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BANKING CRISIS

15-M protestors press fraud charges against Bankia managers

Movement wants jail sentence for Rato after bank’s stock market listing “swindle”

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Members of Spain's "Indignados" movement hold a news conference after filing a lawsuit against Bankia bank in Madrid.

Activists from the 15-M protest movement on Thursday filed a criminal complaint against former Bankia president Rodrigo Rato at the High Court accusing him of accounting and financial fraud in connection with the government’s intervention of the commercial bank last month.

The complaint also names Bankia and its parent Banco Financiero y de Ahorro (BFA) as co-defendants.

Lawyers for the movement claim that Rato, along with others, presented false figures last year to help with its stock market flotation and rake in investors through this fraudulent scheme. They are asking that the High Court sentence Rato, a former economy minister and IMF managing director, to between one and six years in jail, bar him from conducting financial transactions for a certain period, and order him to pay fines.

“Stockholders were completely duped,” said lawyer Juan Moreno Yague, who is representing the 15-M movement in this case.

There are employees from the inside who are telling us who the targets were"

Moreno, a 39-year-old attorney from Salamanca, didn’t want to provide too many details citing judicial secrecy. But he said that he was passing the court information given to him by former employees who were “ now sorry” by the actions they took at the bank.

“Let’s just say that there are employees from the inside who are telling us who the targets were. The accounting was badly performed inside the offices, but the guilty ones were those who signed it, in other words, the board members,” Yague said.

This was the third complaint filed against Bankia and Rato. The UPyD party and the obscure rightwing union Manos Limpias have also filed charges against the bank and its former president.

On May 28, the Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Bankia after the bank and BFA requested 19 billion euros from the government to clean up its balance sheet, which was hit hard by the slump in the real estate market. Bankia, which was formed last year through the mergers of Caja Madrid and Bancaja plus five other savings banks, was listed on the stock market in July.

Yague said that the 15-M complaint stands out from the rest because it includes information received from inside sources. But he added that the High Court could combine the three if it determines that the allegations are the same.

The 15-M movement last month began seeking donations on its website to pay for attorney’s fees in this case. In less than 24 hours, the group collected 19,413 euros in small contributions from hundreds of citizens.

Rato should be accused under the Penal Code reform of 2010 of presenting a false prospectus, Yague said. When Bankia was first listed on the stock market, its shares were valued at 3.75 and now they are priced at around one euro.

Two Madrid-based shareholders showed up for the 15-M news conference at Santa Bárbara square in Madrid’s Justicia neighborhood. Clemence Cohen, 62, and Carlos (who declined to provide his last name) both said they felt “swindled” by Bankia’s board of directors.

“I bought shares after my bank branch advised me, saying that the stock hadn’t reached its limit. So I decided to purchase some,” Cohen said, adding that spent his entire 3,000 euros in savings purchasing the shares. “Now they are worth about 800 euros. I have been swindled,” he added.

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