Bulk of Milanes investors appear to have accepted his deal

Most former investors with Savings Unlimited who have filed legal cases will get about 18 percent of their money back. That appears to be the conciliation deal worked out between casino owner Luis Milanes and most of the lawyers representing those who lost funds.

Some former investors are not happy with this deal and will continue to press criminal charges against Milanes and his associates, according to emails received by A.M. Costa Rica.

The conciliation hearings, which ended Monday were private, and even some of the former investors found that they could not attend because the session had been reduced to one room instead of the usual two in order to accommodate an unrelated trial.

Some who attended said that Ewald Acuña, who represents more than 100 clients, and representatives of the Oficina de la Defensa Civil de la Victima said they accepted the deal. Other lawyers did, too.

Basically Milanes will turn over properties and money, perhaps as much as $10 million, to the court, and these will be placed in a trust. Proceeds from the sale of properties will be distributed among the former investors based on how much they could document that they had invested.

That will be after expenses, brokerage fees and lawyers are paid.

The 18 percent figure was an estimate by an investor.
Those who accept the deal still have to sign off formally. There does not appear to be a written version of the deal, just verbal commitments made before a judge and recorded by the court.

Some lawyers who favor the deal are cutting loose their clients who want to see Milanes go to jail. The investors have to find other representation. Theoretically Milanes will now face trial because all investors did not take the deal. However, prosecutors have not shown strong urges to present a fraud case.

Many lawyers appear to be happy that the conciliation is over and that they can take their fees and put the long-running case behind them. Milanes closed down his high-interest operation in November 2002 and fled. At the time the estimate was that his investors lost about $200 million. Many choose not to pursue legal action. Some died. The case gained new life when Milanes surrendered himself in June 2009 and returned to Costa Rica.

Milanes’ network of casinos continued to function in his absence. They are not part of the conciliation deal.

Some investors who are declining to accept the results of the conciliation hope that Milanes will be convicted and that judges award them a much higher percentage. When Oswaldo Villalobos was convicted of aggravated fraud, some investors in that high-interest operation were awarded about 30 percent of what they had given the Villalobos brothers. However some assets seized by the court were real estate, and efforts to convert the property into cash have been slow due to the current market situation.

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