BANKING SCANDAL

Judge orders former Caja Madrid chief to be returned to jail

Blesa’s bail cancelled as court continues investigation of savings bank’s purchase of US lender

Former Caja Madrid Chairman Miguel Blesa arrives at Plaza de Castilla courthouse in Madrid on Wednesday. / Zipi (EFE)

The judge investigating alleged irregularities in Caja Madrid’s purchase of City National Bank of Florida on Wednesday ordered the former chairman of the Spanish savings bank, Miguel Blesa, to be imprisoned again, this time without the possibility of bail, judicial sources said Wednesday.

Blesa is facing charges of criminal mismanagement, falsification of documents and possible misappropriation of funds. Bankia, an amalgam of savings banks led by Caja Madrid, last month sold the Florida bank for 150 million euros less than what Caja Madrid paid for it in 2010.

The rightwing pressure group Manos Limpias, which is an interested party to the case against Blesa, had requested the retired banker be jailed without bail. The prosecutor’s office is opposed to Blesa being jailed, while the defense has objected to the assignment of Judge Elpidio José Silva to the case.

Judge Silva, who had previously jailed the former banker last month before his lawyers posted bail of 2.5 million euros, interrogated Blesa for three hours on Wednesday. He also questioned the former financial director of Caja Madrid, Ildefonso Sánchez Barcoj, who has also been formally implicated in the investigation. Jail was not ordered in Sánchez Barcoj's case despite Manos Limpias' request.

Silva questioned Sánchez Barcoj on emails he exchanged with Blesa prior to the purchase of the Florida bank.

The judge is also investigating a loan of 26.6 million euros granted by Caja Madrid to disgraced businessman Gerardo Díaz Ferrán in 2008 when he was still a director of the bank. Ferrán, the former president of the Spanish Business Confederation, Spain’s largest employer group, is in preventive custody while awaiting trial on a number of alleged offenses connected to his business activities.

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