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Grand Coral mangrove devastation still without restitution

Playa del Carmen, Q.R. — Years after the destruction of mangroves in the area of Grand Coral in Riviera Maya, federal officials have yet to find restitution.

The Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection in the state issued an acuerdo resolutivo whereby it terminates the case without restitution of damage to those responsible. In 2014, companies GC Riviera Maya and GC Riviera Maya Urban Golf Course projects were closed for violating Mexican legislation by filling mangroves with stony material.

Federal officials were initially denied access to the site, however, they managed to inspect the area with Solidaridad police support. Several security guards were arrested for denying access.

Upon inspection, they found more than 8,300 square meters of mangrove destroyed by the illegal fill. The flora and fauna of that mangrove area continues to be listed in NOM 059 under the category of threatened species.

The general director of Environmental Planning and Urban Development, Eduardo Morentín Ocejo, confirmed that the company Grand Coral, did not show any permits for the mangrove fill.

He stressed that it is up to Procuraduría Federal de Protección (Profepa) to determine the procedure because in the end, it is a federal crime and as a municipality, they act according to law.

Since then, the owners of the project have been prosecuted in Spain. In 2018, a judge from the Audiencia Nacional Carmen Lamela prosecuted the former president of the now defunct Bancaja and Banco de Valencia, José Luis Olivas as well as its former directors José Luis Izquierdo and Domingo Parra for the embezzlement of 750 million euros in the Grand Coral project.

The real estate project was a plan of investments in Baja California and Riviera Maya that, between 2005 and 2009, financed the Valencian entities in partnership with the hotel promoters Juan Vicente Ferri, José Salvador Baldó and Juan Poch.

Thanks to the loans granted by Bancaja and Banco de Valencia “in a systematic way” the entrepreneurs obtained unjustified profits of 170 million euros, part of which were allegedly laundered in the Private Banking of Andorra.

The Grand Coral loans lacked economic rationality and were plagued by irregularities, according to a report by judicial experts appointed by the Bank of Spain. The entities suffered “an economic loss of 100% of the investment”.

Of the 750 million evaporated, 160.5 million corresponded to the loss of value of the shareholdings of Bancaja and Banco de Valencia in the projects and 452.3 to the non-payment of the loans granted to the projects.

In addition to the top executives of Bancaja and Banco de Valencia and the hotel businessmen, the judge processed another 39 people, mostly second-row managers and members of the different Board of Directors during those years.

“In all these operations it is verified that the top leaders of Bancaja and Banco de Valencia allowed, in some cases, and sponsored in others, an authentic operation of embezzlement of the entities that unjustifiably ended up in the hands of hotel partners Juan Ferri, José Baldó and Juan Poch,” reported the judge.