A number of companies including Reclaim Limited, Hyprafund Limited and Transpacific Insurance Corporation appear to be linked to Club Class Holidays Limited. Most of these companies appear to be based in Mijas in the Province of Málaga, Spain, but we understand that they have more recently been using offices and bank accounts in Tangier, Morocco.
Club Class Holidays, was a Gibraltar-registered company which operated from Spain, providing timeshare products and, through related companies such as Reclaim Limited, cashback incentives linked to timeshare or holiday club membership purchases.
In October 2002, Officers of the Royal Gibraltar Police’s Financial Crime Unit commenced an investigation into the possible commission in Gibraltar of alleged money laundering offences by Club Class Holidays and persons associated with that company. In January 2003 the police obtained search warrants authorising them to enter and search premises in Gibraltar occupied by Portland Services and Club Class Holidays as well as the residence of the membership manager of Club Class Holidays, in Gibraltar. A number of documents were removed from the premises and at the same time four persons were arrested on the charge of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of criminal conduct. In April 2003 the defendants filed for Judicial Review and claimed that the searches and arrests were unlawful and they sort compensation from the courts. The claim was upheld in the Supreme Court but overturned on Appeal, nevertheless, no charges were brought and the case was ultimately dropped, although the Royal Gibraltar Police were given leave to continue their investigation should they wish to do so. The case was finally referred to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, which upheld the appeal decision and the police investigation has continued to this day but as three of the four persons originally arrested reside and work in Spain, the Royal Gibraltar Police was unable to take further action against them.
The fourth person has always been adamant that he had no knowledge of any incriminating evidence of money laundering and ceased working for the company at the end of May 2006. He has offered the Royal Gibraltar Police alleged evidence of criminal conduct by Club Class Holidays. He posted the alleged evidence on a website, www.scambusters.gb.com but the website has since been substantially revamped and the evidence no longer appears to be online.
One such example of alleged evidence posted on this website was a letter from Morgan Stanley Card Services Ltd in the UK dated 12 February 2006, which stated:
“After review of the contents of your letter of 11 December 2006, our Legal and Compliance Department confirmed that cardholders had been victims of fraudulent misrepresentation by Etoo. Consequently we have now settled Mr …’s claim, and all other Etoo claims.”
Etoo (European Timeshare Owners Organisation), like Reclaim Limited, is one of the many entities that form part of the Club Class group.
In November 2006 the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission also issued a warning with respect to Transpacific Insurance Corporation, which also claimed to have its head office at Suite 1 Garrison House, 3 Library Ramp, P.O. Box 847 Gibraltar, the same PO Box address as Reclaim Limited.
Portland Services Limited another related company appeared to conduct a variety of activities centred around company formation and management. They originally operated from Portland House in Gibraltar, but moved to La Línea in Spain after the police raid of 2003 and after they were denied a licence to carry on business as a company formation agent when this activity became licensable following a change in Gibraltar legislation.
In the case of Portland Services, the company has never been licensed by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission to carry out company formation and management activities. Yet it appears to have allegedly been doing so without a licence as evidenced by the fact that they placed an advertisement in April 2009 of the ‘Sur in English’ newspaper offering precisely such services:
“We can organise a suitable structure which gives protection to the client and confidential banking without intrusive due diligence.”
Again they used a Gibraltar address, Suite 1, Garrison House, 3 Library Ramp, P.O. Box 847 Gibraltar to give the impression that they were operating from here when, in fact, all these activities were clearly undertaken outside Gibraltar. This advertising and promotion of unlicensed activities was brought to the attention of the Financial Services Commission, who conducted an investigation with a view to taking appropriate measures. The action was initiated in May 2009 and the FSC issued a public warning regarding Portland Services Limited:
“a company incorporated in the Republic of the Seychelles, believed to be operating from offices in Spain, yet using a Gibraltar office address, PO Box, telephone and fax numbers as its only contact details”.
The FSC warned that whilst the website operated by this company gave visitors to the site the impression that it was a licensed Company Manager it was never authorised to conduct such business in Gibraltar.
Another company that used the P.O.Box 847 address was Hyprafund Limited although it was not a Gibraltar company and had no connection with Gibraltar. In October 2003 The Observer reported that Hyprafund is “supposedly a means of benefiting from a huge investment portfolio controlled by a firm called 'Hyprafund,' which within three years would pay back all the costs of the club membership plus a big profit." Other open-source news items indicate that Hyprafund may have been linked to suspected British / Lebanese fraudsters based in Tenerife. Hyprafund itself seems to have had some sort of base in Marbella in the past and one source links it to Reclaim Limited, alleging that the funds invested in Hyprafund were placed in “euro certificates” issued by Reclaim. Hyprafund appears to be registered in Belize but we have been unable to confirm this.
Somewhat ironically, the Club Class / Reclaim group were sued by their own lawyers in 2007. A petition for the winding up of Club Class Holidays was presented by Marrache & Co in November 2006 and was heard in February 2007. We understand that the petition arose from a claim by Marrache & Co that fees owed by their former client, Club Class Holidays, allegedly remained unpaid or, more accurately, remained in Marrache & Co’s client account on an indemnity basis pending completion / resolution of the original case. The hearing was adjourned to an unspecified date.
