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The Spanish justice lifts the embargo on the millionaire ‘steel tycoon’ | Economy

José María Aristrain, in a wheelchair, at the Provincial Court of Madrid, in 2019.
José María Aristrain, in a wheelchair, at the Provincial Court of Madrid, in 2019.Europe Press

The Provincial Court of Madrid has lifted the embargo imposed on the Basque industrialist José María Aristrain, known as the steel tycoon, after being acquitted of the accusation of tax fraud. The court makes this decision, as stated in an order issued on March 2, after exonerating the businessman on January 11, one of the largest fortunes in Spain, for whom the Prosecutor’s Office even requested a sentence of 64 years in prison – reduced to 40 years during the trial—and a fine of 1.19 billion euros for pretending to live in Switzerland to avoid paying taxes. The bail that had been imposed amounted to 750 million euros, as published The confidential and confirm sources of his defense.

The magistrates have not waited for the acquittal to be declared firm, which the Prosecutor’s Office has announced that it will appeal. According to the order, to which EL PAÍS had access, the judges consider that, “more than ten years have elapsed since the precautionary measures were agreed upon in order to guarantee pecuniary responsibilities and an acquittal sentence was issued in the first instance, it is appropriate to leave without effect the required bond. Among the seized assets were bank accounts and properties, according to the same sources.

Contacted by this newspaper, the Oliva-Ayala Abogados office, which has led part of Aristrain’s defense, has confirmed this information on the lifting of the embargo, which was requested after learning of the ruling that exonerated the industrialist.

In 2021, the magazine Forbes estimated at 950 million the assets of Aristrain, who inherited the industrial empire of his father at the age of 24, who died in 1986 in a helicopter accident. The millionaire is credited with owning 2% of shares in ArcelorMittal, the largest steel company in the world. Also, 11% of Tubacex, the world’s second largest producer of seamless tubes in stainless steel, according to the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV).

The businessman has had a long battle with the Treasury and the Prosecutor’s Office, which has lasted more than a decade. In the absence of the appeal being presented and resolved, the first major assault ended this January with the victory of the tycoon. The Court of Madrid rejected the thesis of the public ministry with an extensive sentence of 240 pages, where it questioned the reports of the Tax Agency. “The evidence of the accusation must have the character of conclusive, generating a certainty beyond any reasonable doubt,” said the acquittal resolution: “It has not been proven that the accused maintained his residence in Spain.”

The Prosecutor’s Office argued that Aristrain designed a complex corporate structure to avoid paying taxes in Spain for the profits he obtained from his businesses between 2005 and 2009, while pretending to live in Switzerland. “[No pagó] neither for the Personal Income Tax (IRPF), nor for the Wealth Tax, nor for the dividends and capital gains obtained by the companies controlled by him”, he stressed in the indictment. However, the businessman always defended his innocence and ruled out an agreement with the public ministry.

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