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How Catalonia's leading citrus exporter to Europe went bankrupt

Agrofruit's road to bankruptcy

Catalonia's justice system has declared that the former director-general of Agrofruit, Xavier Guarner, is the main culprit of the company's bankruptcy. The court's ruling came after an investigation into the business management of Agrofruit, the company that once led the market for the export of citrus fruits to Europe. Agrofruit went into liquidation in 2018 and its 50 employees were unemployed after an ERE, as the company's debt exceeded 50 million euro and it had negative equity of nearly 80 million euro.

The Tarragona Provincial Court ratified the ruling against the former director for the bankruptcy of the company, which amounts to 27 months in prison, a 3,000 euro fine, and compensation worth 800,902 euro. The Criminal Court 1 of Tortosa (Tarragona) had convicted him for the corporate crime of documentary falsification, according to the final ruling, known this Monday. Those parties affected include the cooperative itself, Allfresh Logistics Gmbh, and SB Hotels Spain.

The books were cooked for years
The sentence outlines all of Guarner's management at the head of the company. The bankruptcy is the result of a bad purchase operation in Andalusia, which prevented compensation for the year 2000. At that time, the company received a penalty of 80 million pesetas. However, far from facing and solving the situation, Guarner decided to hide Agrofruit's new financial situation. To conceal it, he set up a fictitious billing model for his clients, in order to obtain financing advances. The system lasted until 2009.

However, due to the impossibility of collecting recorded income, the former director devised another system to cook the books, such as not canceling non-awarded subsidies or inflating the VAT on invoices pending repayment. To do this, he used bank discounts for false invoices from Ebrefruit SAT –directly linked to Agrofruit– and from the company itself, simulating false operations between both entities. He presented these fake invoices to the banks to get discounts. On November 5, 2013, Agrofruit's deficit reached 5,484 million euro due to Ebrefruit's unrecognized balances during previous years. The board let him go twelve days later.

Guarner did not make provisions for defaults, nor did he record the actual sales made to clients, as he inflated them to hide the company's insolvency.

The books were cooked so much that not even the former director himself was aware of the company's real losses. "It wasn't just reckless behavior. On the contrary, his conduct was carefully planned over many years," the ruling states.



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