Sunday, September 26

The public defender who beat Goldman Sachs | Economy

A group of neighbors met last Sunday the 11th in an underground parking lot, in Navalcarnero.
A group of neighbors met last Sunday the 11th in an underground parking lot, in Navalcarnero.Bald Elm

Rachid Bouikov, a 41-year-old father of a Spanish family of Moroccan origin, very stubborn, who lives off what comes out of construction, was raised by 140 euros the rent of his protected house in Navalcarnero. To avoid this, he could not think of anything other than to challenge an urban sale agreement of 2,935 protected homes by the Community of Madrid to the investment fund Encasa Cibeles (owned by 97% of the investment bank Goldman Sachs) worth 201 million of euros. For Rachid, this sale hid the reason for the unfair increase in his monthly payment. Chance would have it that the file, condemned to disappear as bizarre, fell to César Pinto, a 54-year-old public defender just as stubborn, who accepted his case. All of this occurred between 2013 and 2015. Since then, they have fought a grueling judicial battle full of sentences, appeals, roundtrip appeals, orders, notifications, clarifications and more sentences. On the one hand, the legal team of the investment fund and the specialist lawyers of the Community of Madrid; on the other, Pinto, father of four children, specialized in lost cases and contentious-administrative law, only in his office.

On Sunday, in Navalcarnero, a neighbor of Rachid who was returning from buying bread and a coke came across César Pinto and said:

– Thanks. For you we still have the houses. Thanks to Allah and to you.

Because Pinto and Rachid have won, and their victory affects everyone. The Community of Madrid objected that his case benefited the rest of the neighbors in the same situation. But the commitment of a public defender managed that, last February, the court ruled again in his favor: the judgment of May 2018 that annulled Rachid’s rent increase and returned his home to public hands was extended to the others 2,934 neighbors. The powerful investment fund has already given up and has asked to get rid of promotions and, incidentally, has claimed this week from the Community of Madrid almost 200 million euros in damages. The regional government has appealed, as the last judicial letter, the execution of the sentence, but knows that it is in a position of imminent kill.

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The tenants of Navalcarnero will therefore return to the rental conditions prior to the purchase by the investment fund. Rachid’s neighbors, all with precarious salaries and jobs, when there are any, celebrate the news. Although, facts that come badly given, do not trust at all. Along the way there have been those who left their home because they could not cope with the new monthly payments and did not have the courage to refuse to pay and face the pressure and the tide of notifications and urgent flyers. Or the ones who accepted money from Goldman Sachs for leaving the house. Also, those who just left, because their rental contract was not renewed. Some were simply evicted. The activist for the defense of public housing José Castro, who has worked with these families for years, estimates that between them they reach a thousand. Many of them have been stumbling around ever since.

César Pinto, the public defender who has defended Rachid Bouikov.
César Pinto, the public defender who has defended Rachid Bouikov. Bald Elm

Last Sunday, like every Sunday, a meeting was held in the underground garage of Rachid’s apartment block. Several dozen affected people who live there came and, exceptionally, Pinto, who lent himself, with his mask on, in the middle of two cars, to solve the thousand and one doubts of each one.

– But do we have to keep paying Goldman Sachs?

– And if I have not paid everything they asked me, can they still evict me from the vulture fund?

– Who do I complain to because my boiler does not work? Or because of the leaks?

Pinto responded as best he could (“I only handle Rachid’s case, but I advise you to keep paying until the sentence is executed”). Each one in that meeting carried their story. That of Brahim El Boudakhani, 45, is somewhat different from that of his friend Rachid. They also raised him from 40 to 260 euros. And for the same reason: although the investment fund promised not to alter the rates, by ceasing to be tenants of the Community of Madrid, they lost the right to a reduction in rent because they were vulnerable families. Rachid decided to pay nothing and go big. Brahim resolved to continue paying Goldman Sachs the same as it was paying the Community, the 45 euros. “They said that I was not going to upload anything. Well, I told the bank to transfer the same as before ”, it is justified. Now he is facing a lawsuit for non-payment for more than 9,300 euros and several eviction notifications that, he trusts, thanks to Rachid’s sentence, will never be executed. But who knows. A 62-year-old woman, who prefers not to give her name, a house and office cleaner, paid the Community of Madrid 39 euros for her apartment. With the arrival of Goldman Sachs, the rent – after losing the reduction – rose to 200 euros. Paid a few months. But then he stopped doing it because he lost his job. He claims that he earned less than 200 euros. The same thing that wins now. In 2015, according to his account, a representative of the investment fund promised him that, if he left the house, they would forgive him the debt and they would also give him some extra money. “I did not accept,” he says, “because I have nowhere to go.” Now, together with Brahim, he does not know what will happen to the debt he accumulates with the investment fund. Perhaps they will forgive it. Or not. Who knows

