By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]
A ‘salt of the earth’ British couple with a home in Alvor have been arrested on suspicion of forgery by police in Essex in the UK after an alleged million pound MOT certificate scam was uncovered.
Paula and Seamus Montgomery, who had a property on the Santo António urbanisation in Alvor and lived in the region for part of the year, were arrested by police at their caravan home in Maldon, Essex at the beginning of November.
However, the story has only just come to light leaving residents in the local area shocked by the revelations.
The alleged con run by the couple was investigated after an advertisement in an English language newspaper in the region, not the Algarve Resident, ran a classified advert stating “MOT available for UK registered vehicles”.
An investigation by the British newspaper the Daily Mail revealed that the couple were charging £200 to supply Ministry of Transport road worthiness certificates to owners of UK registered vehicles in the Algarve and it is claimed by the paper that the scam could have netted the couple £1 million.
Both Paula and Seamus were well known in the Algarve community and were active members of the Santo António Bowling Club at the Alvor Lawn Bowls Centre, taking part in competitions and events. They had also set up a business in the Algarve in 2005 providing an online shopping service, Montys-Online-Grocery-Service (MOGS), which they ran until they sold it two years ago.
Paula and Seamus told the Algarve Resident in an interview in March 2006 that the business had a “client base well into the hundreds” and saw it as a service for bringing people together in the Algarve.
Paula Montgomery said: “On drop off days, queues form where people make new friends from the area!”
A local resident, who asked not to be named, told the Algarve Resident: “I always got on very well with Seamus and Paula. As far as I am aware, they were very popular in the community.”
He added: “They did have their business here which they sold a couple of years ago so they could retire and as far as I am aware it was a legitimate business.
“They never mentioned having more than one property in England and did not display any excessive wealth. They were a lovely couple and always came across as being totally salt of the earth- type people.”
Essex police in the UK confirmed to the Algarve Resident that “a 67-year old man and a 59-year old woman were arrested in Maldon on November 3 on suspicion of forgery. The couple have been bailed until February 11 pending further enquiries.”
Michael Reeve, CEO of foreign residents’ association afpop, told the Algarve Resident: “There is always the problem of people having their foreign registered vehicle in the Algarve and the MOT running out. The answer is definitely not to buy a cheap certificate from an unknown source; firstly because it can land them in trouble if the fraud is discovered, but more importantly because their motor vehicle has gone unchecked and could be potentially dangerous to themselves, their passengers and other road users.”
He added: “People who are here full time should of course matriculate their vehicle in accordance with the law and EU legislation, but those who are in Portugal for a short period can obtain a valid MOT certificate from an IPO test centre here which will be valid until they return to their country of registration, whereupon they must go to a test centre and obtain a certificate valid in their country. Buying a dodgy test certificate is not only dangerous, but based on this story it is actually more expensive than obtaining a valid certificate here.”
Any EU registered motor vehicle may be kept in Portugal for 183 days in any one period of 12 months as long as it is registered correctly in another EU member state, which includes a valid MOT certificate, tax and insurance.
If you believe that a UK issued MOT certificate is a forgery, it is recommended that you contact the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency, part of the Department for Transport.
For further information please visit www.dft.gov.uk/vosa/
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