They dreamed of building up real estate at a lower cost, but ultimately lost nearly a billion euros: the Apollonia company and 13 other defendants will be tried in Marseille for a vast scam against some 700 investors. Fourteen years after the first complaints, the Marseilles investigating judge Valéry Muller issued a referral order to the criminal court (ORTC) in mid-April in this sprawling case. The trial is expected to take place in the spring of 2023.
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Among the main defendants are the asset management company Apollonia based in Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône), its founders: the couple Moussa-Jean Badache, a 67-year-old former merchant, and his wife Viviane, 65 years, beautician, as well as their son, Benjamin Heysen-Badache, 44, who was once at the helm of the company. Are also referred to justice, the lawyer of the company, Me René Spadola, sales representatives – Rémy Suchan, François Mélis, Jean-Luc Puig and Amélie d’Almeida -, three administrative employees of Apollonia in charge of relations with the banks : Lynda Quintart, Fabienne Florentino and Holda Dahir as well as two notaries – Jean-Pierre Brines and Philippe Jourdeneaud.
In the early 2000s, Apollonia experienced a spectacular boom which led it to make the front pages of economic newspapers. His secret? Offer wealthy clients, mainly from the medical community, real estate investments in order to build up assets for their retirement. Apollonia offered its prospects, by telephone canvassing, to acquire lots of real estate programs eligible for the system of professional furnished rental companies (LMP), fiscally advantageous. The mechanism seemed all the more attractive as “the combined effects of these tax benefits and the income from the rental of the property were intended”according to the promoters of the project, guaranteeing customers “the self-financing of acquisitions allowing them to build up, almost without a purse, a significant heritage on the edge of their retirement”summarizes the examining magistrate.
But the entry ticket to reach this “Grail” was high, the investor having to justify more than 23,000 euros per year in income from his rental business. An imperative that has led to the proliferation of acquisitions for amounts between 800,000 and four million euros by investors. In the end, hundreds of them accepted the deal. Today, 690 have joined as civil parties.
Because, the promised self-financing “was just a mirage”underlines the judge in his order. “Tax deductions” promised “had only a limited scope” and “renting at the market price alone did not allow sufficient cash to be generated to complete self-financing” alleged in relation to overvalued assets. Moreover, the multiplication of investments was done without taking into account the real indebtedness of the investors.
A moment called into question, twenty-six partner banks of the operation are civil parties. They too would have been cheated by forged loan applications signed in blank by clients and completed by Apollonia, which did not warn them that other loans were in progress so that “files pass”. The involvement of notaries who would have drafted deeds with full knowledge of the facts has also been denounced.
Reassured by the interventions of these notaries who acquired 3,316 lots for 618 buyers and 650 million euros of investment, but also by those of a lawyer and major banking brands, investors believed Apollonia who promised to deliver them a product “turnkey”. In the end, from 2002 to 2010, the Aix-based company sold 5,305 properties for nearly 950 million euros.
The 15% commission (on the sale price) received by the Badache couple allowed them to lead the way (use of private planes, Ferraris, etc.) and to accumulate an impressive heritage: around forty apartments of the LMP system, a house in the Bouches-du-Rhône valued at 1.5 million euros or a chalet worth six million euros in Switzerland. Some of these assets were seized.