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700 people harmed, a billion in damages… The gigantic real estate scam “Apollonia” finally judged in Marseille

They dreamed of building up a real estate portfolio at a lower cost, but in the end lost almost a billion euros: the Apollonia company and 13 other defendants will be tried in Marseilles for a vast scam to the detriment of some 700 investors.

Fourteen years after the first complaints, the Marseilles investigating judge Valéry Muller issued an order for referral to the criminal court in mid-April in this sprawling case. The trial is expected to take place in the spring of 2023.

Among the main defendants are the asset management company Apollonia based in Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) and 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 years old, who was at the helm of the company for a time.

“Without purse”

Also sent to court are the company’s lawyer, Me René Spadola, sales representatives – Rémy Suchan, François Mélis, Jean-Luc Puig and Amélie d’Almeida -, three Apollonia administrative employees responsible for 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.

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The mechanism seemed all the more attractive because “the combined effects of these tax benefits and income from the rental of the property were deemed”according to the promoters of the project, guarantee customers “the self-financing of acquisitions, allowing them to build up, almost without purse, an important 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 of his rental activity.

“A mirage”

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” promises “had only a limited scope” et “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.

Almost a billion euros in total

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 in the LMP, 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.

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*The company’s lawyer, Me René Spadola, sales representatives – Rémy Suchan, François Mélis, Jean-Luc Puig and Amélie d’Almeida -, three administrative employees of Apollonia responsible for relations with the banks are also sent to court. : Lynda Quintart, Fabienne Florentino and Holda Dahir as well as two notaries – Jean-Pierre Brines and Philippe Jourdeneaud.

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