“It is a story that is worth knowing and it is also a very beautiful story of our family.” B. Ramírez de Haro decided in April 2019 to tell his nephews, the children of his brother Fernando and Esperanza Aguirre, how the portrait of Valentín Belvís de Moncada y Pizarro, painted by Goya and belonging to the family, had ended up in the hands of his father’s. And also the procedure used to pay off a millionaire debt that threatened to drag the former president of Madrid and her husband, who are married in a community property regime, to bankruptcy.
Esperanza Aguirre and her husband sold an unpublished Goya for five million without protecting it as a cultural asset to save taxes
What B. tells as a beautiful family story is, in reality, the assumption of an alleged fraud. In the audio provided to the court and to which elDiario.es has had access, Esperanza Aguirre’s sister-in-law acknowledges that the painting did not initially belong to her brother Fernando, which forced to simulate a donation that had never existed so that the husband of the Madrid’s former president could sell it and pay off her debts.
“For your father to be the owner of the painting, we had to invent a donation that never happened,” explains B., in a tedious recording in which he admits that another of the brothers was bothered by the fraud.
This traditional story of an aristocratic family has led to a criminal case in the courts of Plaza Castilla, in Madrid. The complaint comes from Íñigo Ramírez de Haro, brother of B. and Fernando, and in it he accuses the latter of not having distributed the more than five million euros that he pocketed with the sale of the portrait. That is, the 850,000 euros that correspond to each of the six heirs. In addition, another brother of the family accuses Esperanza Aguirre’s husband of plotting what is evident in the audio: the simulation of a false donation to keep the painting.
Although the audio appears in the complaint and in the summary, the Prosecutor’s Office has ignored it for now and has focused solely on determining whether Fernando Ramírez de Haro, Aguirre’s husband, committed an alleged tax crime by not paying taxes for the sale of the painting on your 2013 income tax return.
“I have to tell the two brothers something”
B. Ramírez de Haro was in April 2019 accompanied by “Fer”, her nephew, son of Fernando and Esperanza Aguirre. He then decides to record an audio so that both “Fer” and his brother “Alvarito” know the story of how the Ramírez de Haro family saved one of its members from bankruptcy.
B. begins with what he calls “Chapter 1: The List.” He tells how his parents – the count of Bornos, Ignacio Ramírez de Haro, and his wife, Beatriz Valdés – commissioned him “at the beginning of the century”, without remembering which year in particular, to draw up a list of the valuables of the famous palace family in the center of Madrid where Esperanza Aguirre and her husband now live. The intention of “the grandparents”, as she calls them, is that those objects, which have been inherited from generation to generation within the Ramírez de Haro family, now pass into the hands of Fernando, her first male child, and that it was this the one in charge of watching over them.
B. then relates that this process dragged on for years because, due to “laziness”, her parents did not finish drawing up the list, until when they were older she forced them to do so. “On that list was of course the painting of Don Valentín, considered the best painting, the most beautiful in the house, without any doubt, but without suspecting its real value,” he explains. By then some experts with whom the family had contacted years before had ruled out that it was a Goya.
Of course, B., who received that commission for being the older sister of the six, makes the intentions of her parents very clear. They were not leaving all those objects to his brother Fernando so that he could dispose of them at will and sell them to keep the money, as he ended up doing. Fernando, Aguirre’s husband, was going to inherit the family palace of the Count of Bornos and therefore the objects that were found there would remain in his care, to be conserved as part of the family’s heritage.
“When I told him that Mom and Dad had made this list, he told me that he was very aware that they had left those things to him to keep and that if he ever sold any, he would distribute them among his brothers,” explains Aguirre’s sister-in-law. to his nephews. But that never happened. B. limited himself to drawing up a list of the goods that were in the family mansion, a mere enumeration, but a document was never signed that bequeathed those objects directly to Fernando.
From a beautiful painting to a Goya of several million
In 2010, Ignacio Ramírez de Haro, the father of the family, passed away. By then Esperanza Aguirre and her husband were already in financial difficulties. Fernando accumulated debts with Banco Santander through the companies he had. In 2011, with the economic crisis, the red numbers became unsustainable and the then president of Madrid decided to ask for the help of her brothers-in-law.
That episode, which was already revealed by elDiario.es, is detailed in detail by Aguirre’s sister-in-law in the audio, where she says that the then president of Madrid went to see a member of her in-laws “crying” to tell him that they had a debt of seven million “that they could not cover with the sale of the farms.” Íñigo Ramírez de Haro, the brother who has sued Fernando and Aguirre, describes that same meeting in the complaint: “Crying, Aguirre explained to us that her husband was broke, and at serious risk of going to jail if he did not remedy the situation […]. “The ruin of her husband caused hers, as they were married in property.”
