(ZHE) The former chairman of one of Spain’s largest banks has been found dead with a shotgun blast to the chest in a private hunting estate in southern Spain, the country’s Civil Guard said Wednesday.
According to AP, Miguel Blesa, the former head of the now defunct Caja Madrid savings bank – whose brushes with the law and extravagant hunting trips came to symbolize the excesses of the country’s economic boom – was awaiting the result of an appeal to a six-year prison sentence for misusing corporate credit cards (if not Spiderman towels) issued by the infamous Bankia, another defunct bank.
Witnesses who were with Blesa in the private property near the southern city of Cordoba told police that the former banker left the group early Wednesday morning saying he was going to take his car. They described hearing one gunshot moments later, the Civil Guard spokeswoman said cited by AP adding that an autopsy would be required to determine the exact cause of the death.
The unpopular Blesa chaired Caja Madrid from 1996 to 2010, a period which coincided with Spain’s economic boom, which however was followed by devastating bust.
As Reuters adds, the former chairman and other top Spanish bankers such as former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato, “came to symbolize the disconnection of Spain’s elite from ordinary citizens during the financial crisis, which was marred by one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.”
Leaked pictures to the press of Blesa on exotic hunting trips in 2013, at the height of Spain’s recession, caused uproar as they showed him posing with a rifle next to the corpses of various recently-shot animals, including a bear, a lion, an oryx, a hippopotamus and the heads of two water buffalo.
Blesa and Rato, who chaired Bankia between 2010 and 2012, appealed a March ruling by Spain’s National Court that sentenced them to 6 and 4 1/2 years in prison respectively for misusing the saving bank’s corporate credit cards. At the time, Blesa received the highest punishment among 65 defendants found guilty of hiding irregular and undeclared expenses with the cards. The two former bankers were released on bail while the appeal is resolved.
Under Blesa, Caja Madrid, along with other savings banks, moved from the traditional role of providing deposit accounts and small business loans to huge mortgage lending and marketing complex financial instruments during a property boom. It was also the source of its downfall. Caja Madrid was merged with six other savings banks in 2010 to form the ill-fated lender Bankia, which as regular readers are all too aware, also did not last long: as a result of massive holes in the merged entity’s balance sheet, Bankia was also bailed out in 2012 in Spain’s biggest ever bank rescue.
The former banker was also in the midst of a lawsuit involving irregular bonuses during his time at Caja Madrid. In 2013, he was briefly jailed for irregularities in the purchase of shares in the City National Bank of Florida, but a court later acquitted him.
Adding tax evasion to injury – now terminal – Blesa also appeared in leaked documents of the Mossack Fonseca law firm, which was investigated in 2016 for managing offshore accounts globally. According to media reports he used the Panamanian firm in 1989 to create a company in the British Virgin Islands in order to invest in Spain-based companies.
A spokeswoman with the police force said initial inquiries into the death of the 69 year-old Miguel Blesa had ruled out a homicide.
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