LUÍS MIGUEL FONSECA/LUSA

João Rendeiro found dead in prison cell

“He hung himself”, says defence lawyer June Marks

Former BPP banking boss João Rendeiro has been found dead in the 80 square metre South African jail cell he reportedly shared with 50 other prisoners – hours before he was due to appear in court over extradition to Portugal. 

“He hung himself”, defence lawyer June Marks has told reporters.

Expresso says “it hasn’t been possible to discover whether João Rendeiro left a note” before supposedly ending his own life with a substantial audience.

Westville prison authorities will now be “advancing with an internal inquiry to establish the circumstances of the death of the 69-year-old Portuguese”, the paper continues, recalling that Rendeiro’s defence had warned of the “time bomb” of keeping him in preventive custody.

In a letter to the United Nations sent by June Marks in January, Mr Rendeiro’s defence had warned that he was “a target of extortion” from other prisoners in the jail, which, the letter stressed had “horrendous conditions”.

Mr Rendeiro himself had written a similar letter.

According to June Marks his continued detention was “a matter of life and death”. But still her attempts to free her client to a form of house arrest in South Africa failed.

With Portuguese media channels now returning to the ‘life and fall of João Rendeiro’ in minute detail, the fact is that the long, tortuous process of calling him to task for the collapse of BPP bank (which left millions unaccounted for) is over.

João Rendeiro had been in custody since police caught up with him in a boutique hotel last December. Three months before, he had left Portugal as all appeals to evade jail had fallen.

He wrote in his blog Arma Critica that he was “not coming back”. “There is a Law above what is considered in Portugal to be Law”, he said – and he was seeking that form of law to win redress.

According to his post, Mr Rendeiro felt “wronged by the justice” of his country. “I became a scapegoat for the desire to punish those who had not been punished”, he said, presumably referring to banking scandals that followed BPP (namely BES, which has still not seen court proceedings officially open).

Speculation now is on how Mr Rendeiro’s death will affect his wife, Maria de Jesus Rendeiro, who has been under house arrest in the couple’s home near Cascais, stripped not long ago of all ‘items of value’.

Mrs Rendeiro faces criminal charges for her alleged part in allowing art works impounded by the State (because of her husband’s crimes) to be sold at auction. The terms of her house arrest were only recently extended by another three months.

With so much being written this morning on this surreal story, SIC commentator and journalist Ricardo Costa explains that João Rendeiro entered a ‘parallel world’ at the end of last year when all his plans to evade justice came crashing down. He had always insisted that he would never be returning to Portugal, Costa has told SIC’s morning news anchor.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com