B. recounts in the audio how a real “crisis cabinet” is set up to save his brother from bankruptcy. The idea that came out of those conversations was to resort to the most precious painting of all they had, the portrait of a family ancestor: Valentín Belvís de Moncada y Pizarro, Marquis of Villanueva del Duero, Lieutenant General of the Army of Carlos IV and great of Spain . Or as Aguirre’s sister-in-law calls him in her story, “Don Valentín.” At that time the family only suspected that it had an important economic value, but nothing more.
The family requested an official appraisal from the auction company Sotheby’s, which gave them the best possible news. Indeed, it was a painting by Goya, one unpublished and painted in the best years of the Aragonese painter’s career. The portrait was valued by Sotheby’s between 7 and 8 million euros. “And Don Valentín goes from being worth a few hundred thousand euros, in the best of cases, to being worth more than six million”, B. sums up his two nephews in the recording.
But here another problem starts. The painting could be sold for a million, enough to avoid the bankruptcy of Aguirre and her husband. But first, you had to find a way to attribute the property to him so that he could enter that money legally. Don Valentin was on a list of goods but nothing else, it was not his. It is then when the plan of the false donation was hatched that now has finished in the courts.
A donation that never existed
Aguirre’s sister-in-law speaks openly in the audio. “We already had the good to face the debt, but it was not your father’s property.” B. explains that the family lawyer, José María Rodríguez Ponga, warned them that the fact that the Goya was on a list attached to his father’s will did not imply that Fernando could dispose of it at will. Nowhere did it appear that she had bequeathed it to him.
“In order for your father to own the painting, we had to invent a donation that never happened.” In minute five of the audio, the older sister of the Ramírez de Haro family recounted the fraud. She acknowledges that she and Fernando made a simulated donation that had never actually occurred. The lawyer recommended it, and they went to the executor of the late Count of Bornos, the notary Francisco Javier Cedrón, who validated the ruse and prepared the document at his notary’s office in April 2012. Íñigo was then stationed in New York as a diplomat.
The account also admits another lie that is denounced in the complaint: the date of the verbal donation. B. acknowledges that the family’s attorney proposed a date with some significance to give the deception an appearance of veracity. It was written in the document that the “verbal donation” took place on May 30, 2006, the day of San Fernando, the saint of the son who was to be made as the supposed heir of those assets, without being true.
B. goes so far as to say that this list of objects had to be altered, adding some that were not there initially, and “inflating” the value of others to compensate for Goya’s painting. “Your father even tells me that he put in Uncle P.’s golden shotgun, which was already his since Uncle P. died, because he inherited it directly.” That is, objects that were already owned by Fernando were included in the list and the real value of others was modified.
The brothers were signing before the executor the donation document, which elDiario.es revealed a few months ago. For one of them, G., “it was a real problem of conscience to sign a lie. So much so that he refused to sign. He went to sign, left and said that he did not sign.” In the end the family prevailed over ethics and G. returned the next day to sign and “save his brother.” When, in 2020, the executor gave Íñigo a copy of the document and read its contents, he decided to file the complaint against him as well.
According to Aguirre’s sister-in-law, Fernando was “in shock” and hardly played a role in this process. However, shortly before he had admitted his participation by relating that he collaborated in the alteration of the inheritance list by including, for example, a golden shotgun.
This medium has contacted all the protagonists of this story: Esperanza Aguirre, Fernando Ramírez de Haro, B. Ramírez de Haro, José María Rodríguez Ponga and Francisco Javier Cedrón. None of them wanted to answer the questions of elDiario.es.
The following chapter is included in the summary of the case and is in the public domain. In the lawsuit, the central actors are the executor and Aguirre, whose husband sold the Goya to businessman Juan Miguel Villar Mir. The businessman and former vice president of the Government accepted the simulated document and paid two million euros less than the minimum price assessed by Sotheby’s. Neither the prosecutor nor the judge have delved into this matter either. The operation was carried out in secret, so that no one would notice that the painting had not been protected as an Asset of Cultural Interest, which made it necessary to report the amount of the sale and therefore implied that there were more eyes on the entire operation. Something that Aguirre and her husband avoided at all costs because it was “very dangerous from a political and media point of view,” as the then president of Madrid admitted in an email. They received the money, in a check, on July 27, 2012.
Aguirre’s sister-in-law recounts in her audio that Fernando told her that he would renounce the inheritance that his mother would leave when he died, to compensate the money for the painting. Íñigo maintains in the complaint that Fernando deceived him, saying that he would sell the painting on behalf of all the heirs, but that on the death of his mother he would distribute the price equally, about 850,000 euros each. The mother died in 2019, but that cast never came.
B.’s audio tried to record that episode. At the end of the recording, include the place and date – April 16, 2019 – as if it were an official document. The Prosecutor’s Office has had this complete audio for more than a year, when this judicial case was opened. Despite the fact that in that recording the fraud in the Goya donation is openly recognized, he has not yet asked for anything to be investigated, and for now he has limited himself to checking if there is a tax offense. The judge has not delved into this matter either.