NEWS

Lawyers linked to property ring

The homes of several lawyers were searched on Saturday, sources said yesterday, as part of an investigation into an alleged criminal ring that illegally obtained the rights to dozens of plots of land and buildings that were due to be auctioned. The ring is alleged to consist of up to 50 people, including judges, civil engineers and land registry employees. It is thought that the group’s activity cost the state millions of euros in lost earnings from property tax. It appears that the group would lay claim to real estate that was due to be auctioned by banks to recover debts owed by its owners. According to sources, members of the group would either present forged papers showing they also had a legal right to the property or they would produce documents showing that they were owed more than the banks and therefore had first rights on the land or buildings. It is believed that to help them execute the scam, the ring set up some 200 companies to serve as fronts. It is not yet clear how many properties they were able to obtain in this manner. Notes recovered from the lawyers’ homes over the weekend suggest that certain judges were either targeted by the gang or were in on the scam. The probe, which has been carried out with the help of the police and the National Intelligence Service, began last year and is due to be wrapped up soon.