Milanes investors begining to get settlement cash

The portal or nativity scene at the Teatro Nacional is a tradition in Costa Rica where the line between church and state is blurred at best. Such displays, although on a lesser scale, can be found in public and private offices.

Some Savings Unlimited investors have begun to receive checks or bank deposits as a result of a deal negotiated between the casino owner’s lawyers and lawyers representing investors.

The casino owner, Luis Milanes, appears to be off the hook in his criminal case because nearly all the investors have settled. A trial is unlikely.

More than 200 are believed to be represented by Ewald Acuna, who accepted the payoff on behalf of his clients based on full powers of attorney they had provided him years ago.

The amount of money investors are getting is proportional to their original investment. Many are getting just a few hundred dollars as an initial payment. Others who lost vast sums when the Milanes operation Saving Unlimited, collapsed, are getting checks in the thousands of dollars. The initial payment is believed to be a bit more than 1 percent of what investors gave to Milanes. Eventually they may get 5 percent, according to informal estimates.

The lawyers involved are getting a percentage of the money coming to their clients. In many cases, the money is passing through the accounts of the lawyers.

The money comes from monthly amounts of $100,000 that Milanes agreed to pay to a trust that
also is handling properties that were surrendered as part of the conciliation deal. No properties have yet been sold, according to investors close to the trust. Among the properties is the Hotel Europa in downtown San José where Milanes now rents space for one of his casinos. The properties were estimated to be worth about $10.4 million

Milanes agreed to pay monthly amounts for 18 months as part of the settlement.

Some of the money is being used for expenses to maintain the properties.

Some of the lawyers admit that they have lost track of some of their clients. Milanes fled in November 2002. A member of an investor committee that advises the trust is making an effort to contact all the clients who may be in line for money.

Some investors who were holding out for a trial are believed to have accepted individual agreements.

When Saving Unlimited folded, the loss was estimated to be about $200 million. Milanes returned to Costa Rica in June 2009 under a deal negotiated with prosecutors.

He spent a night in jail. He later claimed that an associate now in Europe had taken the money.

Others who were defendants in the criminal prosecution also contributed lesser amounts to the investor fund.

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