British law firms dispatched “sales agents” in Mallorca to enlist holidaymakers to file false food poisoning claims against tour operators, court documents reveal.
A Palma de Mallorca judge has lifted the seal on court documents in a case uncovering a scheme which could have scammed Spanish hotels out of €60 million.
British law firms dispatched “sales agents” to hotels in Mallorca to enlist holidaymakers and encourage them to file phony food poisoning claims against their tour operators.
Lawyers would lure recruits with promises of compensation worth up to 18,000 euros and with a 98 percent success rate.
The settlement would fund tourists’ holiday costs, while their legal reps would take a 60 percent cut. Some of these complaints were even filed years after the alleged gastric illness.
In an effort to avoid steep court fees, many tour operators accepted the claims and passed the costs to Spanish hotels as per their contract, who subsequently accepted liability for damages.
But as the number of claims ramped up, Spanish hotels alerted police and hired private detectives who uncovered the crime ring.
One of the hotel chains says it received more than 270 compensation requests for 700 people, amounting to 4.5 million euros ─ a 700 percent increase from previous years.
The Spanish CIvil Guard arrested seven British nationals last September. They were found to have used law firms with "low professional ethics" and exploited a loophole in British legislation.
The two local leaders were mother and daughter, whose job it was to hire agents and train them to persuade hotel clients to simulate gastric illnesses.
Civil Guard officers also discovered the ring was active on the island of Tenerife, where it made around 115 euros for every successful claim. One of the women routinely drove to hotels to supervise her agents, especially in Sa Coma and Puerto de Alcúdia in the north of Majorca.
Investigators slammed the clients who cooperated with the alleged scheme by agreeing to feign illness to get a free vacation.
So far, authorities have identified 800 tourists who filed claims through 77 different law firms.