In 2016, the Group S social secretariat written off 38 million euros, one-third of its savings bank. That's an offshoot of the Bernie Madoff scam that surfaced during the financial crisis. вЂњLifesaverвЂќ Frank Bamelis still believes things will be fine.
It is remarkable that a write-off was only made at Group S in 2016. The misery with the savings bank of the social secretariat, which calculates the wages of 500,000 employees from the main construction and has 900 employees, already started after the financial crisis of 2008. It turned out that Group S, which presented itself as a very conservative investor, invested tens of millions of euros in Fairfields. That was one of the pivotal funds of master con artist Bernie Madoff, who made a $65 billion pit worldwide with a pyramid scheme-like fraud scheme. Group S's investment turned out to be decimated.
Normally, Group S would have had to write off the Bernie Madoff loss of more than 40 million euros in 2009. But Frank Bamelis, then relationship manager at Fundamentum Asset Management in Luxembourg (a subsidiary of the then Fortis), which managed the portfolio for Group S, suggested a solution.
The West Flemish living in Monaco would replace the deficit with a personal loan of more than 40 million euros. This was guaranteed by all kinds of guarantees concerning Senior Assist and other companies from his sphere of influence.
Today, Group S still has about 23 million euros in credit from Bamelis. There is a backlog of more than 7 million euros on the repayment plan. Only interest was paid for the 2017 financial year.
Until the fiscal year 2015, auditor Francis Wilmet was not very concerned about the loan and the two investment funds Archetype and Leeward Ventures Sicar, in which Bamelis encouraged Group S to invest. He just noted that he had difficulty estimating the current value of the funds.
In May 2017, De Tijd discussed in detail the difficulties faced by Frank Bamelis' business empire and in particular his retirement home group Senior Assist and its funds. Gonzales Stubbe, the CEO of Group S, then dismissed whether his group's piggy bank was at risk. вЂњI am confident that everything will be okay,вЂќ he stated. But in the 2016 balance sheet, which was filed six weeks later, the investment in the two investment funds was written off 100 percent.
Why suddenly this write-off? The auditor is said to have insisted on this. At the time, there were doubts about whether Senior Assist would survive. At the Construction Confederation, of which many members use the social secretariat, people were вЂњnot amusedвЂќ to say the least. Especially when they heard that Group S chairman Paul Poteau was also on the investment committee of Leeward Ventures Sicar for years.
Stubbe still believes it is only a matter of time before the amount can be recovered. But nothing of the write-off has been reversed in the 2017 annual report. Only interest was paid on the outstanding loan in the course of last year.
Bamelis doesn't understand all that fuss. вЂњI was not aware that they completely canceled that participation. I don't think it will take years to get a refund. We can only speak for our share of the business in Archetype. The rest are activities of our business partner Peter Vanderbruggen, including the investment in the medical company Biocare. That is not our responsibility, and we cannot speak for the liquidator or for Vanderbruggen.вЂњ
Verbruggen, a Belgian who has lived in the US for years and is an expert in setting up offshore constructions, was a Bamelis business partner for many years. Today relationships are hypothermic, to say the least.
Balis is committed to repaying the outstanding balance of 23 million. That loan has always been misunderstood. вЂњIt is constructed to bridge the very long recovery time from Bernie Madoff's bankruptcy.
Recently, the second installment of 15 percent of the investment value was repaid through Deminor. 15 and 10 percent will probably follow later. If that happens, Group S will be left with more than first thought. Until now, the outstanding debt in the capital has been reduced to 11 million euros. вЂњ
Bali's points out that he has had a basic agreement with Archetype's liquidator since October 2017. вЂњThe first payments have started. We already took over shares for 45 million euros, making us the majority shareholder of Archetype ourselves. вЂњ
Investors should not immediately count on repayment from Verbruggen. вЂњI have no financial obligations to Archetype (in liquidation) and I have never been involved in the management of that fund. Leeward Ventures Sicar is in liquidation and only KPMG can say how much will be left for shareholders after it monetizes all remaining investments, вЂњhe said from the US.
Fortunately, Group S is a well-run company. It doesn't need its piggy bank right away. After a current loss of 36 million euros, due to the substantial write-off in 2016, there was again a current profit of 13 million euros in 2017.
The savings bank that had fallen from 118 million euros in 2015 to 90 million euros in 2016, was back at 105 million euros at the end of 2017. Such a piggy bank mainly serves as a kind of social passive in case the company should stop its activities.