Updated: Friday 09 July 2021 15:41
Published: 07/09/2021 15:39
The National Court sentenced the president of the Association of Banking Service Users (Ausbanc), Luis Pineda, to eight years in prison and to four years the secretary general of Clean Hands, Miguel Bernad, for extorting banks and businesses . paid in exchange for avoiding legal action or discrediting campaigns against them.
In a 195-page sentence, magistrates in the Fourth Section of the Criminal Chamber sentenced Pineda to five years in prison for a continuing crime of extortion and three more for fraud, while Bernad was sentenced to three years. for a crime of extortion in degree of cooperation necessary and another year for the same crime in degree of attempt.
In terms of civil liability, Pineda will have to compensate a total of 13 entities: BBVA, with 1,524,565 euros; in Unicaja, with 904,328 euros; at Caixabank, with 24,200 euros; to Liberbank, with 1,499,918 euros; to Nissan Ibérica, with 36,300 euros; at Barclays, with 149,750 euros; in Caja Castilla la Mancha, with 332,000 euros; to Europistas, with 406,000 euros; in Cajasur, with 266,200 euros; in Cajavital, with 546,701 euros; at Bankia, with 586,850 euros; in Caja Rural del Sur, with 576,302 euros, and in Banca March, with 38,115 euros.
The Chamber also sentences to one year in prison the deputy of the Presidency of Ausbanc Ángel Garay and six months to María Mateos, director of the legal service, both for an offense of extortion with complicity.
On the contrary, the hearing acquits the other six defendants (Clean Hands lawyer Virginia López Negrete and Ausbanc directors Alfonso Solé Gil, María Teresa Cuadrado, María Isabel Medrano, Rosa Aparicio and Luis María Jordana) of all crimes. of the accused: criminal organization, extortion, false reporting, threats, fraud, money laundering and unfair administration.
Pineda and Bernad were also acquitted of most of the crimes for which they were tried. Specifically, in the case of the chairman of Ausbanc of criminal organization, accusation and false accusation, fraud and procedural fraud and unfair administration, while in the case of the secretary general of Clean Hands, he is exempt from the first two crimes and, in addition, threats.
The National Court prosecutor’s office had requested a sentence for Pineda of more than 118 years in prison and more than 24 years for Bernad, while for the rest of the defendants he had asked for sentences ranging from 66 to 11 years in prison.
Exercise of collective actions to obtain monetary sums
The proven facts of the sentence detail the creation of Ausbanc in 1986 and how, on the occasion of the exercise of collective actions and as a formula to obtain sums of money in search of profit that moved Pineda, in At the same time as it presented lawsuits, Ausbanc promoted agreements for the out-of-court resolution of disputes, some legal related to the subject of the claim and others economic, arising jointly.
The exercise of collective action, say the judges, was a simple instrument for the entities to access economic demands formalized by advertising agreements or other formulas. In the event that they agreed to sign it, even when the procedure was initiated or followed by the lawyers of the territorial delegations, all other claims were abandoned.
If it turns out that the entities are not complying with the economic requirements generally imposed by Pineda – either because the advertising agreement involved an excessive expenditure, or because the legal expenditure was unaffordable – this could lead to a negative impact on the company. reputation of a different nature, either by information publications that do not respond to reality or by the “hyperbolic dissemination” of an isolated event in the entity in question, or even with the organization of demonstrations at the door of the headquarters of the bank.
The campaigns of attacks against the brand or its leaders were modulated according to whether they finally gave in to their economic claims, by signing the agreements or by taking back those that had been concluded.
The judgment indicates that the payments made were masked, either as an advertisement in Ausbanc magazines, the copies of which were distributed free of charge except for 2% which were sold, or as “market studies” prepared by the entity with complaints and claims reviews of court decisions, or through sponsorships and other events.
Using the clean hands connection as a pressure measurement
The Court explains that the relationship between Luis Pineda and Miguel Bernad began at the end of 2012 and lasted until 2016, when it ended due to the legal proceedings which are currently being prosecuted.
According to the Chamber, as Ausbanc Consumption resumed civil action against the banking entities, Pineda warned that another way to obtain large sums of money was through criminal proceedings. To do this, he established the apparent formula of collaboration with Clean Hands, which as a popular accusation urged or appeared in different proceedings with great media coverage.
“With that, in exchange for feeding Ausbanc with funds for Clean Hands, which lived largely on free contributions, Miguel Bernad allowed the accused Pineda to appear in criminal proceedings with the sole idea of asking the sums of money investigated to increase the own funds and the Ausbanc group in exchange for urging their de-charging or deviating from the procedure, said procedure being shared by both, as well as implemented by both ”, specifies the sentence.
