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Furious Spanish investors seek Bankia scalps

01 july 2012, 18:21
0
President of Bankia Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri. ©AFP
President of Bankia Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri. ©AFP
Furious pensioners who lost savings through investments in ruined lender Bankia booed its managers Friday, branding them thieves, at the first shareholders' meeting since the bank's huge rescue, AFP reports.

Hundreds of people, many of them elderly, descended on the meeting in the eastern city of Valencia, demanding answers after Bankia crumbled under a mountain of bad loans and had to seek massive state aid.

"Thieves!", "Go to jail!" yelled the crowd as they queued outside the Valencia Conference Centre for the meeting. Nearby, activists from the popular "indignant" protest movement banged cooking pans, decrying the Bankia "con".

"Heads must roll," said Elizabeth Gonzalez, a 57-year-old pensioner.

Like thousands of others, she has seen tens of thousands of euros in savings evaporate as Bankia's share price plummets.

"I lost more than I had earned in 10 years. I have come to get what they owe me. I am ashamed of my country," Gonzalez said.

The bank, which racked up huge loans in a real estate bubble that imploded in 2008, was nationalised in May, and has pleaded for 23.5 billion euros ($30 billion) to repair its balance sheets.

In less than a year since listing at 3.50 euros, Bankia shares have plunged by more than 70 percent to less than one euro.

Many customers say they did not realise the risks when they were invited by the bank to take a stake in the business.

They said they trusted their banker when they bought preferential interest-bearing shares, which were converted into ordinary shares.

"My bank manager told me it was safe. I believed her and I lost 25,000 euros. I called her a slut," said Alfredo Anchel, 64, who took early retirement from a fuel transport company.

"They are thieves. It is a disgrace," added his wife.

Friday's meeting lasted hours, with shareholders taking turns at the microphone to berate and insult the panel of directors who sat listening to their tales of lost family savings and broken trust.

"This fraud is shameful," yelled one man. "I know a man who is in a mental hospital, destroyed because he lost everything," he added. "Those who lied must pay for it."

Some said they had been blackmailed into buying Bankia shares in return for loans, while others said they felt let down by their bank manager, who in some cases was a long-standing friend.

Bankia's new chairman Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri drew loud boos and cries of "Thieves!" and "Liars!", as he addressed the assembly, which was so packed that some shareholders had to listen from a separate room.

"They wouldn't let me in," said one, Carmen Riera, 77. "I wanted to tell them that Spain is shameful. No one takes responsibility for anything. It's total corruption. Make them give us our money back."

The Association of Minority Shareholders in Bankia, an offshoot of a national minority shareholders' group, said in a statement it would "claim compensation for the failed listing" of Bankia.

An association for Bankia customers and shareholders, APACBANK, denounced Bankia's "absolute failure" in a statement that demanded compensation for those investors who bought shares "on the basis of false financial information".

Four complaints have been lodged against Bankia and public prosecutors have opened an investigation.

Spain was forced this month to seek a bailout for its banking sector, securing a credit line of up to 100 billion euros from its eurozone partners.


By Ingrid Bazinet

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