The façade of the Flower's club, one of the premises investigated, at the height of Las Rozas (Madrid), in a file image. KIKE FOR
At Flower's club, one of Madrid's biggest brothels, business seemed to be falling at a heart attack a decade ago. Its owners (Antonio Herrero and José Lázaro) declared to the Treasury some amounts that, apparently, revealed a bestial crisis: the turnover to customers in 2014 had plummeted to three million euros, compared to more than eight million in 2009. The police smelled terrible about this plummet. And, according to Judge José Luis Calama, instructor of the National Court, behind it was really hidden a system to hide a good part of its benefits from the treasury. A plot that was repeated in almost twenty other brothels in the country, according to the conclusions of the summary of the so-called Operation Pompeii. Therefore, this Friday, the magistrate has decided to open oral trial against 30 people, and impose bails that exceed 2,000 million euros in total.
To the bench the owners of 16 large brothels for an alleged fraud of 111 million euros
"The decrease in income could be attributed to the economic crisis suffered in recent years," said Judge José Luis Calama already in February 2022, when he prosecuted those involved, advancing one of the possible excuses that the defenses can put on the table: "But, accepting the incidence of this factor, it is noted that it is absolutely insufficient to account for the evolution indicated in the billings of the clubs, and this circumstance could have been used as a pretext to register such falls in these variables."
The money trail thus corners, finally, historical owners of large brothels in Spain. Despite the fact that this investigation was born in 2014 after the Prosecutor's Office of the National Court filed a complaint for crimes of trafficking in human beings, illegal trafficking in persons, money laundering, criminal organization and related to prostitution; The case has prospered for tax crimes. As stated in the indictment of those involved, the judge emphasizes that they devised a complex corporate network to hide from the Treasury the enormous profits obtained from the sale of drinks and the "passes of the alternate service" that were offered in premises distributed by eight provinces, which allowed them to defraud more than 111.6 million euros in respect of tax quotas not paid VAT, Corporate income tax and personal income tax.
In addition to Flower's, among the establishments under suspicion are also the Riviera, in Castelldefels (Barcelona), already demolished, but which was the largest puticlub in the country for years; and the Paradise, in the province of Girona, "considered one of the largest alternate premises in Europe", according to the judge.
The Operation Pompeii investigation revealed that the fraud network was allegedly divided into six subplots: five of them were dedicated to the exploitation of the clubs under their control – these were headed by the owners: Antonio Herrero; Jose Vera; Angel Crispin Gilaranz; Jose Moreno Gomez; Santos Perez Vargas; and José Arsenio Pérez Vieitez, alias El Presidente; and the sixth, led by Jesús María Larrañaga, dealt with the "operation of concealment of income". Larrañaga provided an "intermediation" service to the owners of the brothels, to whom he offered some dataphones to charge. Thus, the brothels charged the bank accounts of a company in Larrañaga with customer payments, which acted as a screen "to hide the true recipient" of the payments.
Customers paid an extra 10% commission when paying by card through these terminals, but benefited because the "names or data related" to the brothels did not appear later on their account statements, but the company of the "intermediary" was recorded. For their part, according to the summary, Larrañaga and the owners of the clubs shared that surcharge: 6.5% was kept by the first; and 3.5%, the second
The Prosecutor's Office has filed an indictment against only six of the defendants and has asked to file the case against the rest "as their participation has not been duly accredited" in the plot. However, the judge has decided to seat another 24 people on the bench, since he does consider that there is sufficient evidence against them, as accused by the State Advocacy, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the Regional Treasury of Navarra, which have also filed accusations against them. With regard to the main accused, the Public Prosecutor's Office requests imprisonment for Antonio Herrero (30 years); Jose Vera (30 years old); Ángel Crispín Gilaranz (2 and a half years old); José Moreno Gómez (10 years old); and José Arsenio Pérez Vieitez (7 and a half years old). The Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa proposes that Larrañaga and Santos Pérez Vargas be imposed up to 87 and a half years in prison – for Larrañaga, Navarra also asks for a prison sentence.
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