Unicaja falls foul of Ausbanc-Manos Limpias multimillion extortion ring
Police investigations have revealed that the Malaga bank twice fell foul of extortion by Manos Limpias and Ausbanc. Unicaja is just one of the Spanish banks affected by the two whose blackmailing activities go back at least 15 years with proceeds of four million euros.
Miguel Bernard, the general secretary of Manos Limpias, a pseudo-trade union, and Luis Pineda, the president of Ausbanc, a banking consumer organisation, were both arrested and held in prison earlier this week. They, plus nine others, were charged with fraud, criminal organisation, extortion, suspected money laundering and the fraudulent use of subsidies.
The way the two organisations worked was for Ausbanc to choose a victim and to use Manos Limpias to bring a court case against them. In many instances, the accusations were withdrawn after the victim, under pressure, and often subject to smear campaigns, had paid Ausbanc.
In the case of Unicaja, Manos Limpias implicated the bank’s president Braulio Medel in the ERE redundancy scandal. Tapped phone conversations have revealed that Unicaja agreed to pay Ausbanc one million euros in exchange for Manos Limpias withdrawing their accusation. To date, Unicaja has paid 617,127 euros, camouflaged in supposed payments for advertising in the Ausbanc magazine and sponsorship deals.
Unicaja is also one of the banks which agreed last-minute deals with Manos Limpias to withdraw claims from Ausbanc clients for interest-rate floor clauses in mortgages. Several other large banks are involved.
Judge Santiago Pedraz, in charge of the investigations, described the extorsion racket as “a real mafia”. Despite the avalanche of evidence against them, both Bernard and Pineda denied all charges.source surinenglish