EXCLUSIVE: British expats discover they are driving uninsured cars in Spain after local agent ‘stole’ their fees

Exclusive By Yzabelle Bostyn and Jo Chipchase

A POLICE investigation is underway after ‘multiple expats’ discovered they were driving uninsured after an agent allegedly pocketed their money instead of filing their policies. 

The Granada-based group told the Olive Press the boss of AXA agent, Autoescuela Orgiva, had vanished ‘owing thousands’.

They claim the owner of the long-standing business, Jose Manuel Arenas, pocketed the payments of at least 17 customers, seven of them expats.

“I’m worried it will take years to get my money back over this fraud,” victim Suzanne Rooney told the Olive Press.

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She lost ‘over €100’ to the scam after paying for her motorbike insurance last year. 

“I paid him directly in cash because I don’t trust anyone with my card details,” she explained.

“I don’t use my motorbike very often but I could have been stopped and fined at any time.”

In Spain, driving without insurance carries a hefty fine of up to €3,000.

She added: “What would have happened if I had got hurt or injured someone else?”

The scandal has rocked the Alpujarras town of Orgiva, provoking the closure of the local AXA office and robbing locals of their jobs. 

It is rumoured the scam may have been motivated by personal problems as locals claim Arenas ‘regularly looks off his face.’

According to a Guardia Civil spokesperson, half a dozen Spaniards have so far filed official denuncias, but they are expecting more. “An investigation is underway,” he told the Olive Press.

Fellow agent Yolanda Fuenes, who has taken over the local AXA policies, confirmed to the Olive Press at least seven expats are involved so far and ‘over 10 Spaniards’.

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Local Facebook groups allege Arenas has pocketed money paid to convert UK driving licences to Spanish ones.

One expat victim, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Olive Press he had been waiting four years for his new licence, after paying Lopez €120 in January 2019. 

After months of waiting, Lopez ‘charmingly’ insisted problems with Brexit were delaying the process. 

However, after years of waiting, the Cambridge native asked Lopez to return the licenses, or at least, their money. 

He refused to return either and four years later, the expat victim was forced to order a new licence through the DVLA. In

There are also many unconfirmed reports of driving lessons paid for and not delivered on the company’s Google Reviews. 

One anonymous reviewer said: “Scammer, I don’t recommend this teacher at all. He’ll take €250 for 10 lessons and then leave you out in the cold and keep your money.

“I’ve been trying to get in touch with them for months and both the teacher and the school ignore me. Incompetent!” 

Funes has opened a new AXA office in Orgiva with her company, Ramos Funes Agencia de Seguros SL.

She said: “You have to file a complaint with the Guardia Civil with your proof of payment at Autoescuela Orgiva and save all the documentation. AXA is going to reinstate the policies that are cancelled.”

Ramon and Yolanda are offering to run people’s number plates to see if the policies are active at AXA. 

You can also check on the My AXA app, after creating an account with your NIE.

Yolanda also states AXA will cover costs of any fines or towing costs incurred as a result of the faulty policies. 

“Basically it’s a lottery,” said Suzanne.

“It makes me nervous because I want it sorted.”

Meanwhile, another British expat and author, Andy Bailey, was heading to the UK via ferry when he heard of the scam. 

He was ‘horrified’ about driving abroad in a potentially illegal vehicle. 

“It’s shocking, I’ve done all my insurance through him, in cash. Silly man. But, yes, thankfully we are insured,” he told the Olive Press.

To the ‘amazement’ of locals, Jose Manuel is still in Orgiva.

Guardia Civil sources consulted by the Olive Press say he is not a ‘flight risk’ or a ‘danger’ to society.

Therefore, he will remain free until trial. 

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