Joe Berardo offered same collection of art to all three banks that lent him almost a billion euros

TV commentator Miguel Sousa Tavares has marvelled at the ‘Chico Esperto’ (clever Dick) nature of one of the ‘richest men in Portugal’ José Berardo who owes three banks 980 million euros.

Berardo stood his art collection up as security for all three loans when in fact he doesn’t even own it.

The only property in his name, say reports this week, is a garage in Funchal, Madeira.

Joe Berardo’s debts have long been publicly discussed but now it appears the banks are ‘advancing with a (judicial) process’ in a bid to recoup some of their lost millions.

The banks are State Bank CGD, Novo Banco – the ‘good bank’ that rose like a lead balloon from the collapse of BES, and BCP.

One of the many stumbling blocks – apart from the fact that the art collection doesn’t even belong to Berardo – is that its value “raises some doubts”, explains tabloid Correio da Manhã, suggesting that a former president of CGD’s fiscal council has dubbed the banks’ mission as “Operation Kamikaze”.

CM claims the “juridical strategy of the banks will be to demonstrate that the final beneficiary of the companies they lent their millions to is Berardo”. 

But it’s a strategy that appears never to have been tried before.

Meantime the whole situation leaves everyday citizens who have to turn proverbial cartwheels to win a loan and are then put through the mill if they default on repayments feeling that there truly is one set of rules in Portugal for those with good connections, and another for all those without them.

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