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Banker found hanged in his cell after fleeing to South Africa to escape prison in Portugal

Latest NewsBanker found hanged in his cell after fleeing to South Africa to escape prison in Portugal

Joao Rendeiro at an event in New York in 2006 to present his contemporary art collection.Patrick McMullanGetty

One of the last messages from Joao Rendeiro, the banker who best exemplified social ascent in Portugal before becoming one of 50 prisoners crammed into a cell at Westville Prison in South Africa, was that he would never return to your country. Wish fulfilled. Rendeiro, 69, was found hanged by South African authorities who were preparing to take him to court for a hearing, his lawyer confirmed to various Portuguese media. Initial details point to a suicide, although those in charge of the prison launched an investigation to find out what happened. A hearing on the issue of Rendeiro’s extradition to Portugal was scheduled for June, but a preliminary hearing was to take place the following Friday, May 20.

The banker was arrested at a luxury hotel in Durban, South Africa, in December 2021 after running for nearly three months to avoid jail time in Portugal, where he had three convictions for tax fraud, money laundering, breach of trust and forgery. . Despite accumulating sentences of a total of 19 years and 2 months in prison, Rendeiro managed to stay out of jail in his own country and enjoy an amazing court clearance to travel abroad.

When he realized that the risk of going to prison was close, the banker took advantage of one of these international forays to escape. On September 14, with the permission of the court, he went to London, and landed in South Africa four days later. A few days later, he wrote on his Arma Crítica blog that he had no intention of returning to Portugal and that his escape was an act of “legitimate protection”. In a subsequent interview with CNN Portugal, he clarified that he would only return with a pardon from the President of the Republic.

After his arrest in South Africa, Rendeiro even applied to the United Nations for a conditional release. In a letter to the agency, his lawyer argued that the banker had been extorted by other prisoners and that his release was “a matter of life or death.”

His end tragically symbolizes the demise of an era of Portuguese finance marked by incompetence and corruption. His personal career, however, has nothing to do with that of Ricardo Salgado, the man who was everything at Banco Espiritu Santo and who is now charged with 65 crimes for the collapse of Grupo Espiritu Santo (GES). Rendeiro’s death coincides with hearings being held in Lisbon to decide on the GES investigation.

Salgado was born into a powerful family that was building a business and financial empire, and Rendeiro was the son of a shoemaker from Campo de Orique, who trained as an economist and managed to become a millionaire at the age of 30 after selling the Banco Trotta fund, an investment bank he created in 1986. Ten years later, he founded Banco Privado Portugués (BPP) and dedicated himself to attracting a wealthy clientele, which is why he was known as the bank of the rich. This is where the muscle-showing days begin: Rendeiro recruits well-connected people (in Spain, among others, former minister Marcelino Orejo Aguirre, businessman Juan Villar-Mir or former Telefónica president Candido Velázquez-Gaztela) and takes on the singer Marisa to give concerts before the exclusive the public. “He has delusions of grandeur,” his former BPP partner and former Portuguese prime minister, Francisco Pinto Balseman, said of him.

He thoroughly knows all sides of the coin.


In December 2008, the Bank of Portugal intervened in the BPP due to its insolvency with a €700 million deficit and Rendeiro was removed from the presidency. Two years later, the Bank of Portugal withdrew the license to operate BPP. Its former founder began going to court in various cases that resulted in an acquittal and three convictions. In one of them, he was accused of stealing 31 million euros from the bank for personal needs, along with other managers.

After his downfall, the banker, a great collector of modern art, wrote several books in his defense. In the first of these, he declared that he would leave his entire fortune to Portuguese society. Rendeiro was married to María de Jesús da Silva de Matos, who was placed under forensic surveillance with an electronic bracelet after the couple discovered the disappearance of 12 of the 124 pieces of art that the Portuguese justice system interfered with. The banker’s wife was put in charge of keeping the paintings, which remained in the family home in Cascais.


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