ANFI: Is Europe's biggest timeshare resort criminally hiding assets to avoid payouts?
Criminal investigation accuses ANFI of "intending to delay or even evade paying" €millions in court ordered compensation awards issued over sales irregularities.
Outdated holiday model
ANFI's five star resorts in Gran Canaria were once the world's biggest selling timeshare operations, signing up over 33,000 families since they opened in 1992. However the last few years have seen a downturn in timeshare sales worldwide, with many experts believing that the industry can no longer survive. ANFI has been no exception.
"The rest of the travel sector has innovated, and overtaken the timeshare model of holidaying," explains Jack Dawson, a contracts expert with European Consumer Claims (ECC). "Today's consumer can stay in the same resorts, at the same price but without any upfront financial commitment or annual obligation. There are no longer any advantages to expensive club memberships."
From 1999 a string of of legal protections were enacted to protect customers from high pressure timeshare sales. Almost without exception the major resorts ignored these new rules and have subsequently since been sued for vast sums in compensation.
ANFI is no exception. One timeshare claims firm alone (CLA) has over 600 court victories against the company, with a reported €8 million in compensation awards to former members.
The Spanish law firm reports that they have achieved embargos (or legal claims against) many ANFI assets, including the golf course, the maintenance fees and even a €600,000 tax rebate that the once successful timeshare company is due.
Observers believe that this kind of extra debt against the business, in a struggling industry, with the added difficulties of COVID could mean an uncertain future for the club. Many ANFI owners are concerned about whether the club will continue to operate, or if their expensive memberships will function at all in the future."
"What happens if ANFI has to pay the money and there is nothing left to run the resort?" asked Chris K, a 2 year member of the club. "Will they go into receivership? If so is the money we spent to join just gone?"
According to Spanish media outlet El Diario, a law firm representing many former ANFI clients in their compensation bid says that ANFI is "diverting assets" to avoid complying with the court judgements. Allegedly ANFI have stopped invoicing their annual maintenance (a total income of around €26.5 million a year) from the usual company, ANFI Resorts. Now they are invoicing instead from other companies in the ANFI Group, such as ANFI Tauro, or ANFI Real Estates which are not listed in the civil proceedings.
The CLA law firm says that this action, which they say has no justifiable cause or reason, means that the matter is no longer just a civil proceedings and that the timeshare giant has crossed the line into criminal activity.
Andrew Cooper is the CEO of ECC who represent victims in tens of millions of pounds worth of successful claims against Spanish timeshare companies including £28 million against Club La Costa alone. Andrew explains, "If companies become desperate, then their creditors will be well advised to pay close attention to any financial manoeuvrings.
"As for the club members they should monitor timeshare industry news and their own club in particular, as the situation is changing every day. The only thing that is certain at the moment is uncertainty. Anyone wanting more personalised advice get this for free by contacting either a reputable claims firm, or one of the independent timeshare industry consumer associations."
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