In this sense, he continues, Bernad, on behalf of Clean Hands, articulated complaints and, in the shadows, Luis Pineda gave him the orientations on the future of these in order to maintain the advertising agreements or to that its victims check their capacity to intimidate them, both individuals and members of societies.
About thirty actions with companies and banks to obtain economic benefits
The Chamber examines in detail the thirty or so acts of the accused aimed at obtaining an advantage from the various entities with which they have contacted, some of which are considered to be consummate extortion because it was carried out, others as an act of extortion. attempted extortion which did not obtain the desired results. and others that were not considered a crime.
Thus, the text reflects the actions of the accused with the majority of banking entities in the country, companies such as Gas natural Fenosa, Nissan, Volkswagen or Europistas, and highly publicized legal proceedings such as the Noos case.
With regard to the latter procedure, the Chamber considers that it has been proved that in October 2015, Miguel Bernad met with the director general of the La Caixa Foundation, Jaume Giró, on the occasion of the withdrawal of the accusation from hands. own against Infanta Cristina in exchange for two million euros. Subsequently, Pineda met with Banco Sabadell manager Gonzalo Barretino and sent him the possibility of withdrawing the charge against the Infanta in exchange for three million euros. The manager reported the events to the police.
There is no evidence that the events, the court said, “took place under an atmosphere of pressure that the defendants Luis Pineda and Miguel Bernad used”. For this specific episode, the hearing acquits them both as well as lawyer Virginia López Negrete, who was pursuing the case on behalf of Manos Limpias.
Extortion crime against legal persons due to reputational risk
In its sentence, a presentation by Teresa Palacios, the Chamber dismisses most of the charges of fraud and also rejects the existence of a criminal organization. This is, according to the court, an extortion offense in which the taxpayers do not have the profile of a natural person who can be caused by discomfort, anxiety or fear by endangering their freedom. or their safety. In his case, the “valuable asset that represents reputational risk” protection vulnerability was activated.
The Chamber explains that entities in general and banks in particular need to have to manage the reputation of the entity, given that it is an asset with strong economic repercussions, and only because of the publication of ‘an unfavorable judgment.
The court rules out the crime of fraud in most cases because it can be verified that in certain situations out-of-court agreements have been concluded where by Ausbanc consumption conditions have been imposed on banking entities so that they cease the practice that had given place in the formulation of prosecutions and convictions, and with that, these betrayed practices were neutralized both in relation to the procedure where these agreements were made, and in the future, and all of this benefited the client of the entity condemned.
The Court does not appreciate the crime of criminal organization
She also does not appreciate the crime of criminal organization insofar as the writings of the prosecution and the accusation brought by Podemos in relation to the criminal role of each of the members, with the exception of Pineda, “are certainly insufficient, except to allude to the knowledge and implementation of the different plots in which the accused were located in the internal structure of Ausbanc, given that when each of the facts that will be seen later is addressed, the reference to the accused, in several of the cases It is nominal, with no other addition than having participated or intervened, not describing the factual elements of a typical behavior which could have contributed to the accreditation of the criminal structure, only supported by the functions of each in the Ausbanc organizational chart, even until they are not cited in the accusatory account ”.
Throughout the sentence it is detailed how, in relation to collaborations with Ausbanc, the idea was conveyed to the recipient that, if said request was not met, the publicity for the entity would not be positive, which works as a disruptive factor. in what it means for the image of the entity, regardless of the bank’s regret for sticking to its decision.
Pineda, according to the court, had “as a throwing weapon of the advertising media Ausbanc modulate the information at will, according to the entities required for their lucrative claims, distancing itself from the simple illustrative and informative role of the news, to adorn it positively or negative according to the interest according to the access to their economic demands ”.
Ausbanc’s advertising media as a throwing weapon and the use of consumers for wealth
The court fixes in Pineda the highest possible sentence for the crime of extortion, five years in prison for his prolonged execution in the time when he used the non-profit association in what its object was the defense and the protection of consumers for their lucrative interest: “For this depredation, actions in favor of them have turned into a throwing weapon in order to put pressure on the entities they have prosecuted or in the context of ongoing legal proceedings, by modulating their exercise, in addition to making use of Ausbanc’s advertising media that it also tempered, directing information to discredit them and thus bend their will, transferring this same way of operating to criminal cases in which it appeared like a popular accusation, which had exercised its hands clean, moved by this lucrative desire which presided over its conduct “.
The court highlights “the most absolute absence of the most elementary standards which should govern the sound conduct of those who claim (unsuccessfully) to act exclusively in the defense of consumers and users, designating rather than their primary objective n other than, cost of the above, increase their own money. “