Head of European Dental Clinic Chain Arrested for Fraud

One of the best-known dental companies in Europe is now the subject of a major federal investigation in Spain.

The head of one of Europe's largest dental clinic chains is under arrest as authorities investigate claims of money laundering and fraud.

According to English-language news site Spanish News Today, Spain’s National Police this week arrested Ernesto Colman, the president of Vitaldent, a pioneering Madrid-based chain of dental clinics. Colman was one of 13 people taken into custody amid accusations the executives defrauded the nation’s treasury.

Vitaldent has around 450 clinics in Europe, mostly in Spain, where it serves several million patients. The news site reports Colman and other executives are accused of demanding cash payments from franchisees and then failing to report those payments to federal tax authorities. The executives then allegedly sent some of the cash to places like Switzerland and Luxembourg, before repatriating the money in the form of investments in real estate and other property.

All told, Euro Weekly reports franchisees were defrauded of about 10 million Euros ($11.1 million US). The site says authorities feared Colman, who earned the nickname “McDentist” for his company’s rapid growth, was about to leave the country when the arrest was made.

Meanwhile, the company’s clinics reportedly continued to operate as normal this week, despite the arrests and an apparent problem with the company’s computer network. Spanish News Today said police are advising patients to keep track of all of their billing records and report any anomalies.

Others arrested included the company’s vice president and its former commercial director. In addition to seizing records from the company, authorities also took custody of more than 200 farms and rural properties, 36 luxury cars, and a private plane, Euro Weekly reported.