Tuesday, March 2, 2010
PLIGHT OF MARRACHE EMPLOYEES
Last week I wrote about the collapse of the Marrache & Co law practice in Gibraltar and the arrest of two of the Marrache brothers whilst the third could soon be subject to an arrest warrant. They are accused of misappropriating around 10million in Canadian dollars and euros, the offices have been closed and the judge in the case has asked four other legal practices in Gibraltar to take over the case load.
In my blog I wrote: “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?”
This drew the response below from a member of Marrache’s staff who obviously wishes to remain anonymous. It goes to illustrate that it is not only Marrache’s clients that are the victim’s in this calamity. The employee wrote:
“I suppose it is natural for you to speculate whether “there are other people in Marrache's who were involved”.
“Please be advised that during the two weeks that the office has been sealed off and described as a crime scene, neither the Gibraltar Police nor any other authority in Gibraltar have seen fit to interview the staff. In circumstances where neither the partners of the law firm nor the Provisional Liquidators have spoken to staff officially as to whether they are to be made redundant or not and as to whether they will be paid at the end of this month or not, the staff are in a dreadful situation and some of them face immediate financial hardship as a result of this sordid affair.
“Until the staff have been vindicated as a result of the investigation it is likely that many will be tainted by association with the Marraches and unemployable as a result. It is a pity that no start has been made to give staff a “clean bill of health” as soon as possible and therefore give them a fair chance in the employment market.
“Whilst everyone is revelling in the scandal, it is a pity that nobody seems concerned about the position of staff who may well be absolutely innocent. Airy speculation in relation to our bona fides just makes our position worse still. Those in custody will be fed and watered, but staff have to pay for the roofs over their heads and put food on the family table. For the time being it seems that this will be difficult.”
Last week Unite the Union got involved on behalf of the Marrache staff. It emerged it is in discussions with the Employment and Training Board regarding the fate of up to 50 employees. District Officer Charlie Sisarello told the Gibraltar Chronicle there were complex matters to be resolved and grey areas such as the entitlements due to self-employed workers – furthermore they had not received their January salary let alone been paid for last month.
Sisarello said: “…all the staff members of Marrache who are members of Unite attended a meeting where our lawyers and officers informed them of the current situation in respect of their employment status. At present the staff is in limbo and their situation needs to be clarified so the necessary mechanisms that allow for a claim to the Insolvency Fund can be put in place. They are technically employed still but without being able to work. On the other hand they have not been dismissed or made redundant. It is fundamental that their situation is clarified. As any group of workers, these union members have financial commitments to attend to, apart from having to pay their domestic bills and household expenses. A solution needs to be addressed urgently as this is obviously causing much concern to them. We will be doing our utmost to get a viable solution and will be working closely with our lawyers towards this objective.”
The fact that Unite is fighting for the employees living in Gibraltar is to be welcomed and the fact it has asked utility companies to hold back on demanding payments is all well and good - but those who live in Spain and Portugal have been hung out to dry!
I should stress that whilst I raised the question - were any Marrache staff involved in the corruption? - it was the financial and not the legal side of the firm that I was referring to. I have no reason to believe that the legal staff in the Gibraltar, Spain or Portugal offices behaved in other than an honest manner (I understand London was a franchise).
Having said that my column carried on the USA-based blog Dscriber attracted several comments from “Gibraltarians” which disparaged the Marrache practice and the three sons’ father. I have since read others on a UK legal website that spoke highly of the family, law firm with suggestions that the Marraches were the victim of some conspiracy. As with all such unattributed comments on the internet you pay no money and take your choice! Ultimately the truth will out but in the meantime the general Marrache staff need to be treated as victims and not culprits.