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Editorials
These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Doing jail before time

The judge has not explained or justified his reasons for the incarceration of ex-bank chief Blesa

Remanding a person in custody before trial should not be conceived of as anticipated justice, but rather as an exceptional measure that must be used proportionately in consideration of the seriousness of the accusations and the behavior of the accused. However, there is nothing exceptional to be observed in the ruling of Judge Elpidio José Silva, in which he decided to jail the former chairman of Caja Madrid savings bank, Miguel Blesa.

In a generic manner, the magistrate has accused Blesa of the following crimes: criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of funds, although the exact nature of these offenses is not detailed in the judge’s rulings. To these accusations, Silva adds the existence of a flight risk and possible destruction of evidence, something which is harder to argue the second time around given that Blesa had already been imprisoned once under the same magistrate’s order. After 24 hours in jail, he paid bail. This time no bail has been set.

The conduct of the former banker after he left prison the first time contradicts the “undeniable flight risk” referred to by the judge. On Wednesday he was present in court when called to answer the investigator’s questions. As for the argument that Blesa’s being at liberty could lead to the destruction or concealment of evidence, the judge gives absolutely no reasons to back up such an assertion. Nor are there any new circumstances surrounding the case that would seem to justify this toughening of the accused’s conditions.

It is important to keep a sense of perspective. Of course, it is vital that the dreadful mismanagement of a large financial entity such as Caja Madrid — the largest of the seven savings banks that merged to form the bailed-out Bankia — be investigated with rigor and diligence, if for no other reason than the enormous cost the bank’s failure has brought both its clients and taxpayers. It must be established who was responsible for the decision to supply the now-jailed former CEOE business association leader Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, or his business circle, with loans, as well as the reasons for which the lender lost 150 million euros on the purchase of City National Bank of Florida. There is also the additional question of whether there was criminal intent in the dividing up of the payments in that deal in order to avoid the risk limits imposed by the Madrid regional government, the biggest stakeholder in Caja Madrid.

But for all that, preventive prison cannot be used as an instrument of the investigative process, be it a case of financial mismanagement or of common criminal behavior. The abuse of this measure has already led to a legal reform in which judges lost the power to incarcerate suspects without due process. The situation now is that one of the parties in the case must request imprisonment, a requisite that has been fulfilled in this instance by the pseudo-union Manos Limpias. Judge Silva granted the request despite the opposition of the public prosecutor, which has appealed the decision.

The worst result is that such a stubborn approach will undermine the whole investigation. This is a far more present danger than that of Blesa absconding.

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