Scores of angry people caught out by the controversial BES ‘carve-up’ took to the streets in Lisbon yesterday clamouring first outside Novo Banco’s headquarters in Avenida da Liberdade “Give us back our money!”
Blowing whistles, waving placards, thumping the glass doors of the bank, their message was clear. The members of the renamed “indignant and mislead association of commercial paper holders” (AIEPC) are not giving up.
They want Novo Banco to honour the investments made through Grupo Espírito Santo – and they blame the Governor of the Bank of Portugal for not only “misleading” them into thinking their money was safe before the BES collapse last summer, but for dumping their life savings into the so-called “bad bank”, made up of bankrupt companies that cannot repay any of the €500 million said to be involved.
As the demonstration played out in Lisbon, others were taking place in Viseu where angry crowds invaded not only Novo Banco’s Rossio branch, but the premises of Montepio and Millennium.
Back in Lisbon and in full view of rolling TV cameras, the outrage took to a planned route through the capital where investors “visited” every institution said to be interested in buying up Novo Banco.
At Banco Santander Totta, Apollo, Fosun and Anbang Insurance they delivered letters warning that whoever eventually buys the so-called “good bank” “will have to deal” with “weekly protests until the money is returned”.
The association warned: it is “crucial” that any interested institution “knows what kind of business it is getting into”.
The throngs of clearly exasperated people had hoped for an audience also with President Cavaco Silva, reports Correio da Manhã, but a source told national media that no meeting was in the diary for the day – only a weekly audience with prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho who is attempting to wash his hands of the situation.
Declaring it to be “a matter for regulators”, Passos Coelho told reporters: “It is important to differentiate between what could be the result of fraud, and the risk people accepted at the time”.
As the clock ticks towards the elections, and the Bank of Portugal’s masterplan to sell Novo Banco off as quickly as possible runs further and further into trouble, AIEPC reiterates: “We are not going away.”
The association’s placards left no doubts as to who injured investors blame for their plight: “Carlos Costa amigo de Salgado! BdP: Culpado!”
Photo: MANUEL DE ALMEIRA/LUSA