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Spanish authorities arrest 25 suspects in timeshare fraud scam

By Al Goodman, CNN
A view across the island of Tenerife, where a fraud scheme targeting German owners of timeshare properties took place.
A view across the island of Tenerife, where a fraud scheme targeting German owners of timeshare properties took place.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Canary Islands vacation properties are the target of the scam
  • Police say suspects convinced owners to pay fees for sales that never went through
  • The German Embassy helps uncover a web of suspects
  • Twenty-three German suspects, one Polish suspect and one Swiss suspect are arrested
RELATED TOPICS
  • Canary Islands
  • Spain
  • Madrid

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish authorities have arrested 25 people suspected in a 10 million euro ($13 million) fraud scheme targeting German owners of timeshare vacation property in the Canary Islands, police said Friday.

The suspects contacted the timeshare owners, offered lucrative terms to buy their shares and lured the owners into paying what turned out to be non-existent taxes or transfer fees, Spanish national police said in a statement.

The timeshare property never actually changed hands, and the suspects vanished, only to surface elsewhere and repeat the alleged scam, police said.

With help from the German Embassy in Madrid, investigators identified a web of suspects spread among numerous businesses and locations, mainly on Tenerife Island -- one of the largest of the Canary archipelago of seven islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Authorities arrested 23 German suspects, one Polish suspect and one Swiss suspect late last week, police said.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects had been arraigned or whether a judge had ordered them to jail or ordered their release.

If convicted of fraud, they could face up to six years in prison, a police spokeswoman said.

Several million Germans visit Spain annually, especially the Canary Islands and also the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, and many also own property in the country.

They, along with other property owners -- foreigners and Spaniards alike -- have felt the deep economic downturn after Spain's real estate bubble and construction boom collapsed.

Many owners have tried to sell their property, usually finding depressed prices, not the lucrative terms that the suspects allegedly offered to the German timeshare owners.