BES crimes may never be heard as Statute of Limitations deadline looms

 In Banks, BES GES, Justice, News

Dozens of crimes relating to the collapse of the Banco Espírito Santo banking empire in 2014 may never be brought to final justice because of Portugal’s statute of limitations, meaning the time to hear the cases will legally run out by the end of the year.

According to the newspaper Observador, the BES/GES banking collapse caused damages of €933 million to small investors. (Not including the estimated €8Bn of public money used to inject into the “good assets” bank Novo Banco created from BES to hold healthy and recoverable assets following the BES collapse)

The government at the time, and through a resolution fund set up to meet Novo Banco’s liquidity needs over a number of years, injected billions into the new bank to avoid the risk of a widespread contagion in Portugal’s banking system. In other words a damage limitation operation.

Nevertheless, the case, now almost 10 years old, is to go to court next month. But successive appeals and delays may mean that a final decision by a judge may never be given in time before the Statue of Limitations period runs out.

The Portugal Resident newspaper reports that outsiders will claim “this shows that crimes pays” — but some of those held responsible for the private bank’s demise might argue otherwise: Ricardo Salgado (the former president of the bank), is reportedly a shadow of the man he was, confused and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, his cousin José Manuel Espírito Santo is dead, having suffered a stroke from which he never recovered: also dead is José Castella (GES former controller, and among those charged with banking infidelity) .

And according to the news agency Lusa, 1,992 small investors who invested in supposedly risk-free BES bonds that proved worthless and lost everything, are up in arms about yet another postponement in the trial to September – just three months away from the Statute of Limitations deadline to hear the case.

The defence criticised the postponement as another example of the slowness of Portugal’s justice system which “seems paralysed by (legal) process madness.”