The black holes of Herrero Brigantina | Economy | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Refusal to reveal the founder's earnings, glassy transactions to maneuver 25 million in shares, obstacles to the supervisor, lack of transparency… The monetary group of Ponferrada (León) Herrero Brigantina – an organization that markets funding options, pension plans, mortgages and loans – allegedly incurred a string of “very serious” infractions, based on an inspection by the General Directorate of Insurance and Pension Funds (Ministry of Economy) to which EL PAÍS has had entry.

The supervisor's investigations started after an investigation by this newspaper uncovered the irregularities final March.

Before falling into shame, Herrero, as the corporate was colloquially recognized, boasted of getting 35,000 purchasers – SMEs, self-employed folks and households – in Europe; flood the market with irresistible funding merchandise that promised as much as 50% in 10 years and revel in an impeccable fame that catapulted it to place 149 of the 1,000 quickest rising European companies in 2021, based on the Financial Times. Its announcement of going public in 2023 topped an obvious path of success.

The Ministry of Economy, nevertheless, offers a crude prognosis of the Herrero Brigantina company universe. A mechanism that has been investigated for 2 weeks by the decide of the National Court Santiago Pedraz for an alleged rip-off of 40 million. These are the supervisor's key takeaways:

The thriller of the founder's earnings

When the inspectors from the General Insurance Directorate landed final May on the group's headquarters in Ponferrada, they encountered a fronton: silence. Or, what’s the identical, the evasion when inquiring concerning the earnings of the person who based this company in 2011, the economist Juan González Herrero.

The officers requested the minutes that Herrero, a 45-year-old Asturian, invoiced his firm between 2019 and 2023 via a service provision contract. The firm refused handy over the paperwork and reveal the quantities acquired. He appealed to a confidentiality clause and framed the boss's charges in supposed companies as a “private advisor” on “economic, legal […] coaching [asesoría personal]”.

The manager was arrested last December by the National Police in Madrid for an alleged crime of fraud. And today he is free.

The inspectors also left the offices without the contracts and income of the rest of the advisory board members. “The advice is non-existent […]. For this reason, no contract for the provision of services can be provided or the minutes derived from them indicated,” the company responded.

Photocopies after a 25 million operation

In 2021, the founder of the conglomerate transferred 82% of his shares in Herrero Brigantina SA – a package valued at 25.2 million – to a Miami company dedicated to international business consulting controlled by himself. The supervisor believes that Herrero did not prove the veracity of the document that proved he was the owner of these shares. “A photocopy is delivered without any type of certification of veracity by any authority,” reads the inspection, which warns that the transaction could have hidden “a possible falsehood in the declared terms.”

The organization concludes that, as a result of this lack of documentation, it is impossible to know the real identity of the company's shareholders and partners. And it suggests that the administrative authorization to operate as an insurance brokerage be withdrawn from this firm that claims to have offices in London, Paris, Miami, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

The corporate enigma

The commercial structure of the Leonese financial conglomerate is a mystery. The General Directorate of Insurance maintains that it cannot explain the real business architecture of the group. The reason? Their companies have not provided the accounts for 2020 and 2021 nor those of the board of directors for 2022. The supervisor frames this lack of information as a ruse to avoid having to undergo annual audits. Also, he speculates that accounting does not exist, that there are no record books and points to other irregularities as a reason for not revealing the numbers.

The agency also detects “discrepancies” in the statistical and accounting documentation. And it highlights that, when the inspectors went to the company to interview its managers, the head of accounting “was absent for lunch without prior notice” and, on a second visit, was not in the offices “for family reasons.”

ghost offices

It was 2018 when Herrero Brigantina moved its registered office to glass-enclosed facilities in the Torre Europa skyscraper, in the heart of Madrid's Paseo de la Castellana. “In the Madrid offices there is no staff and they only receive correspondence at a counter,” the inspectors conclude.

Lack of honesty

The Leonese corporation failed to comply with the principles of “honesty, fairness and professionalism.” In the opinion of the Economy, the conglomerate confused its clients by pretending that its products were protected by the General Directorate of Insurance and Pension Funds. A circumstance, maintains the supervisor, that caused an economic loss in the pockets of investors.

Economía thus refers to the complaints of dozens of clients who reported non-payments and delays in recovering their money. The sums deposited in the supposedly successful scheme reached 300,000 euros per affected person.

Since the first complaints for fraud landed in a court in Salamanca a year ago, the complaints against this scheme that boasted of having invoiced 56.4 million in 2022 have not stopped growing. And, today, the National Court is investigating two complaints involving 82 investors from 14 provinces.

Justice must clarify, as this newspaper revealed, why Herrero Brigantina used without permission the endorsement and logos of the insurers Axa, Plus, Ultra and Generali to place his investment products and, with this strategy, he captured more than 40 million of euros between 2021 and 2022.

EL PAÍS has tried without success to obtain the version of two directors of the financial conglomerate Herrero Brigantina.

investigacion@elpais.es

Follow all the information Economy y Business in Facebook y Xor in our newsletter semanal

The Five Day Agenda

The most important economic quotes of the day, with the keys and context to understand their scope.

RECEIVE IT IN YOUR MAIL

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

_


https://elpais.com/economia/2024-02-22/los-agujeros-negros-de-herrero-brigantina.html