Ex-Caja Madrid chief came under pressure from Aznar family

Ex-Caja Madrid chief came under pressure from Aznar family
Miguel Blesa was being persuaded to use influence to purchase art collection that belonged to late Spanish painter and sculptor Gerardo Rueda

Former Caja Madrid chairman Miguel Blesa in 2009 sent scolding SMS messages and emails to the son of ex-Prime Minister José María Aznar after the bank official came under pressure from the family to use his influence to purchase an art collection that belonged to the late Spanish painter and sculptor Gerardo Rueda.

In one SMS message dated July 17, 2009 - which has been seen by EL PAÍS and whose authenticity was confirmed Tuesday by the bank chief's former associates - Blesa tells the former prime minister's son that he cannot break the rules at the financial institute.

"Maybe you are too young to understand this," Blesa wrote to José Aznar Botella on July 17, 2009. "There are procedures at [Caja Madrid]; it is not my own farm. Your father has never doubted the honesty and seriousness of a true friend." A story published in Tuesday's EL PAÍS English Edition erroneously reported that this specific SMS was sent to the former prime minister's daughter, Ana Aznar Botella.

Nevertheless, among the 8,000 SMS messages the court holds there are more between Blesa and other Aznar family members about the project. They are part of the case file that was compiled by Madrid Judge Elpidio Silva, who was investigating Blesa before being taken off the case. The investigation into alleged financial mismanagement at the bank is now being handled by another judge.

The former prime minister was trying to convince his friend Blesa to purchase a vast art collection that belonged to Rueda, who died in 1996.

In August 2008, the former prime minister acted as a mediator between Rueda's son, José Luis, and Blesa to see if the Caja Madrid Foundation wanted to purchase part of his father's collection and grant the son a 54-million-euro loan using the other half as collateral.

The bank was reluctant after it appraised the collection; many of the pieces were not Gerardo Rueda's own works. Rafael Spottorno, who was director of the foundation and is now head of the royal household, rejected the idea outright soon after Aznar presented the proposal on September 16, 2008.

As part of the plan, then-Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz- Gallardón proposed to house the pieces in a museum that was to be built by the city and give Caja Madrid a 50-year free rent lease contract. But not only were there complaints from Aznar's children when the plan was shot down, but also from former Popular Party (PP) city councilwoman and then-Caja Madrid board member Mercedes de la Merced, who also wrote Blesa. "Miguel, how are you? I am in La Paz, Bolivia and the mayor has told me that Aznar is saddened over Caja's rejection of his proposal. Alberto is also upset. Can this be reconsidered? Who rejected this? Am I able to help?" De la Merced died in May after a long illness.

After nine months of negotiations, the plan was eventually scrapped.

Posted originally: 2013-12-18 13:23:22

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Ex-Caja Madrid chief came under pressure from Aznar family

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