In November 2008 the FSC issued a further public warning regarding Suite1, Garrison House, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar the address used by the Club Class group. The FSC’s public warning followed repeated references to this address in advertisements on the internet. The FSC's investigations revealed that the majority of entities that claim to be at this address “are not incorporated in Gibraltar and often have no discernible presence in any other jurisdiction and may well be bogus. Their sole link to this address appears to be as recipients of a mail-forwarding service”. The FSC’s investigations indicated that there were several 'Suite 1s' at that location, but that the offices in question were on the second floor.
In addition to the above general public warning on all companies that are linked to this address, the FSC has issued, and continues to issue, specific warnings on any activities that appear to have a link to this address, however tenuous. One such example is a company by the name of Core Market Research, which had been selling shares in a company called Global Immune Technologies Inc, which purchasers allegedly never received. A website operated by Core Market Research only shows a contact form, with no contact details, however an investor was informed that the contact address was Suite 1, Garrison House, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar.
In the case of Core Market Research, as in so many other similar cases, the FSC yet again urged the public to exercise appropriate caution. An interesting development in the activities of companies linked to Suite 1, Garrison House, is that purchasers of shares were being asked to remit payments to a bank account in Tangier, Morocco, which in the apparent absence of bank accounts in Gibraltar or elsewhere in Europe is increasingly being used to receive customer funds.
Global Vacations is yet another company with links to the Club Class / Reclaim / Etoo group. According to an article on 30 January 2009 in the Daily Mirror, Global Vacations was raided by Spanish police. The Mirror reported that the company trades in Spain as Vacation Services SL and that sixteen British employees were “arrested on suspicion of fraud, including the company administrator Sandra Maynard.”
The article gave an insight into the tactics employed:
“One client - Janine Greaves, from Marlow, Bucks - paid Etoo nearly £2,000 last year to sell her timeshare. They told her they had a "corporate buyer" offering £19,000 and urged her to fly to Malaga to close the deal.
“Janine, who has twice beaten cancer, was reluctant to travel but Etoo insisted. There, a Global Vacations rep persuaded her - after a gruelling five-hour sales pitch - to spend another £2,000 on a deposit to join holiday network Club Class Concierge.
“She was offered £9,500 for her timeshare but only after three years on a "cashback" deal. As soon as she got back to the UK, Janine had second thoughts but Global Vacations then demanded the remaining £9,000.
“Eventually, after providing her medical history, she was told she could pay £3,000 for a cheaper membership. Since the raid, Janine has been told the company has "no objection" to her credit card firm giving her the refund.”
The Daily Mirror urged any readers with grievances about these firms to write to the European Consumer Centre, 54 Principe de Vergara, 28006, Madrid or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Financial Services Commission issued a further warning to the public in January 2011 regarding 'Reclaim Investment Bank, Gibraltar' and 'Cashback Investment Bank, Gibraltar'. Members of the public had reported to the FSC that they had been contacted by persons claiming to act on behalf of these 'banks' in Gibraltar, with 'Reclaim Investment Bank' purportedly operating from Garrison House, Library Ramp. The FSC warned the general public that 'Reclaim Investment Bank, Gibraltar' and 'Cashback Investment Bank, Gibraltar' are not regulated by the FSC, or licensed under the Financial Services (Banking) Act or any other supervisory Act to carry on deposit-taking or any other financial services business in or from within Gibraltar.
Searches of the Register of Companies at Companies House (Gibraltar) confirmed to the FSC that these entities are not incorporated as companies in Gibraltar or registered as business names under the Business Names Registration Act. The FSC urged the public to exercise appropriate caution in respect of these entities, or those using similar names, whilst it continues its investigations.
The public was also urged to verify whether a firm is licensed and regulated by the FSC by checking the ‘Regulated Entities’ pages of the regulator’s website, http://www.fsc.gi/fsclists/categorysearch.asp and to contact the Manager, Enforcement on +350 200 40283 or by e-mail to email@example.com if they were already involved in any dealings with the above-named entities.
In April 2011 the Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) commenced civil enforcement proceedings in the High Court of England and Wales against Incentive Leisure Group Limited, Personal Travel Group Limited and Geo Demographic Market Research Limited (previously known as Direct Marketing Partnership Group Limited) amongst others. In the final order issued other parties were named by the English Court, including, Reclaim Limited and Designer Way Vacation Club, as well as several companies using the name Timelinx or ProTravel.
The OFT considered that Incentive Leisure Group Limited’s activities breached consumer protection laws but no further action was taken against this company as it had already been placed into liquidation.
Interim enforcement orders were obtained against Personal Travel Group Limited and Geo Demographic Market Research Limited as well as Keith Barker and Kimberley Bambroffe, two individuals who were directors of Personal Travel Group Limited and Incentive Leisure Group Limited. In addition final orders were made against Martin White, Jonathan Daniels, Mark Gales, Robert Knight and Lily Anderson.
The OFT considered that the defendants used unfair commercial practises to persuade consumers that the only way to sell their timeshare was to purchase their ‘product’ by falsely or misleadingly claiming that the consumer would be able to get the value of their timeshare back after 15 months by making a claim against a ‘reclaim certificate’. Consumers subsequently discover that the defendants have not taken over ownership of their timeshare, that they remain liable for the maintenance fees and that the reclaim certificate does not have the value claimed for it.