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The Prosecutor’s Office asks the ‘steel tycoon’ for four years in prison for an alleged fraud in the purchase of a building | Economy

In March 1998, José María Aristrain, on the right, greets the then president of SEPI, Pedro Ferreras, after closing a business agreement.  It is one of the few public images of the 'steel tycoon'.
In March 1998, José María Aristrain, on the right, greets the then president of SEPI, Pedro Ferreras, after closing a business agreement. It is one of the few public images of the ‘steel tycoon’.Barrenechea

The Basque industrialist José María Aristrain, the steel tycoon, faces a new battle in court. The Madrid Prosecutor’s Office asks that the businessman be sentenced to four years in prison, who was acquitted on January 11 in a trial for a millionaire tax fraud, for “acquiring in his name a home of almost 2,000 square meters, owned by a mercantile of which he was the sole administrator, in order to avoid paying VAT and not seize it”. As detailed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, he is charged with a crime of “frustration of the execution”, in addition to demanding that the “fraudulent” sale be declared null and void.

In its indictment, the Prosecutor’s Office explains that Aristrain created Pioninin SL in July 1998. The industrialist was the sole administrator and owned 99% of the shares in this company, with address at number 12 Zurbano Street in Madrid and that its purpose was “the sale” of land and farms. Through it, he acquired “the property at number 14 on the same road: a single-family home of 1,969 square meters,” which constituted his only asset item.

According to the accusation, after successive capital increases, the JM Aristrain SL Corporation came to hold 100% of the shares. Then, between 2005 and 2012, successive works were carried out in the house at number 14, which caused an inspection by the Treasury, which “verified that the VAT paid on the invoices received by the taxpayer, Pioninin, was not deductible.” The Prosecutor’s Office adds that “an undeclared fee was discovered for an amount of 661,296.24 euros -540,573.38 euros correspond to a fee and 120,722.86 euros to interest-“.

José María Aristrain, in a wheelchair and on his back, before the Provincial Court of Madrid, in 2019.
José María Aristrain, in a wheelchair and on his back, before the Provincial Court of Madrid, in 2019.Europe Press

“Subsequently, on December 18, 2012, before the forecast of the tax execution”, the public ministry stresses, “Aristrain, as sole administrator of Pioninin, appeared in a notary’s office to grant a special power of attorney to another defendant, DQP, [para quien el fiscal también solicita cuatro años de prisión], with the aim of making said execution unsuccessful”. “Furthermore, in the same act, he was given a deed of sale by virtue of which Aristrain acquired the Zurbano 14 estate, which Pioninin transmits to him for a price of 5,500,000 euros, plus another 220,000 euros of VAT”. But the payment of said operation was deferred “in full” for a period of five years: “Without any guarantee, or additional requirement, or rise to registration, thereby leaving the company without any assets.”

The Prosecutor’s thesis, denied by the environment of the Basque businessman, concludes as follows: “The tax debt gave rise to the fact that, after the corresponding executive actions, the property was blocked.” And, when the relevant auction was going to be held, the defendant maneuvered to “thwart the execution.”

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the first trial

The tycoon has already emerged victorious from his first battle against the public ministry and the Treasury. The Court of Madrid exonerated him in January from the accusation of tax fraud for allegedly pretending that he lived in Switzerland to avoid paying taxes. The Prosecutor’s Office even asked that the businessman be sentenced to 64 years in prison – reduced to 40 years during the trial – and a fine of 1,190 million euros. As EL PAÍS has advanced this Monday, the court has already lifted the embargo for that process, where a bail of 750 million euros was set. The prosecution announced that it will appeal this acquittal ruling.

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