A British mum and her son have been left homeless after Spanish officials sold their home to pay off a debt owed by her ex-partner.
Authorities in Mijas on the Costa del Sol served Victoria Jenkins and her son Sam, 13, with an eviction notice after flogging their house at a cut price in a 'secret' auction without her knowledge.
Ms Jenkins lived in the same property in the Marbella area for 22 years and her son was born in the resort.
The woman is not the only victim of an alleged property seizure scandal as other homeowners in the area also claim to have been targeted in similar circumstances.
The scandal has led to campaigners calling for officials and a former mayor of the town to be investigated by police.
Ms Jenkins and her former partner bought the two-bed flat in Riviera del Sol for €270,000 (£325,450) and there was no mortgage or other debt against the property.
But the local authority - similar to a town council in the UK - sold the house for just €28,000 (£24,416), despite it being worth around €320,000 (£279,050) over an alleged debt of €4,000 (£3,490).
After paying the debt, officials allegedly kept the remaining money from the sale claiming it was used to pay legal fees, leaving Ms Jenkins and her child with nothing.
She said she is not even getting the child maintenance she had previously been awarded by a court.
When Ms Jenkins and her son were evicted, six men - including two police officers, two town hall officials plus the new owner and his friend - arrived at the flat to force them to leave, the mum said.
She has been battling the Andalusian courts for answers since they were evicted.
The woman was first handed an eviction notice in November 2020 and told her apartment had been sold by the town hall to recoup unpaid ground taxes owed by ex-partner Lee Cohen, who officially owned the property.
She said no one notified her of the debt or of the sale of the two-bedroom flat, which actually took place in 2015 behind closed doors.
Ms Jenkins said the first time she knew about the sale was when a final eviction notice was served, ordering her to leave the property by April 15, 2021.
The mother and son were left without a home and relied on a friend's sofa in order to have a roof over their heads.
After a lengthy legal battle, she was finally allowed by the court to see her case file and discovered eviction notices and letters about the sale were being sent to the wrong address.
Ms Jenkins claims this was done deliberately and is part of a wide-ranging scam by town hall officials to snatch properties from vulnerable residents under false pretences by selling homes at reduced prices.
She said: "Notification about the sale were sent to the wrong address, leaving me not allowed to speak.
"I have had the same address, email and phone number the whole time I've been in Spain. All the court documents have the correct address, but the notifications were sent to one that doesn't exist.
"Because it looked like I was not responding, the judge automatically ruled in their favour without me knowing about it or being given a fair hearing or chance to put my side and legal documents forward.
"When it looked to the judge that I was not responding he granted them the eviction and they had no problem finding me and banging on my door when it was time to kick me out. I don't know how these people sleep at night."
She added: "We have had our home sold from underneath us and we have not been given a penny, despite there being hundreds of thousands of euros in equity in the home.
"How can this be happening - it just seems so unfair. What about my son? He's lived here his whole life, he goes to school here."
The property she lived in was fully paid for, with no mortgage outstanding after it was bought 22 years ago along with her then-partner.
She has not heard from Mr Cohen since he left her and their young son in Spain to start a new life in Indonesia in 2012.
Through the Spanish courts, Ms Jenkins had previously obtained the right to stay in the apartment until Sam turns 18.
She believes local politicians have taken advantage of her position to swoop on the flat as the force of sale was put on the property by the ex-mayor of Mijas, Angel Nozal.
With no social housing, the only help authorities gave was to offer to put Sam into care.
The desperate mum was told by Spanish authorities to apply for emergency financial assistance, but a year on she has still not received a penny.
Ms Jenkins is now taking the case to a tribunal at the Supreme Court in Madrid to challenge the legality of the sale, but it could be years before the case is heard.
A Fuengirola court in 2015 gave Ms Jenkins full child custody, the right to stay in their home until her son turns 18, or for alternative accommodation to be provided.
Ms Jenkins, originally from Chelmsford, Essex, but is now a Spanish citizen, said: "It suddenly happened in November 2020, there was a knock on my door and I was handed an eviction notice.
"I have asked why I was not notified of this or given the chance to pay his debt, or even the chance to be heard by the judge but because the home was not in my name and I only had the right to stay there they said they did not legally have to notify me of the sale. The first eviction notice I was handed was a final one.
"I don't see how they can take our home and all the money from the sale and leave me and my child in the middle with nothing.
"I have never been able to contest or have any legal proceedings over the sale of the house because I was never the owner. I have tried but was shot down at that first hurdle."
Former mayor Mr Nozal testified in court in 2016 over the forced sale of a couple whose home worth €368,000 (£320,900) was sold for just €110,000 (£95,920) over a €20,000 (£17,440) debt.
The same year, the Andalusian regional parliament launched a probe into Mijas town hall's process of auctioning off properties embargoed over tax debts during the period from 2010 to 2015. That investigation is still ongoing.
Some cases involved homes that were allegedly seized over minor debts and sold off quickly at majorly discounted prices. Locals have dubbed it the 'Official Scam' as it is allegedly being carried out by the authorities.
Local media reported that in 2015 a British couple's €250,000 (£218,000) home was sold for €80,000 (£69,760) without their knowledge, also over a €4,000 tax debt.
These cases led to the former mayor, the ex-head of the treasury and a tax collector at the town hall potentially facing criminal investigations.
When asked why these auctions were being carried out despite the former mayor being investigated, a spokeswoman for Mijas Town Hall said she believed the last sales were "carried out between 2012 and 2016", but did not know the exact date.
She claimed the auctions were not being carried out in 'secret' and were "in accordance with the legal guidelines".
The spokeswoman added that information about the auctions is published and is publicly accessible, but could not say where and how this information is available.