Demonstrators attack former Caja Madrid chief’s vehicle outside court

Blesa tells judge that he didn’t think clients who bought preferred shares were “financially ignorant”

Savers who lost money through Caja Madrid's preferred shares attack the car of bank's former chairman, Miguel Blesa.Photo: atlas

A large group of protestors pounded the vehicle of former Caja Madrid chairman Miguel Blesa as he left the High Court on Monday after testifying about his role in the bank’s controversial sale of preferred shares, which wiped out the savings of many of its clients.

“Thief” and “son-of-a-bitch” were among the insults hurled at Blesa after he testified for more than an hour before Judge Fernando Andreu. Some protestors, who were held back by police outside the court, threw water balloons at the vehicle before it drove off.

Blesa, who was targeted last month in Andreu’s inquiry, testified before the judge that “a person who is a small investor or retired pensioner cannot be considered financially ignorant.” The former Caja Madrid chief was responding to questions over whether clients were aware of the complicated nature of the financial instruments they had purchased.

The protestors, many of them who say they lost all their money after they were convinced by bank officials to investing in preferred shares, had gathered at the courthouse hours before the former Madrid chief’s arrival. A large contingent of police units cordoned off Prim street early in the day.

A retired pensioner cannot be considered financially ignorant"

During the confrontation, Blesa appeared pale and scared as police tried to push away the protestors.

Last month, Andreu named Blesa, as well as 14 other directors of the savings bank and Bancaja, as official suspects in his inquiry into the sale of complex investment instruments to customers, who claim they did not understand the risks of the products.

A number of people affected by their ill-fated investment in the complicated hybrid instruments, sold by Caja Madrid and Bankia, have filed lawsuits to recover the big losses they suffered on their investments. Bankia – which is the commercial banking arm of BFA, and was formed from the merger of Caja Madrid, Bancaja and five other savings banks – has also set up an arbitration process for those affected.

Following Blesa’s testimony, the judge also questioned UGT former president Gonzalo Martín Pascual and the jailed former chief of the Spanish Business Confederation (CEOE), Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, who also served on the Caja Madrid board.

Díaz Ferrán, who has been in preventive custody since December 2012 on fraud and money laundering charges related to his alleged concealment of assets, told the judge that he rarely attended the savings bank’s board meetings because he was dealing with his own financial difficulties with Aerolíneas Argentinas and other businesses he once owned.

Blesa was briefly jailed last year by a different judge who was investigating the former banker of fraud in relation with the purchase of a Florida bank by Caja Madrid. The High Court later annulled that probe and that judge was suspended for abusing his authority.

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