As the Governor of the Bank of Portugal attempts, some would say inelegantly, to justify the plight of thousands caught-up in last summer’s BES ‘carve-up’, the campaigning dentist fighting for damaged investors reveals that at least three people have died and “many others are at the limits of their mental and physical health” because life-savings were dumped in the “bad bank” that never made it out of the crisis.
The latest victim, a 70-year-old man who had €150,000 invested in BES subsidiary “commercial paper” died last weekend, in Pombal, following “a profound depression”.
His death comes in the wake of suicides in Lisbon and Porto by investors who also saw the savings of a lifetime decimated when BES collapsed and Novo Banco rose from its ashes, shedding so-called “toxic assets” along the way.
Who makes these allegations is Ricardo Ângelo, the hard-talking dentist who has become the determined and gallant face of the Association of Damaged and Indignant Commercial Paper Holders.
Talking to reporters as protesters held a vigil in honour of the latest “victim” outside Novo Banco in Pombal, Ângelo claimed “more deaths could follow” unless investors get their money back.
The poignancy of this latest death was outlined starkly.
“When the Troika arrived (in 2011), this man took his money out of BES and buried it in a tin in his garden,”, Ângelo explained.
“He was worried that the banks would fail. In October 2013, his former account manager managed to convince him to put all the money into commercial paper for BES.”
The shock of then losing it all a few months later proved too much. “Our fight to recover our money will continue, with demonstrations every week,” Ângelo reiterated.
Meantime, Carlos Costa – the Bank of Portugal governor under fire from all quarters for his ‘management’ of the banking crisis, has at last said that commercial papers holders “could be compensated” but only if the sale of Novo Banco – thought to be imminent – covers the €4.9 billion ‘bailout’ that the country’s banks ploughed into it.
Costa’s contention has always been that the Bank of Portugal has “no competence to transfer BES investments to Novo Banco” – and Novo Banco’s boss Eduardo Stock da Cunha has stressed that he does “not want to compromise the bank’s solvency ratios” by accepting liabilities, however morally expedient they may be.
Neither attitude sits well with regulatory authority CMVM whose boss Carlos Tavares said last week that Novo Banco “must pay” the thousands “left out in the cold”.
Thus the protests continue, the Bank of Portugal remains intransigent, Chinese investors haggle over the price of Novo Banco – and everyone hopes Ângelo’s chilling predictions of more deaths to come are misplaced.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]