The Conference was attended by BGI members from Spain, Miami, Hungary, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina and Mexico, as well as by our new members from Gibraltar. . Our colleagues from Portugal, Mr. José Serrao and Mr. Carlos Amaral, were unable to attend the Conference in the end, in spite of the fact that they had made their reservations, because a very important matter had arisen at the last minute. Our host, Mr. Marco Rojas, from Freeman, Haber, Rojas & Stanham LLP, Miami, together with his wife, Mrs. Ana María Rojas, welcomed us on the evening of 18th May with a marvellous Caribbean-style cocktail event at the "Chickee Village", an exuberant tropical paradise on the beach itself. We all enjoyed a marvellous evening with Caribbean music and a delicious barbecue featuring an exquisite combination of flavours. This relaxed event gave our members, conference participants and guests an opportunity to chat and exchange ideas and opinions from the very beginning, based on the friendly, family-like ambience that characterises all of BGI's meetings and conferences.
The Eighth BGI Conference opened the following day, taking place in the Ballroom East Conference Hall at the Hotel Sonesta. The Conference was inaugurated by our host, Mr. Marco Rojas, and by our President, Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada, both of whom offered a warm welcome to the conference participants. A series of papers were then presented, the first delivered by Ms. Sara Guess, a lawyer at Freeman, Haber, Rojas & Stanham LLP, who offered us an extremely interesting description of the role played by lawyers in property purchases. This was followed by a contribution from Ms. Millie Muñoz, a lawyer at Freeman, Haber, Rojas & Stanham LLP, who presented a general discussion on taxation in the United States. Later on our host, Mr. Marco Rojas, took the floor again in order to deliver a paper entitled "Structures to Become a Property Owner". We might also mention the contribution made on the first day by the Vice-President of Banco Espíritu Santo Florida, Mr. Raúl Vidal, was tackled the topic of "Financing the Purchase of Properties by Non-Residents".
At around 12.30 p.m., we moved on to the Hotel Mandarin, located in the business quarter of Miami, where we came together in one of the rooms, specifically the Hong Kong Room. There we enjoyed an exotic Asian lunch whilst Mr. Stephen Owens, the President of Swire Properties, briefly outlined the history of his company. Later on we had the opportunity to visit the "Swire Properties" Project and two of its show apartments. We concluded the day with a visit to the offices of Freeman, Haber, Rojas & Stanham LLP, guided by Mr. Marco Rojas, who very kindly showed us around the entire firm and introduced us to all the staff.
After an intensive first day at the Conference, the BGI members joined their guests and spouses back at the hotel. The companions had spent the day visiting Miami Beach. Together we waited for the coach to take us to dinner at a restaurant, Lario's on the Beach, (Miami Beach), where we were served the best mojitos I have ever had in my life. After an enormous Cuban-style dinner, we went on to shake our hips to the rhythm of salsa at a well-known Latin music bar known as "Maracas".
The second day of the Conference was reserved entirely for matters concerning BGI's financial policy. Our President, Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada, was entrusted with opening the second day of the proceedings with a reading of the Audit Report for the Year 2004 carried out by Fay & Co. The Report was approved and the BGI Budget for 2005 was presented. Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada then presented his report on the progress that BGI had made throughout the previous year, the development of activities relating to BGI members and communication among members via the Intranet. Our President encouraged all the members to devote themselves to the important task of finding new candidates and future members of BGI. He also welcomed and officially incorporated our new members of the organisation from Gibraltar, Mr. Nick Cruz and Mr. Sergio García, from the law firm, Cruz & Co. Mr. Nick Cruz took this opportunity to present his company to all of the BGI members and to thank them for the warm welcome that was extended to him as a new member of Balms Group Internacional. After an exhausting morning pursuing Conference business, a Golf Tournament was organised at the Golf Links Club at Key Biscayne, where the winner's trophies were presented the same afternoon and where we enjoyed a marvellous buffet-style dinner.
Saturday 21st May was the third and last day of the Eighth BGI Conference. This session was opened by Mr. Enrique Claro, a lawyer from Balms Madrid. His paper focused mainly on legislation relating to Data Protection in the European Union and, in particular, in Spain. He described the history and future development of legislation within this field in considerable detail. In an extremely relaxed working atmosphere, this year we replaced our traditional roundtable working-groups with a semi-circle conference and began to study the proposals and objectives that had been set for 2004, such as the Book on Property Law. This objective was not achieved for various reasons, one of them being the fact that, with just one month to go before the Eighth Conference, we had only received certain articles from our members in the United Kingdom, Argentina, France and Miami, in which respect it proved impossible to complete the publication for the present Conference. The completion of the project was, thus, postponed until the Ninth BGI Conference in Germany. A series of new objectives were established for the following Conference. The session then concluded with questions and other miscellaneous business and a closing address by our President, Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada.
Once the meetings had concluded, we all met in the hotel reception area. The Conference members and their guests, always accompanied by our marvellous guide, Ms. Sandra Restrepo, travelled to Bayside Market, where we undertook a splendid tour of Bay Biscayne in a boat known as "The Island Queen". On board the ship we were able to soak up the sun and contemplate some of the luxurious mansions of the rich, beautiful and famous in Miami, such as our very own Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan?. After the trip, we strolled around Bayside Market in search of souvenirs and gifts, until we were surprised by a downpour in the middle of our shopping spree and took shelter under our umbrellas and mackintoshes. This added a fun and humorous note to the end of the afternoon.
In the evening we were taken to Coral Gables in order to enjoy our traditional Gala Dinner at the luxurious "Riviera Country Club". All dressed in our best evening-wear for the occasion, we enjoyed an unforgettable evening at the dinner, presenting bouquets of flowers to our hostess, Mrs. Ana María Rojas, to our lovely guide, Mrs. Sandra Restrepo, and to Mrs. Marianne de Haro, the First Secretary of Balms Group Internacional, who accompanied us at the Gala Dinner. Various participants made speeches in order to thank our hosts, including the President of Balms Group International, who expressed the profound gratitude and enthusiasm shared by all for the warm and hospitable stay in Miami organised by Freeman, Haber, Rojas & Stanham LLP. The members also presented a BGI commemorative plaque to Mr. Marco Rojas, as well as to our new members in Gibraltar, Cruz & Co., identifying them as members of Balms Group Internacional. Our colleague, Mr. Manfred Prymusala, also confirmed that the next BGI Conference would take place between 24th and 28th May the following year in the beautiful city of Munich. On Sunday morning various members of the group got together in order to bid farewell and "hasta luego" until the following year.
In this respect, we looked forward to seeing one another again, as members of the great BGI family, the following May in Munich.