Make no mistake the furore surrounding the arrest of two of the three brothers who headed up the Marrache & Co law firm in Gibraltar has sent shudders through the financial services and legal sectors. The Financial Services Commission was the first to act to withdraw the licences it had issued to Marrache’s allowing it to take clients’ investment funds.
However the financial arm of the law firm was probably the least well known and it is as a legal practice with offices in Spain, Portugal and the UK – as well as the Rock – that had made Marrache’s famous. Indeed up to two weeks ago they would have been rated at least by those outside the legal beagle world on the Rock as one of its top firms. Whether its fellow lawyers had any inclining of what was afoot we are yet to find out.
Last week Benjamin and Solomon Marrache, the two brothers facing multi-million pound fraud charges, were refused bail and remanded in prison by the Magistrates Court. Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto said there was a high risk of the two men fleeing Gibraltar as the police probe into the affairs of Marrache & Co intensified. Attorney General Ricky Rhoda, QC, said the scale of the alleged fraud appeared to be larger than investigators first thought. If convicted it is said the brothers could spend up to 10 years in jail, presumably on the basis of the charges they now face. I would guess that if more wrong doing is discovered then their future lives behind bars may be extended.
Benjamin and Solomon appeared in court last week jointly charged with falsely accounting $5.6 million Canadian dollars and 2.1million euros belonging to Malory Holdings and Remus Enterprises. That is in addition to the charges of falsifying documents to conceal 1.8 million euros of missing money belonging to another client they already face. Prosecutors claim they falsified ledgers to show that they held the clients’ money when in fact it was missing.
Initially they had been granted bail on hefty sureties but now Mr Pitto has sent them to a cell in the Moorish Castle instead. The defence lawyers had sought to highlight the defendants' strong local ties but that argument is weakened by the absence of the other senior Marrache partner – Isaac, brother to the jailed duo. He was out of the country when his siblings were arrested and seems reluctant to return. An international arrest warrant is probably in the offing. The case is similar to that of Marbella’s former deputy mayor Carlos Fernandez, who at the time of the ‘Malaya’ town planning corruption case arrests was walking the Camino de Santiago – and has kept walking to this very day.
The company’s and clients’ affairs are now being handled by a committee made up of the four senior partners of Hassans, Isola & Isola, Triay Stagnetto Neish and Triay & Triay – the Rock’s four other major firms. The committee is overseeing the distribution of live cases to other local lawyers in order to protect the interests of Marrache clients.
What I find strange about cases such as this was the certainty that they would be found out. If you were a fraudster you could set up a fake investment account, attract gullible investors, then make off with 1.8 million euros of dosh, assignment completed! However the Marrache’s have allegedly misappropriated nearly ten million in Canadian dollars and euros – their misdeeds covered by a few flimsy pieces of forged letters so assuring that sooner rather than later their legal house would come tumbling down.
Also a rogue father, son, mother or daughter has in the past often brought down or shaken the very foundations of the family concern. Here it appears we have three suspect brothers who if proved guilty presumably colluded in the fraud. This is behaviour more akin to the mafia. In which case one has to ask the question – are there other people in Marrache’s who were involved?
Once this case comes to court the proverbial will hit the fan and it will be spread over Gibraltar’s legal and financial sectors. Their very integrity will undoubtedly be questioned because if you can’t trust Marrache in Gibraltar terms who can you trust? What is certain is that future students of law and human nature will study the proceedings of the Marrache case with keen interest.
(In case you were wondering the photograph at the top of this page was sent to me last year by Marrache’s amongst much fanfare announcing their sponsorship of this race car. Whether the driver behind the wheel is Isaac making a quick getaway I know not.)