In 2013, Ignacio González, from the Popular Party, governed the Community of Madrid. The decision to sell the 2,935 public homes, spread over 32 developments in towns such as Madrid (Vallecas), Parla, Navalcarnero, Arroyomolinos, Majadahonda or Móstoles, among others, was justified with economic reasons: “At this time and in the real estate context, it is considered strategically necessary, in order to balance the budget of the Housing Institute (IVIMA) carry out the sale ”, reads the document of the Governing Council of June 2013 by which the sale is agreed. And he continues: “The contest does not affect the rights of the tenants and, of course, it would be carried out with the best guarantees.” The latter is only true in theory. From the moment that the houses cease to be public, the tenants lose the protection of the Community of Madrid, and with it the rent reduction that protected them as vulnerable families, one step away from poverty. This was not mentioned anywhere. Those affected found it when they found that the bite to the bank account was greater than usual. “That’s where it all started. In that lag. The people who inhabited those houses were simply left helpless. If the Community of Madrid had worried about compensating for this rent increase, perhaps there would be no case. But they washed their hands. Those tenants didn’t matter to anyone. It is not true that they have no voice. It is that nobody bothered to listen to them ”, says the lawyer Pinto.

In the lot of 2,935 homes, 80% occupied, there was everything. Young couples who earned 30,000 euros a year and who had obtained the apartment with an option to buy within the public plans for access to housing for young people. But also cases like that of Vanesa Fernández Sáez, 42, without a permanent job, the mother of a 15-year-old teenager and a six-year-old girl. In 2013, he lived in a sheltered apartment in the Ensanche de Vallecas. He paid 89 euros. But after losing the reduction after the sale of the homes to Goldman Sachs, the rent went up to 409. In 2015, their young daughter was born. Stop working. Stopped paying. He assures that the new owners offered him 2,000 euros for the move if he left the house. “As the neighborhood community was not paid, there was no electricity or elevator, and I lived on the sixth floor, isolated and depressed. So I took the money and left, ”he says. She lived with her daughter’s father for a time, but later separated from him. He only gets sporadic jobs, sometimes as a clack on TV shows, sometimes nothing. Now she lives in a house of a charitable association with her daughter, because she could not continue paying the 500 euros they were asking her for a small apartment in Tetouan, where she lived for a time. Your son is in boarding school. You have asked for another protected housing, but you are on a waiting list.

Encasa Cibeles assures that 102 evictions have been carried out since 2013, none in the last two years, and that they have never affected vulnerable families. Rachida Al Jaouzi, 50, of Spanish nationality, upon hearing this, simply replies: “That’s a lie.” And he adds: “Listen to this: my father, Aldelkader, 76 years old, and my mother, Soodia, also 76 years old, lived in a sheltered house in the Ensanche de Vallecas, in La Gavia. It was one of those that sold to the vulture fund. They had been in Spain for 40 years. They received a retirement pension of 300 euros each. They paid 50 euros of rent to the Community of Madrid. Encasa Cibeles assured that the conditions did not change. But in 2017 they told my parents that they had to pay 5,000 euros. Then another man proposed to forgive them the debt and give them some money if they left. They did not accept. My mother liked her home. He had put it to his liking. In 2017 the eviction letters arrived. They did not go the first time. But the second, yes. They did not object. They were ashamed that the neighbors, many from Morocco, saw them fighting with the police, with the furniture in the street. That night the social Samur welcomed them. Then they went to a hotel paid for by the Community of Madrid, which later gave them a house. But it is old, and cold. My mother asks me if they are going to give her her old apartment back now that everything is going to change ”.

The central paragraph of the decisive 2018 ruling that annuls the real estate sale reads as follows: “Among the justifications of the Community of Madrid to carry out the sale it is pointed out that the houses are not necessary (…)” And it adds: “Without that this statement is explained or justified with any type of report or analysis ”.

Rachid Bouikov, at his home in Navalcarnero.
Rachid Bouikov, at his home in Navalcarnero.
Bald Elm

Goldman Sachs bought 2,935 homes. But now he only wants to deliver 1,721 to the Community of Madrid, since the remaining 1,214 have been sold “in good faith”, as clarified in the letter to the judge, to the people who had them rented with the option to buy or to third parties. Those who were neither Rachid, nor Brahim, nor Vanessa Fernández or Rachida’s parents. For its part, the Community of Madrid, in its last letter to the judge, sent this week, asks him to clarify what happens with these homes sold before executing the sentence. “These owners are legally defenseless. If the 2,935 houses return en bloc at the hands of the Community of Madrid, there would be included in theory the 1,214 sold. What constitutes nonsense. To take further steps forward, we need to know what happens to those 1,214 homes. The judge must make it clear ”, affirms a spokesman for the Community of Madrid. Goldman Sachs, which claims 200 million from the regional government in damages, prefers not to specify how much it has earned from the sale of those homes. “It is confidential information that concerns only buyers,” they allege.

The one who has not won anything except the stipulated official fee is the public defender. It doesn’t matter: on Sunday, after the garage meeting, when the neighbors each went home, Rachid asked him to please wait at the gate. Pinto waited by the glass door, adorned with vulture stickers. Rachid came downstairs after a while and, with his stubborn smile, gave him a bag with two tuppers filled with typical Ramadan honey sweets.

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