Grimsbo and her husband attended a presentation at the Anfi Resort in Gran Canaria. At the time this was a relatively new resort which was the dream of the Norwegian entrepreneur Bjorn Lyng (here was the element of trust & validity) and it was also still under development. It eventually turned into one of the flagship resorts in the timeshare world.

At the time, anyone who attended a presentation was impressed with the quality of the resort and the plans that were also in place for expansion, Mr & Mrs Grimsbo were themselves impressed and they were persuaded to purchase. They duly signed the contract and paid a deposit of 700€ by credit card, this, along with the fact the contract was “in perpetuity” and not limited to the maximum of 50 years allowed by the new law made this contract illegal.

But at the time this did not seem to bother them, after all, they would have been totally unaware of the law and the fact that Anfi had disregarded it. It was not until Mr Grimsbo passed away and Mrs Grimsbo was left with ever-increasing maintenance fees and no foreseeable way out of the contract, that things changed. As they had been told during the presentation that Anfi would “buy back” their “weeks” for the same price they paid, Mrs Grimsbo approached Anfi. It is no surprise that Anfi told her that they did not “buy back weeks”, but they could place it on the resale market. Until then she was stuck with a timeshare she did not want or wanted to use. This is not surprising considering she did not want to return to Anfi because of the memories of her late husband.

She eventually decided to speak with a local lawyer, Miguel Rodriguez Cabello, a native of Arguineguin and one of the founding lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance. He and other lawyers worked tirelessly to research the law and eventually found that Mrs Grimsbo did indeed have a very good case. This would now make legal history.

After some time, the case went in front of the Court of First Instance of San Bartelomé de Tirajana, this court found in favour of Mrs Grimsbo and declared the contract null and void plus the return of the full purchase price. Anfi immediately appealed to the High Court of Las Palmas Gran Canaria. This court confirmed the ruling and sentence of the Court of First Instance, another win for the lawyers.

Anfi did not accept this decision, they still believed that the law was wrong, that their contract was legal because they had the “deed of adaptation”, so they took the case to the Supreme Court. This belief is the basis for Anfi and the Industry Trade Body, the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation), in their appeals and statements that the “Courts have misinterpreted the law”.

The Supreme Court Madrid

After much debate between the panel of Judges they unanimously ruled that the case of Mrs Grimsbo v Anfi was in favour of Mrs Grimsbo and that the rulings and sentences of the previous courts were confirmed. Legal history had been made, the very first timeshare case had its first major test.

The court’s ruling would have a profound effect on timeshare and would open the gates for many more claims and cases to be taken to court. In their ruling, the Judges declared that the taking of any payment even by a third party within the Statutory 14 days cooling-off period was illegal. Taking payments within this period they believed had the effect of cancelling out the cooling-off period which was designed to give consumers the chance to read the contract, terms and conditions and also reflect on whether they made the right decision.

In their ruling on the “perpetuity” side of the contract, the Judges ruled that Law 42/98 clearly stated that all contracts be limited to a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years. The Supreme Court upheld the rulings from the lower courts and confirmed the contract was illegal.

Since that momentous decision by the Supreme Court, the floodgates have opened, not just against Anfi but the whole of the timeshare industry that operated in Spain. Today we see the repercussions of just one decision made in a boardroom, to ignore the advice to change the contracts to comply with the law but continue to sell the original contracts in blatant contravention of that law.

Just this week alone there has been a steady stream of news from the High Court of Las Palmas, every appeal they have heard recently have been rejected, dismissed and the original sentence confirmed.

But this is not the only legal battle that Anfi is engaged in, another very serious controversy has been raging in Gran Canaria and finding its way to the courts, it is the debacle that is the Tauro Beach Project.

Not quite what was planned!

Tomorrow we revisit our previous articles on Tauro Beach, as it is a story that is still unfolding and has had and will undoubtedly have some very heavy repercussions, we have already seen one conviction and we believe there will be many more before this story is put to bed.








Anfi: The Story Behind the News Part Two

Yesterday we had a brief look at the beginnings of Anfi, their partnership with TUI, one that was fraught with problems that gave rise to the introduction of the new partners at Anfi, The Cazorla Group. They are still in “control” today, some say many of Anfi’s woes stem from their decisions, which is for you the reader to decide. This partnership has not gone by without some drama or other, usually resulting in some bad press being published and the Anfi “propaganda” machine has to go into action. But more on this later.

When TUI first entered the partnership with Lyng, they held 51% of the shares, what we know as the “Golden Share”, this gives them control over the Board of Directors. TUI immediately took advantage of this and placed its own people into the top management of Anfi.

The culture shock was enormous, Tui attempted to move Anfi directly into their own system purely as subsidiaries. There were also clashes at the boardroom level, between the two different systems and views for Anfi and its future development.

It is also believed that the Board of Directors were informed around 2001 that the contract they were selling for their timeshare system was in fact in breach of the new laws. By all accounts, it was recommended that the contracts be changed to fully comply with the law. This was rejected and as we know it set the seeds for today’s problems for Anfi.

As we mentioned yesterday, Tui also had other reasons for pulling out of Anfi, enter the Cazorla Brothers Santiago Sanatana and Manuel, with the Cazorla Group. They are a product of Spain’s transformation which began in the 1960s.

They began with nothing but eventually built a large group of companies and were very successful in the construction industry. They even owned a couple of hotels.

When Tui decided to sell their 51%, there were several potential buyers, this also included the Anfi management and Bjorn Lyng. It appears that while these negotiations were underway, Grupo Santana Cazorla had gone straight to Tui and had already bought the entire 51%.

The Cazorlas were now in control of the board at Anfi.

View over the Championship Golf Course at Anfi Tauro

The timing and the entry of the Cazorla’s were not all bad, it was around this time the project to build the Championship Golf Course and Resort at Tauro was well in hand. It was not long before the machinery of the Cazorla Group was operating and constructing this magnificent course. It appeared a match made in heaven.

But the proverbial spanner in the works would surface, not immediately but simmering away beneath the public face were to be some revelations that would turn the relationship very sour and public indeed.

The courts were certainly going to be busy in the near future, and that time had come. It appears to have originally started around 2010 when the Norwegian family demanded Cazorla´s resignation. All seemed to be well and no real arguments ensued. Then sometime between 2012 and 2013, it appears that around 8 million euros “disappeared”.

Apparently, the Lyng family noticed the diversion of these funds while a lawsuit was pending between Santana Cazorla and Lopesan at The Court of First Instance No1 of Las Palmas.

The newspaper La Provincia 7/2/2013 reported that Santana Cazorla provided a Promissory note to avoid foreclosure of ANFI by Lopesan who claimed a debt of 14 million euro.

Lopesan claimed the ANFI Group owed 14 million euros for the land in Tauro purchased from the Cardenas family. Lopesan claimed it was owed this as they had bought a Cardenas debt.

(Source: La Provincia 17/07/2013)

As we know, eventually the Lyng family sold their share to IFA/Lopesan, so now the protagonists were partners, and the court battle was not over. Enter round two.

This story was published on these pages in July 2018 and can be followed at the following link.

The story of Anfi is a long complicated and rather intriguing one, tomorrow we look at the legal battles over the sale of their timeshare system. The historical first victory at the Supreme Court for one Anfi client, which then set the scene for all other cases to follow.

Join us again tomorrow for more on Anfi: The Story Behind the News.