By the Blouin News Business staff

First convicted bankers in Spain walk free

by in Europe.

An anti-eviction activist holds placards reading 'Stop evictions' during a protest outside a branch of Banco Popular bank in a file photo. AFP/Getty Images

An anti-eviction activist placard reads ‘Stop evictions’ during a protest outside a bank in a file photo. AFP/Getty Images

It was the million dollar question in Spain. Why hadn’t anybody that played a part in the country’s financial wrongdoings which led to the crash and brought years of angst and austerity been sent to jail? Or even been held accountable? On Thursday those who wanted to see heads roll saw victory as, for the fist time since the crumbling of the country’s banking system, a group of bankers were formerly accused of financial crimes. Yet that satisfaction immediately turned bitter.

Spain’s High Court found four bank executives from Caixa Penedès – a Catalan savings bank that received €915 million in state aid in June 2010 before being bought out by Banco Sabadell in October 2013 – guilty of financial mismanagement for granting themselves retirement plans worth a total of €28.6 million ($38.4 million) after the bailout. The bankers were given a joint five-year conviction though they won’t have to go to jail since they promised to return the cash. Today the Penedès is part of Spain’s Banco Mare Nostrum.

Former director general Ricard Pagès Font awarded himself €11.6 million; Santiago José Abella €5.7 million, €6.1 million went to Manuel Troyano and €4.8 million for Juan Caellas. The accused had “acted in a malicious, insidious, deceptive way towards society. By bypassing the savings bank’s control mechanisms, and using a president and a board who were there practically for decorative purposes, you put you personal interests ahead of social interests, abusing the trust placed in you as executives,” said Judge José María Vázquez Honrubia in his ruling.