Tuesday 31 January 2023

Tico accused of defrauding the Lebanese community of US$5 million with an alleged “investment” plan

According to the Prosecutor's Office, the Cartago lawyer ran a ‘ponzi’ scheme through the deception of alleged investments in banks and the stock market, promising interest of up to 17%

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28 January 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – A Cartago lawyer named Nassar Güell is accused of having defrauded the Lebanese community in Costa Rica with an alleged investment plan, with which he fraudulently obtained around US$5 million.

In total, the Fiscalía Adjunta de Fraudes – Deputy Prosecutor for Frauds – accuses him of 23 crimes of major fraud and two crimes of ideological falsehood in material competition.

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The preliminary hearing to determine whether this case goes to trial is scheduled to take place today and tomorrow, August 3 and 4, in the Criminal Court of the First Judicial Circuit of San José. However, the hearings could be postponed due to a clash of agendas of some of the lawyers representing the victims.

Nassar, now 45 years old, worked at the law firm JC Esquivel y Asociados S. A. with a man named Esquivel Favareto, who represents the company Costa Rica Escrow And Title Services S.A. (CRETSA), dedicated to the administration of trust assets.

In that company, the defendant was a compliance officer; however, he did not hold any representation.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the lawyer carried out the fraudulent actions since 2010 and for this, he relied on “his status as a member and trusted lawyer of the Lebanese community” in the country.

Apparently, he managed to win the trust of the offended by telling them that he had investment funds, a wine company in which they could invest, and that he also made commercial loans to various companies, which were backed by loan agreements.

He also offered the constitution of trusts on real estate where CRETSA was listed as trustee, and also assured them that the profits from these loans of up to 17% annual interest.

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The Prosecutor’s Office indicated that all these statements were false, since Nassar knew that he did not have the legal representation of CRETSA and that the loans did not exist, since the companies that appeared as debtors had never requested such, nor had they posted their assets as guarantee.

Apparently, the offended believed in Nassar’s demonstrations because of the trustworthy figure he represented for them and that is why they decided to invest in these businesses and hand over large sums of money.

After eight years, the lawyer paid interest to the victims, “as part of his fraud plan and to maintain his deception.”

These amounts corresponded to “the alleged investments that the offended had made in the commercial loans offered by the accused; being that the resources to pay said interests to the offended, he obtained them from the own investments of the victims”.

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In the end, as a result of the scams, Nassar was able to (allegedly) swindle investors of some US$5,000,000, according to Laura Lucía Vargas Gutiérrez, as a representative of the Deputy Prosecutor’s Office for Fraud.

Erick Gatgens, the lawyer for three companies defrauded, explained that Nassar’s defense has tried on several occasions to manage an abbreviated process, but it does not offer a consideration that allows to cover even part of the losses suffered.

He added that his clients do not agree to avoid a trial because most of those affected seek compensation, even if it is partial for the damages.


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